Video: “Late Night” Guest Thinks Delta SkyMiles Is an Unfair System

Filed Under: Delta, Humor

This is hilarious. Wyatt Cenac (who used to be on “The Daily Show,” and is now working on other projects) was on “Late Night with Seth Myers” last night. Suffice to say I was intrigued when I saw that the description of the YouTube video for his segment was “Wyatt Cenac Thinks Delta SkyMiles Is An Unfair System.”

Is he also annoyed by Delta SkyMiles’ lack of transparency, especially as it relates to their dynamic award pricing? Nope. As it turns out, he has a very different complaint. Specifically, he has been traveling a lot as part of his current show, and when he started he was excited because he figured he’d be using HBO’s money to bump up his Delta SkyMiles status.

He started flying before the end of the year, and was disappointed when he found out that none of those miles transferred over to the following year, meaning he’s still flying “steerage class.” He thinks that system is horribly unfair.

He also notes that sometimes when Delta screws up they offer to give him some miles, but then he finds out that those miles aren’t even for status, but rather they’re “these other miles that go towards the Delta gift shop, so you can buy an inflatable neck pillow.”

He also flies American and United sometimes, and thinks there should be some sort of a stock exchange where you can trade United miles for Delta miles. He says that he doesn’t think Spirit gives points, so in the exchange they could just give cigarettes, since he thinks that what Spirit passengers would have. Hah.

The segment is funny, though in Delta’s defense:

  • Wyatt clearly doesn’t understand the difference between elite qualifying miles and redeemable miles, and that’s hardly a Delta specific problem
  • Of course there’s no market to exchange elite qualifying miles, since the whole point is that you get status for being loyal to one airline, rather than for flying with competitors
  • Ironically, Delta is the most generous major US airline in the area he’s complaining about — Delta offers rollover elite qualifying miles when you over-qualify for status, which American and United don’t; however, there’s something to be said for airlines that let you qualify for status based on a rolling 12 month calendar

Here’s the full segment, which is worth watching if you have a few minutes:

(Tip of the hat to Gaurav)

  1. @david – I’m going to file your comment under the same category. Thanks for contributing to the “I’m an ass” fund today.

    Ben – thanks for the chuckle. Spirit should look into the cigarettes!

  2. Look. We can laugh because we know better, but I bet the vast majority of casual to semi-casual flyers find the whole frequent flyer-thing, regardless of airline, confusing. It isn’t simple anymore. 3,000 actual miles flown isn’t 3,000 miles into your frequent flyer account. Probably most people who sign-up for a credit card or fly a few times a year don’t get it and, moreover, will never actually accumulate enough miles for that dream, aspirational trip because of constant changes and devaluations.

  3. I’d agree, us frequent fliers know this but trying to get status as someone regularly flies can be infuriating. I remember one year I had a ton of travel from November -> February that would’ve earned me status but NOPE.

  4. @sue well said. And airlines are stealing. It is theft. Nothing less.

    I bought a ticket on United, paid my money to United. They flew on a code share air new Zealand. I want to credit my miles to Turkish. Turkish credits miles based on the airline flown and not the airline with the flight numbers. So instead of getting 75% miles i am getting 0%. I paid my money to United as far as I am flying on United. I am doing them a favor by flying on some other metal because they don’t fly their own metal but will happily sell tickets.

    I consider this theft. And consider this grounds enough to steal blankets and pillows and whatever the eff else next time to compensate me for this theft. Eff United. Die Munoz and Kirby.

  5. This may be the most useless article you’ve ever posted. Please stop retweeting stupid stuff on your website.

  6. Metal = 5 letters, frame = 5 letters and plane = 5 letters, why the strange jargon? Based on your nomenclature then when you fly 787 or A350 then shouldn’t you use C (short for carbon or composite since they are more plastic than metal)? What am I missing here?

  7. I mean, I don’t think the video is particularly funny. It just shows how ignorant people are to how loyalty systems work. While they are admittedly rather complex, surely it is not that hard to understand why these programmes, which make no effort to hide that they are related to ‘loyalty’, would not allow you to trade miles from one airline to another. And while I agree that the calendar year system is rather inconvenient, there are plenty of programmes out there that are not based on the calendar year that may be better for you if you start earning late in the year.

