Will SkyMiles Top WorldPerks?

By Aspan, Maria | American Banker, April 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Will SkyMiles Top WorldPerks?


Aspan, Maria, American Banker


Delta Air Lines Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Northwest Airlines Corp. has raised the question of which card issuer would get the surviving cobranding relationship - American Express Co. or U.S. Bancorp.

Amex issues Delta SkyMiles travel reward cards for the Atlanta airline, while the Minneapolis parent of U.S. Bank issues Visa-branded WorldPerks cards for Northwest, which is based in nearby Eagan, Minn.

In a conference call with investors Tuesday, Richard K. Davis, U.S. Bancorp's chairman and chief executive, responded to an analyst's question about the deal by saying, "We're looking forward, frankly, to having more business with the largest [airline] in the world."

But he did not provide specifics to suggest that U.S. Bancorp would, or could, wrest control of a combined cobranded miles program from Amex.

Observers said Amex could have an edge, in part because, even though the parties described the deal as a merger, Delta is buying Northwest for about $3.1 billion in stock.

Tony Hayes, a partner in the financial services division of Marsh & McLennan Cos.' Oliver Wyman Group, said that since Delta would retain its name, headquarters, and management team, "it would appear as though it would benefit Delta's partners, and that would include American Express."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Bancorp said it was "too early in the process" to discuss the matter further. A spokeswoman for Northwest said that "everything is still status quo," and that questions about miles programs would have to be worked out.

A Delta spokeswoman said there were "no immediate changes" planned. She referred American Banker to a "frequently asked questions" page on a Web site created for the deal. "Shortly after the deal closes, we will announce a plan for consolidating miles into one account," the page says. …

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