Delta announced some changes today that will affect you if you’re a member of their loyalty program. Some of them are minor, some of them are “undetermined” since they involve facts not yet in evidence. On whole, though, I don’t think the changes are that bad compared to where we are now. Let’s walk through them quickly:
Delta announces it will more than double the number of awards available at the lowest price. I’m not sure whether to file this under “positive” or “undetermined”, and I’m not really joking. We don’t know how many 7,500 mile awards were available in the past. So, double could be significant or not. I tend to think this will fall in the positive category, if only because there are so many routes that Delta could increase cheap availability on without it drastically impacting profitability. Will we see 7,500 mile one-way awards on JFK-LAX on Mondays? No.
Starting next week, you’ll earn MQDs for ancillary purchases like Preferred Seats, Delta Comfort+ and paid upgrades to a premium cabin. This one makes sense to me, and I’m guessing it wasn’t in place before because of technology restraints. If the goal is to have a revenue-based program, you want to reward all types of revenue. Not a huge change, but I’m guessing this will be meaningful for some.
Starting next week, you’ll also be able to use Regional Upgrade Certificates on JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO flights. This is another positive change for members, who can now only do this using a Global Upgrade Certificate. I don’t keep as tight an eye on Delta as I do American and United, mostly because of my flight patterns, but upon reading this I was pretty sure this used to be a benefit. Sure enough, a quick search turned up this post by Wandering Aramean detailing the benefit going away.
Lastly, Delta has announced that their dynamic awards will now be….more dynamic. Here’s the text of what they announced:
We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other dynamics. Most Award prices will remain unchanged. Miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.
They’re essentially making more fare types upgradeable but changing the amount of miles needed to score that upgrade. What’s also left unsaid in the text above is whether any award prices (not for upgrades, just for flights) will go up. I suspect the answer is yes, and that some may go down as well (though more likely go up than down). The reason this doesn’t strike me as “sky is falling” material is that Delta’s award pricing is variable now (intended or unintended). Does this mean it gets more dynamic/expensive? Maybe.
Another positive (unpublished) change I see here is that Delta is likely investing a decent amount of time and money into improving the underlying technology. The hope there is that pricing will be more accurate in the future.
The biggest change here is Delta announcing the changes. I remember having a conversation with Karen Zachary, the Managing Director of SkyMiles at this year’s Freddie Awards. We talked about the need for Delta to give customers plenty of notice, even on the bad stuff (my words, not hers). Today’s announcements do exactly that. The good stuff is effective immediately, and some of the stuff that isn’t good has a long runway before it affects members.
Let’s be honest. We’re never going to like negative changes. But, I respect when a company tells me and gives me plenty of time to get ready. The added benefits shouldn’t hurt, either.