A Word About Rumored Changes at Delta SkyMiles

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like (no, love) flying Delta Air Lines. Of course, I always qualify that with my usual admonition that I don’t like Delta SkyMiles all that much. The reasons behind that are the same as you’ve seen all over the internet. Their redemption simply isn’t that good compared to other airlines….especially for someone that might occasionally like to cross the pond in premium classes of service for less than 300,000 miles per person. Yes, I know Delta has partners, and you can find awards on those partners and even Delta from time to time at the minimum level of miles….. 100,000 for Business Class.

Aside from SkyMiles, Delta really has it going on. Better hard product in domestic coach, better soft product, great people, fleet wide wi-fi, relatively generous domestic Medallion upgrades (as long as you’re flying alone), great SkyClubs, an aesthetically pleasing (and functional) iPhone app, @DeltaAssist…..I could probably go on for awhile if I tried. Did I mention @DeltaAssist? Yeah, I thought so. In short, Delta does a lot of things right and the overwhelming majority of my Delta flights border on downright pleasant and many far exceed that.

Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about the rumors of a move by SkyMiles to a revenue based mileage earning formula. This post by The Points Guy was the first I’d heard of it, and then I dove into the Flyertalk thread he referenced. Fun read, huh? I’m a firm believer in not reacting until I have something to react to, and a 40 bazillion page thread on FT doesn’t qualify (not that I don’t love me some Flyertalk, mind you). The way I see it, there are a few things that could be going on.

A) Delta could be floating a trial balloon to gauge reaction (most doubtful in my book)

B) Delta intends to go the Southwest way with what I call a “points per fare dollar” program

C) Delta is going to add a component to SkyMiles Medallion qualification that better recognizes higher spenders (aka Elite Qualifying Points at AAdvantage)

D) None of us really know what the hell is going to happen and should just wait and see

I lean towards option C/D, but I digress. 🙂 Naive as I am, I’ve never truly understood why frequent flyer programs shouldn’t be revenue based (at least to a point) to begin with. Heck, I would opine that Delta has had a revenue based redemption program since it went to 3 tier awards with a lot of availability at the high tier and not so much at the low tier. Am I the only one that thinks those 300,000 mile business class awards are more by design than a fluke of Delta.com’s whizz-poor booking engine? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve redeemed miles for some pretty sweet premium class redemptions, and I’m going to keep doing that until there’s no reason to do so. Hey…I didn’t build the mileage system we have now, the airlines did….and I can’t help but think that they did so because they benefited more than I did. Let’s face it, the airlines sell miles like candy corn for a reason, because it pays. So far, it’s paid off for me too.

So, I will be taking a wait and see approach to these rumors. Of course, that worked out well when I first heard of Delta’s oddball (and sucktacular) 72-hour award cancellation policy, didn’t it? In the end, I think some kind of change is coming to SkyMiles. It surely could be coming to another program near you too.


About Marshall Jackson

Marshall Jackson is a former airline pilot, grounded by diabetes. After spending several years in operations management, he exited the airline business for a more stable career. But that hasn't dampened his interest in airplanes, airlines and travel in general.

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  1. Other than the (domestic only) wifi (which United is rolling out, in addition to wifi on their ~175 international planes), I think all the reasons you listed for Delta being better than any other carrier are matched by United. I’ve never had a bad experience flying United, I’ve only flown them 70 times (and will fly another 10 in the 10 days starting this weekend). Ever since UDUs came out, as a Premier Exec my upgrade success rate has been around 80%, which isn’t too bad if you ask me. The United Clubs are nice, it’s disappointing that almost none of them have showers, I can see not having showers at DEN, where the longest flight is to/from Hawaii, once a day, but at SFO, LAX, ORD, etc, where there are plenty of lang haul international flights, no showers is super weak. The United app is more functional than the Delta app, which for some reason I have although I have never flown, and don’t have any plans to fly Delta.

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