Frustrated In Israel

Frustrated In Israel 2016-01-31T19:41:52-07:00

Dear Joel,

First of all I would like to praise your second book, which I recently finished reading. Although I have some experience as a flight attendant with an American carrier and as a traveling junky, I was overwhelmed from the quantity of information I got from your book. Thanks for everything.

I live in Israel and have been flying to the states twice a year (the next one, actually is one week from now, with a friend of mine). This time I decided to follow through all of your instructions, thus booked all of my flights with Delta and Delta affilates, except one flight that I booked through American Airlines (Delta didn’t fly that route). Surprisingly, American Airlines offered me what they called a “fast track towards Elite membership” (like you wrote in your book) that requires only 5,000 points to receive Gold membership or 10,000 points for a Platinum one. As a loyal customer (…one that already booked all of his flights with his carrier of choice), I wrote Delta an email explaining AA’s offer and making sure they’ll know I moved all of my flying business to be with them. In the email I asked whether it will be possible to match AA’s offer. A day after I wrote the letter I received some kind of a “template answer” that explained that Delta offers Elite members from other airlines a complimentary Elite membership with them. Frustrated, I called Delta’s SkyMiles customer service and spoke with someone from India (outsourcing of some kind) that kept me on-line for almost 10 minutes before he understood he cannot help me and connected me (with a bad line quality, I should say) to the US Delta customer service. On that conversation I explained my situation again (politely of course) to the representative I spoke with, who told me that I got that “template” by mistake, because I wasn’t understood clearly, and “NO – Delta won’t match AA’s offer.” They would only match AA’s Elite membership if I am one.

To sum it all up, the feeling I got from my conversation with Delta is that customer-loyalty isn’t their strongest side, and they would rather make me spend my money with AA in order to get an Elite membership and only then come back and ask them to match it.

Nevertheless, I have accumulated 6,000+ MQMs from previous flights (although I believe it should be 18,000+ because I flew in Y class when their records show I flew in T class giving me third the MQMs I should get. I tried faxing them my boarding passes as a proof a couple of times, and they ignored it) and I’m about to fly 12,000 more miles with their affiliate, El-Al, as well as more than 5,000 miles with Delta—all in my coming trip, next week. Even after I mentioned these facts to the representative I spoke with, she was so “nice,” telling me I ONLY have 6,000 miles and it’s not enough. Again, I repeated my itinerary to her (the line was so bad because of the connection from India to the US—maybe she couldn’t hear me at first) and she said again: “It’s not enough.”

I don’t know if I’m writing you out of frustration, or just seeking professional advice, but my current feeling is that I wish I could cancel my trip with Delta and move all of my business to American Airlines. Unfortunately, this will cost me a lot of money because of the penalties.

Yours truly,


Answered by The Penny Pincher

HI Idan,

Thank you for your kind words about my book. I am glad you enjoyed it. Congratulations for proactively pursuing good value and luxurious travels.

I can sympathize very much with your story—I have been there. As you know from reading my book, Delta has been my airline of choice. This is mostly because I am firmly entrenched in their program. If I were to do it all over again I’m not sure if I would choose Delta. In large part, this is because I have more than once come across their shortsightedness, and seemingly apathetic tone. Delta does reward generously, but usually only after the customer has already established himself. This could be a reason their hurdling into bankruptcy.

Here is what I suggest:

You’re right with a Y class ticket you should have received double the actual flight miles. For example, if the flight was 8,000 miles you should have received 16,000 miles. It’s good that you saved your receipts and tickets—they will clearly indicated your class of service.

Since you have not gotten anywhere with traditional means, I suggest writing to Mr. Grinstein, CEO of Delta Air Lines. I normally would recommend calling but since you’re in Israel that can be expensive. Instead, call Delta’s 800 number and ask for the fax number for Mr. Grinstein’s office. Be sure to stress that you do not want customer service or the SkyMile center. Fax your letter and tickets, along with your phone number and email address. Request a prompt response.

Mr. Grinstein has recently taken over the reins at Delta and is promoting an atmosphere of increased customer service. Simply explain that you want to have Delta as your partner but can only do so if they honor you as a customer by providing consistently quality service.

Once you receive your proper flight credits and take your new flights, you should have exceeded the 25,000 MQM’s threshold. At which point you need to decide what airline will best meet your needs.

Will American Airlines serve you well from Israel and does their frequent flier program make sense for you? Or can you forgive Delta’s modest service in hopes that you will be rewarded well once you prove yourself?

Keep in mind that American’s program is the world’s largest, which means more competition for upgrades. On the other hand, Delta provides good upgrading opportunities, and Grinstein does seem sincere about improving customer service, although bankruptcy looms on their horizon.

Good luck,

edited answer