    @Debit, I hope you are being facetious. When you bought the ticket, it was presumably made relatively clear that you were not flying on a United plane. And a very basic search would tell you that with Star Alliance, points are based on metal, not marketing carrier. I admit that this can be rather inconvenient, but to equate it with theft is ludicrous, and not just in the legal sense.

  8. Maybe if they didn’t call more than one type of points “miles” it would be less confusing.

    British Airways has “Avios” (I still don’t know why that’s better than “Airmiles”), and “Tier points”. Self-explanatory. Does what it says.

    But WTF is a “Medallion Qualifying Mile”, and anyway why would I want a medallion? I have never worn necklaces and I’m probably too old now to start.

  9. @ The nice Paul

    I think it would be slightly better if they did mail you an actual medallion. Whether or not you want to wear it, they should provide it, diamonds or gold, etc. Seems if you earn a medallion, you should be able to hold it in your hands.

  10. As I sit in my first class seat during boarding, sometimes enjoying a predeparture beverage, with my legs stretched out and with plenty of room for my bags, I observe the long line of economy passengers trudge past, and it occurs to me, that if most of them were aware that I paid a grand total of $5.60 for my seat, they too would probably find the miles program horribly unfair. I was dubious myself, right up until I boarded my first overseas flight in business class, paying a pittance for it. Even as I strolled up to the gate, a voice in the back of my head kept goading me that there is no way in hell they’re going to let me on the plane and sit in a $8000 seat just because I applied for a credit card. To this day, when I watch those sullen faces walk past, I wonder how many of them listened to that same voice and wrote off the whole idea as some sort of ridiculous scam. How many more never heard about it at all? It does seem unfair in a way. But I’m not complaining. 🙂

  11. @ Restil

    For those pax trudging past while you enjoy a PDB, please remember that First Class is there to remind those other folks that they’re not in First Class! Enjoy the flight.

  12. Yes, the FF programs are complicated and confusing. Thank god they are. If they were brain-dead simple, there would be no value in them, and we would all be stuck back in Misery Plus class.

    The fact that the programs are complicated is a blessing. It’s how we wind. Because most people are just too lazy and too stupid to make the effort required to actually get value out of their miles, so they give up in frustration and grouse that the game is rigged. Hallelujah! Yes, of course it is complicated. And thank god for that. Trust me: you do NOT want it to be less complicated. The more complicated it is, the greater your opportunity to get something awesome from it – IF YOU DO THE WORK TO FIGURE OUT HOW IT WORKS.

    You want it simple? You want it handed to you so it requires no effort at all? You want circles-and-arrows stupid? Fine, no problem: fly Capital One and Spirit Airlines. They keep it nice and simple for the lazy morons. They get a free seat to Orlando in coach once every ten years – woot!!!

    Oh – but you wanted a nice seat? Then thank your stars that it IS complex, and pray that they not only keep it complex, but that they keep making it more and more complex and confusing every single day. And try to get the damn blogs to shut the *** up.

    THAT’S how you get the nice seat.

  13. I don’t agree with your comment, Lucky, about Delta being the most generous, Delta is also the the most difficult and expensive in terms of redemption. Business class on Delta can often cost hundreds of thousands of points and they do not generally have partner flights available between destinations that partners operate. This compares with United and other airlines that if redeemed with them, it is expensive, whereas if redeemed with partners some good deals can be scored. The “taxes and fees” also need to be noted. Why redeem when you pay more in taxes and fees than just paying for the ticket on its own. They also have to consider that not all of their customers are a miles and points geek and if it is so complicated that customers do not even know how to use it, then it is a problem. In my opinion, they devalue their points or charge more points to redeem than the others.

  14. Another uniformed traveler wanting to be entitled diamond status with Delta without putting in the flight miles and understanding the way it works in the real world. This is getting OLD.

  15. Smells of elitist babble to me. And Spirit may not be Emirates, or even Delta, but it serves a purpose. I find poking fun at their passengers to be more than generalizing in that if was a racial leaning instead it would have resulted in a whole lot of backlash. The entitlement is strong here.

  16. > I think it would be slightly better if they did mail you an actual medallion.

    I agree. It would make elite preboarding simpler. And if the medallions were big enough they could get Flavor Flav to be a spokesman for this new benefit.

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