The SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program will change to base rewards on the airfares paid by customers of Delta Air Lines rather than the miles — more accurately, “butt-in-seat” miles — being traveled.
Paul Skrbec — who is manager of corporate communications at Delta Air Lines — contacted me directly to let me know that I will receive the full press release at 5:00 in the morning Eastern Standard Time — and I now have it.
The new redemption structure supposedly will create more flexibility and expand on ways to use SkyMiles — but many FlyerTalk members are skeptical.
One FlyerTalk discussion in particular has already been popular, with FlyerTalk members threatening to leave Delta Air Lines and defect to competitors.
Generally, the change is expected to be effective as of January 1, 2015 where members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program can earn anywhere from five to as many as thirteen SkyMiles per United States dollar paid for the base airfare and surcharges imposed by the airline, depending on your Medallion elite status level:
|SkyMiles Program Medallion Elite Status Level
||SkyMiles Per United States Dollar Earned
||SkyMiles Earned Per Dollar With Credit Card on Delta Spend
||Total SkyMiles Per United States Dollar Earned
|General||Five SkyMiles||Plus Two SkyMiles
|Silver||Seven SkyMiles||Plus Two SkyMiles||Nine SkyMiles|
|Gold||Eight SkyMiles||Plus Two SkyMiles
|Platinum||Nine SkyMiles||Plus Two SkyMiles||Eleven SkyMiles|
|Diamond||Eleven SkyMiles||Plus Two SkyMiles
As shown in the chart above, if you use a credit card affiliated with Delta Air Lines, you can earn an additional two SkyMiles per dollar spent in addition to the SkyMiles you will have earned from using the credit card itself.
This means that on an airline ticket whose base airfare is $1,000.00, a General member of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program without an affiliated credit card would earn 5,000 SkyMiles; whereas a Diamond Medallion member using an affiliated credit card would earn 13,000 SkyMiles.
For travel marketed and ticketed by partner airlines of Delta Air Lines, members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program will earn a percentage of SkyMiles flown as determined by the fare class purchased; and will also earn Medallion mileage bonuses on eligible fares.
As for the redemption of Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, a structure of five tiers — an increase from the current three tiers in order to offer “a wider variety of awards and improve overall availability at the lowest price points” — will be implemented where the lowest level will remain at 25,000 SkyMiles for an award ticket in the economy class cabin for domestic travel within the United States and Canada — excluding Hawaii.
Charts for the redemption of SkyMiles for award travel worldwide are expected to be updated sometime during the fourth quarter of 2014 to be effective as of January 1, 2015 — but the exact redemption levels are still unknown at this time.
Keep in mind that the concept of Medallion Qualification Dollars towards earning elite status — introduced last year — is unaffected by the latest announcement.
Unfortunately for many FlyerTalk members, this portends the end of what is being called the “extreme mileage runner” — as coined by FlyerTalk member javabytes — as FlyerTalk is the largest Internet web site in the world where the main topic of many discussions is on how to get the most for your money using frequent travel loyalty program miles and points.
The practice known as “mileage running” by many FlyerTalk members will be completely destroyed, according to FlyerTalk member TheBOSman — but will other frequent travel loyalty programs follow the lead of Delta Air Lines?
FlyerTalk member steveholt bids farewell to Delta Air Lines: “Well, bye Delta. I’ve defended the SkyMiles program plenty, but this is a brutal devaluation.”
Forecasting that frequent flier loyalty programs will eventually “rest in peace”, FlyerTalk member andymo99 posts: “When there were as many as 6 legacy carriers, neither DL nor any other single legacy could pull off a move like this. Why? Because others wouldn’t ALL follow, and it would thus fall apart. However, with just 3 legacies, the world is changed. All 3 have much better discipline in managing the business cooperatively. For example, look at how they are no longer flooding markets with capacity… which while good for the flooder in the short term is worse for all in the medium to long term. Same with this. It is a prisoners’ dilemma. So long as everyone plays along, they are all better off with less generous programs. This has always been the case. All that is different now is that it is much easier to get everyone to play along.”
However, some FlyerTalk members are cautiously optimistic. For example, FlyerTalk members who primarily travel on flights with a duration of one hour or shorter — “segment fliers”, as they are know, with this FlyerTalk discussion as one of many examples — and have felt alienated may benefit. Consider FlyerTalk member CPMaverick, who posts that it “is nice for me as I fly short expensive direct flights a lot. But as a program it is worse.”
The good news is that you will finally be able to redeem SkyMiles for one-way award tickets — something which FlyerTalk members have been requesting from Delta Air Lines for years; and the lowest level will be at 12,500 SkyMiles for an award ticket in the economy class cabin for domestic travel within the United States and Canada — excluding Hawaii. A “miles and cash” options will also be introduced to the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program.
For what it is worth, the tools to search for award tickets at the official Internet web site of Delta Air Lines will finally be improved — about which FlyerTalk members have been complaining for years.
As of right now, there seems to be more questions than answers pertaining to what some are calling a “radical” change of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program from a mileage-based model to a revenue-based model. For example, how expensive will the redemption levels be for using your SkyMiles on rewards — especially with the possibility that certain routes may possibly shift tiers during times of the year when those routes are more popular? What will the different earning rates be for flights operated by carriers other than Delta Air Lines? Will redemption rates of SkyMiles for seats in the premium class cabin of an airplane become significantly more expensive?
One thing is for certain: Delta Air Lines is seeking to reward its highest-value customers with generous redemption earnings of SkyMiles; while those customers who travel on a budget are expected to “feel the most pain” as a result of the impending changes. “The introduction of a new model for earning miles will increase rewards for those who spend more as well as differentiate the SkyMiles frequent flyer program for our premium travelers,” said Jeff Robertson, who is the vice president of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program at Delta Air Lines.
Even then, I am not sure at this time that the news is all “doom and gloom” until I find out additional information…