It was just over a week ago when Delta announced it was moving to a revenue-based loyalty format for their SkyMiles program. At the time, I said that I thought the changes weren’t that bad. But, Delta had left out the new redemption chart, so folks were legitimately confused as to how much this new brand of points were worth. After all, if you don’t know what you can buy with the money in your pocket, does it have any real value? Delta had announced they wouldn’t release the new award chart until the end of 2014, which seemed a bit nutty.
Well, Delta relented and released a reasonable chunk of the chart today, and the part that will apply most directly to my readers. The full chart they released can be found here. Here’s some snapshots of the chart themselves so we can discuss them for a minute:
The first thing I thought was, “Hey, these don’t look that bad.” Especially when you consider all the blue (lower award redemption rates) on the Business and First class chart. But, then I realized that I’m unlikely to redeem an award out of levels 3 through 5 just because of how they brutal are. Not all miles are created equal. Generally speaking, I would value Delta SkyMiles less than United or American miles. United and American’s top tier for business class redemption is equal to Delta’s tier 3. That’s not a win for me.
Then, I took a step back to see how most travelers would fare. This is something of an educated guess, but I would say coach awards in the US are the most common redemption, followed by either the Caribbean or Hawaii. I always advocate keeping a stash of miles in case you have to make a last-minute trip and ticket prices are sky high. I’ve done this plenty of times with sick family members, when you don’t want to have to worry about the price of the ticket and just want to be with your loved ones. Delta decided it wasn’t good enough they were 10,000 miles more expensive than their competitors American and Delta (60,000 miles versus 50,000). So, they raised the top tier to 65,000.
Now, SkyMiles members do get one-way awards. When American made a similar move a few years ago I personally witnessed decreased redemption costs. In the past, when one leg of your trip was sold out in saver inventory, the American system would price the whole award at the higher level. One-way awards eliminated this dilemma, allowing members to book lower priced awards for the segments that had saver availability. I would expect Delta’s program to work the same, and also expect that Delta will charge half the round-trip price for a one-way award, though I don’t see absolute proof of that (like a one-way award chart).
Bottom Line It For Me, Ed
Delta rolled out a mileage earning structure that seems to indicate most folks will earn less miles than they used to. They’ve now rolled the new award chart and it stays the same for the categories a large number of folks are redeeming awards for. That’s a net loss any way you slice it. Unless they provide more inventory at the lower levels, the only positive here is the addition of one-way awards.