Airlines set date for frequent-flier alliance Delta, United to share aspects of program beginning Sept. 1


July 01, 1998|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA -- Delta and United airlines will begin merging their frequent-flier programs on Sept. 1, taking the first step in a planned marketing alliance that will later link their routes.

The airlines said the initial move will enable passengers to choose which mileage program they want credited for a flight on either carrier. For example, a Delta passenger could have mileage credited to a Delta SkyMiles account or a United MileagePlus account. A United passenger could do the same.

The airlines said they are still working on a timetable for cross-redemption benefits, in which SkyMiles could be used for award travel on United flights and vice versa.

Other important details remain to be worked out, including whether fliers may pool mileage in both programs to obtain awards, and whether the carriers will allow access to each other's members-only airport lounges.

At this point, the frequent-flier partnership will apply only to domestic flights, and it won't cover flights by commuter affiliates.

United and Delta had originally said they expected to begin combining frequent-flier plans by the end of the year. They are pushing ahead to avoid falling behind two other alliances that plan similar links: Northwest and Continental airlines, and American Airlines and US Airways.

A second, more strategically important element of the United-Delta alliance isn't likely to begin until next year. In that part of the deal, the carriers would sell seats on each other's flights, a practice called code-sharing. They hope to attract more loyal passengers to their combined route network than they could separately.

Code-sharing must survive regulatory reviews and gain approval the two pilot unions, which view such arrangements as a potential threat to job security and career paths.

Andrew Deane, spokesman for Delta's pilot union, said a union ** committee is analyzing the effect of a code-share deal and has hired consultants to help. The committee will probably make a recommendation to union leaders this fall, he added.

After that, the union would negotiate the needed contract change with management, possibly seeking a pay raise or other concessions in return.

Then the change would have to be ratified by the membership, Deane said.

Meanwhile, Delta named Vicki Escarra, who started with the airline in 1973 as a flight attendant and rose into upper management, executive vice president-customer service.

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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