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The big hubbub in the travel community has been Delta’s release of changes to their SkyMiles program starting in 2015.  I wrote my initial thoughts here and then some additional analysis.  The basic idea on the earning side is that instead of earning miles based on the actual miles you will earn it on a multiple of the actual dollars that your ticket costs

skydollars

Should we call it Delta SkyDollars now?

Everybody is up in arms about it, but I think that is about 90% people don’t like change, and 10% people that are actually negatively affected.

Winners and Losers

As with any change, there are winners and losers.

Winners:

  1. People that travel last minute on someone else’s dime.  Many frequent business travelers don’t pay for their travel – their company does.  So while I would say most people don’t INTENTIONALLY pick out expensive flights, often that is what happens, and for many people with that travel pattern, this announcement is a net win.
  2. Those who earn their Delta miles by ways other than flying.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re winners, but not losers – For those people, myself included, the announcement wasn’t that big of a deal.  I don’t like to pay for ANYTHING, much less travel, so all my Delta points are earned by credit card signup bonuses and spending.
  3. People who wanted to redeem miles for one-way travel.  That was not possible before and now is (for half the price of a roundtrip redemption)
  4. Delta the company – here’s a graph of their stock price for the past week.
deltastock

Look at that stock price – up 6% in a week!!

Losers:

  1. Casual travelers.  It was already just about impossible to earn enough miles for a free ticket when you’re only traveling once or twice a year.  Now, most people will get even fewer miles (and without status, they’ll earn miles at the lowest (5x) multiple.
  2. Frequent travelers who pay for their own tickets.  Typically in the paying real dollars / earning miles tradeoff, people will try to get the cheapest tickets possible.  And now those people will get less miles
  3. Mileage runners – all those who tried to game the system by getting high mileage tickets at a super-cheap fare.  Now they can fly all the want, but they won’t be earning very many miles.

Redeeming Miles

As many people pointed out when the announcement came out last week, we didn’t have all the story.  All the talk was in the changes to earning miles, but nothing about the other half (REDEEMING those miles).

Whether this was always the plan (Delta originally said that they were going to release their redemption chart later this year), we’ve seen at least a sneak peek of the new redemption chart.

deltaawardchart

Click to go to the full award chart

Whereas before they had 3 “tiers” of award (Saver, Standard and Peak), now there are 5, with 2 new levels in between Saver and Standard and Standard and Peak.

The lowest redemption levels remain the same (for example, 25,000 for a “Level 1” roundtrip ticket within the United States, Alaska or Canada).  I tend not to focus on the other levels because I’m not sure on what planet anyone is ever going to redeem 350,000 miles to fly in Level 5 from the US to the South Pacific

Is this a good deal?

So the tl;dr section – is this a good deal?  Well, the answer is still “maybe”.  They’ve only released the “from US” chart, and while that is useful for most people, we don’t know what the redemption rates might look like between other parts of the world.

But the big thing that we still do not know is what kind of availability will be released at the different “levels”.  It’s all well and good to say that the lowest level redemption rates have not changed (the 25,000 US roundtrip).  But if there are only 2 seats per flight released at that level, well then that’s going to be a problem.

Only time will tell…..

What are your thoughts on the new Delta award chart?

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