… In some cases. And that mattters.
Delta says their new program rewards their highest spending customers, but they cap mileage earning at 75,000 miles per ticket. This cap is inclusive of elite and class of service bonuses.
For revenue-based earning that means Delta’s 125,000 mile a year Diamond members will not earn a single additional mile for business class tickets over $6818.18 (in base fare plus fuel surcharges).
So let’s look at the most expensive tickets that different airlines offer, and see which ones will earn more miles (leaving aside for now that American miles are themselves worth more than Delta miles).
If a Delta Diamond 125,000 mile flyer buys a business class ticket (Delta’s top cabin) from New York to Australia for $9280 in fare and fuel surcharges plus taxes, they’re not going to earn the full 11 miles per dollar (102,080 miles). They’re going to earn 75,000 miles.
If an American Executive Platinum buys a business class ticket (American’s top cabin) from New York to Australia, including an American Airlines codeshare flight on Qantas, they’ll earn:
- 19,926 miles flown (New York JFK – Los Angeles – Sydney)
- 19,926 mile elite bonus
- 9,963 class of service bonus
- 48,000 bonus for four segments in business class
That’s a total of 97,815 miles earned.
So American will offer more miles to the customer buying the most expensive ticket than Delta will.
Delta flyers can get around the cap in order to earn as many miles as American will award here by only buying one-way tickets. Even there the point remains: under Delta’s new revenue-based mileage-earning system, a customer has to game Delta’s system just to break even on mileage-earning. That’s a far cry from the idea Skymiles promotes that their system will award the most miles to the highest paying customers.
And then you bring back in that AAdvantage miles are worth far more than Delta miles.
Lest you think this isn’t a fair comparison, because it includes American’s premium transcon flights between New York and Los Angeles which earn significant bonuses, you can drop those and choose, say, New York – Hong Kong as the market so that for American you fly via Dallas. A top tier AAdvantage elite would still earn 73,557 miles for that trip.
No matter how much you spend on a Delta ticket you can’t earn more than 75,000 miles. But the top premium cabin tickets can earn as many or more miles on American, miles that are considered worth more to most observers, while American isn’t hacking way at the value of everyone else’s earning either.
The mileage-earning comparison won’t hold on all routes. Short-distance, non-stop premium cabin tickets, for instance, may do better with Delta. Say an $800 ticket that’s 400 miles each way. But even there the new American bonus closes the gap. Even in this example, with short distance expensive connecting flights American’s program is more desirable because the new premium cabin bonus applies to each flight segment.
As you get shorter routes that are more expensive, at a variety of points, you’ll earn more miles with Delta than with American. But American’s new 2015 earning promotion closes the gap — and eliminates the narrative that revenue-based programs offer more points-earning to high fare passengers than mileage-based programs do.
The promotion also closes the gap on the earn side so that the value of the miles earned matter. And the value of the elite program. Even for high spenders.