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Ask the OTR: What Does the Northwest Delta Merger Mean for Me?

Q: What’s going to happen with my miles?
A: Nothing for now.  There won’t be any changes until they eventually combine the two programs, but I bet we’re at least a year from that happening.

Q: Is combining the programs a good thing or a bad thing for me?
A: I think it’s somewhat bad thing for you, especially if you’re coming from Northwest.  You’ll likely lose Continental as a redemption partner and Northwest had pretty good award availability.  Delta has the opposite of good award availability.  Plus, you’ll now deal with Delta’s 3-tiered award structure, which means that on many flights it will cost you considerably more to get a ticket (since Delta’s miserable award availability pushes you to the middle tier of awards).  On the plus side, once the programs are combined Northwest members will now have access to Singapore Airlines awards (assuming you can actually get a seat).

Q: Hm, that’s a bummer.  What about my Elite benefits?
A: For Northwest members, there’s a nice immediate benefit – you can now get upgrades on Delta (assuming any are available.  And they won’t be).  For Delta flyers, they actually will benefit, because Northwest actually does have upgrades available on many routes.

Q: I’m a Delta flyer and I’ve heard people complain a lot about Northwest, often referring to it by the not-particularly-clever Northworst.  Does Northwest suck?
A: No.  I lived in Detroit for a while and I never really understood why people bashed it so much.  It’s perfectly fine.  On domestic routes there’s no food and no entertainment systems of any kind.  Get over it – that’s pretty much how it is with all of the majors.  And yes, they fly ancient DC-9′s on some routes.  But those aircraft are quiet, and there’s only a 20% of ending up in a middle seat (compared to 33% on other narrowbodies).  Plus, their international A330s are a great product, both up front and in the back.  Quit your damn whining.  Delta had a great product with Song and then stole it out from under you.  You won’t notice much difference on domestic flying, except that you’ll get upgraded more on Northwest.  And you’ll be thrilled flying on the A330s.

Q: What about the hubs?  Does the combined airline really need all of those hubs?
A: Need?  Of course not.  Nobody needs hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, New York (both JFK and LaGuardia), Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis.  Does that sound like a streamlined operation?  No it doesn’t.  Memphis and/or Cincinnati seem to be the most obvious to go, but Delta swears they won’t get rid of them.  In 24 months they will be gone (or Memphis will be gone and Cincinnati will be a regional operation, primarily, after Southwest comes in in 2 years and lowers prices).

Q: Will this merger save the industry?
A: Yes, just like combining Western and Delta saved the industry.  And Republic and Northwest.

Q: Were you being sarcastic?  It’s kinda hard to tell when you’re reading this.
A: Yes, I was being sarcastic.

Q: Why is there no public transportation from Northwest’s hub in Detroit into the city of Detroit?
A: Because of the automakers.  Always a good idea to listen to them.

Q: What’s your worst Northwest experience?
A: I’m serious, I’ve only had good interactions with them.  My wife was once sick coming back on a Northwest flight from Paris and they gave her a seat in business class.  I once missed a connection in Minneapolis (weather delay) and they upgraded me on the next leg and apologized profusely.  I’m not saying every interaction is like this.  But I think their poor reputation is overstated.

Q: Can I send you stories about how terrible Northwest is?
A: Yes, of course you can.

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