Delta, NWA's frequent flier programs fully integrated

Installing the new Delta signage
Another sign of integration: Crews worked to install new Delta Airlines signage outside at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday, March 30, 2009.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Delta Air Lines Inc. has completed the integration of its frequent flier program with that of its subsidiary, Northwest Airlines, Chief Executive Richard Anderson said Thursday.

The combined program has more than 70 million members.

Separately, another airline executive said that about half of the old Northwest Airlines planes that will get Delta's colors have been repainted, and the rest will be finished by mid-2010.

Atlanta-based Delta, which became the world's biggest airline operator with its acquisition in October 2008 of Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest, remains on course to obtain a single operating certificate by the end of this year.

Anderson said in a recorded message to employees that the changeover in the frequent flier program occurred Wednesday night.

"It's all SkyMiles now," Anderson said. "We have a single frequent flier program now, with a single database with a single technology platform."

The changeover means that Northwest frequent flier members have had their WorldPerks converted to SkyMiles and will have SkyMiles issued to them in the future for eligible travel and credit card purchases, Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec said.

He said frequent flier members would be notified, and that process would continue through October.

Representation and seniority list integration has been resolved for pilots of the two carriers and for several other work groups. The issues remain unresolved for the two biggest work groups, which include flight attendants and ground workers.

Anderson told employees in his recording that he hopes the issues are resolved soon. He urged the unions that represent pre-merger Northwest employees in those groups to not delay a vote.

"Everyone of you is entitled to prompt resolution of representation issues," he told all Delta employees.

Meanwhile, Delta has painted about 138 of the 250 Northwest planes that are getting a new paint job, said William Lentsch, Delta's senior vice president for Minnesota operations. That doesn't count smaller planes for Northwest's regional operations Compass and Mesaba airlines.

Northwest planes that are being retired, such as some of its aging DC-9s, aren't getting the Delta colors, he said.

Minnesota lawmakers called Lentsch to testify at a committee hearing for an update. They're especially interested because Delta has agreed to keep 10,000 jobs here through 2016 and 400 flights a day at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Lentsch also said that Delta employs about 13,000 Minnesotans, and that most of the job transfers to Delta's Atlanta headquarters are finished. He said he doesn't expect them to get close to the 10,000 floor anytime soon.

Delta is meeting its commitment for 400 flights a day at the Minneapolis airport, Lentsch also said.

Northwest ticket and gate agents in Minneapolis and Detroit are getting weeklong training on Delta's new, integrated computer systems, he said.

The integration is happening at a time when the industry is shrinking dramatically because of a sharp drop in business travel and steeply discounted leisure travel. He said the airline industry's capacity is down about 7 percent compared with a year ago -- the steepest drop since 1942, the first full year the U.S. was fighting in World War II.

The industry is in "a very weak revenue environment," Lentsch said. "We don't see any real near-term recovery on the revenue side."

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.