The Hammer Finally Falls: Northwest Reduces WorldPerks Benefits

After this post, I’m going to try and swear off any further blogging about Northwest Airlines. But for those of you who’ve had enough already, I suggest waiting until later in the day for a different post to read  …Like most Northwest Airline frequent fliers, I’ve wondered how the airline’s acquisition by Delta would impact its frequent flier program. Would I be able to maintain my miles? Would benefits be changed or reduced? And, like most Northwest Airline frequent fliers, I took very little comfort in the airline’s frequently repeated (in emails and press releases) assurances that accrued miles would remain untouched. To be fair (and to my knowledge), neither airline ever promised to maintain the current benefit level. But I think it fair to suggest that the airline intimated that benefits would be maintained.

Well, whatever. The past is past, and Northwest Airlines – and its WorldPerks program – are soon to be history. In the meantime, and as of March 1, 2009, the company’s most frequent fliers – its so-called “Elite” status fliers – will be receiving reduced benefits from the soon to be extinct airline.

Specifically, Silver Elite fliers (those who fly between 25,000 and 49,999 in a year) will see their  mileage bonuses reduced from 50% to 25%. Platimum Elite fliers – Northwest’s most frequent fliers, with mileage in excess of 75,000 miles per year – will see their benefits reduced from 125% to 100% (see here for breakdown).

That’s not the only reduction in benefits – it’s just the one that’s most likely to upset the company’s long-time customers, many of whom have flown Northwest precisely because its frequent flier program offered better mileage bonuses than competing programs. Now that the better bonuses have been eliminated, those fliers will likely look to other airlines for their frequent routes (for example, there will no longer be any good reason to fly Minneapolis <> Tokyo <> Beijing/Shanghai for a mileage benefit when a more comfortable Minneapolis <> Chicago <> Shanghai routes is available for less).

A complete run-down and comparison of the 2008 and 2009 WorldPerks Elite programs may be found here.


  1. Poor in-flight service (a misnomer but I observe convention) by short-tempered cabin attendants, aging aircraft with tattered and stained interiors, missed schedules with late take-off and arrivals, fewer benefits and lots of minor hassles* on the ground and in the air, all typical of US international carriers now left way, way behind by the others.

    *e.g. cabin attendants who won’t even help old ladies put luggage in the overhead compartments because insurance supposedly doesn’t cover the attendant’s possible strain and injury. Uh, what?! Yes, “perhaps one of the gentlemen passengers can help you Ma’am”.

    Nothing more aggravates those who must regularly make the trans-Pacific run than the condition of US carriers. And it gets worse and worse and worse.

  2. More words: Cathay Pacific (superior to Singapore Airlines in all respects even though encumbered by a class of passengers more demanding, rude and obnoxious than most – the Hong Kong Chinese), Qatar, Malaysian Airways System (MAS), Air Canada, etc. and among the last in line even China Eastern because at least they’ll feed you with edibles which is more than I can say for US carriers.

    And the female flight attendants are not gussied up like aging hookers.

  3. Personally I read this blog ONLY for the Northwest posts. The more over the top, the better. Ridiculous headlines especially appreciated.

  4. I prefer American Airlines but in general I’m embarrassed by the quality of service from American airlines (especially United). It’s a union thing sometimes but often just bad management. There are good airlines in the US – they just don’t fly to Asia.

  5. Air Canada to and from China is pretty hideous, if you are not bumped up to business class, but they have non-stop flights to Toronto.
    I have not tried Air China to Vancouver yet.
    The few times my work paid for Singapore Airlines, the comfort level was so amazing I didn’t mind the extra hours of flying required by their routes.
    My ipod, sound-reducing headphones, sock knitting and a tea flask are the methods I use to counter long flights in economy class. And I pack my own snacks and very good tea.

  6. And ever more US airline passengers loading up like backpackers to weather a transit across the Pacific.

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