Big Delta SkyMiles Changes Reportedly Coming September 14

Delta Air Lines reservations agents are reportedly receiving training on upcoming changes to the SkyMiles program, slated for September 14.

SkyMiles and Medallion Program Changes Incoming 9/14/2023
by u/shawnwahi in delta

You currently need 125,000 miles or 140 segments, plus $20,000 in qualifying spend, for Diamond status. One rumor is that Delta would move to a single metric, like American Airlines Loyalty Points or United Airlines Premier Qualfiying Dollars (although United isn’t really a single metric, since there are different numbers of qualifying dollars based on segments flown).

It also seems possible that Delta could announce changes to credit card-based access to Sky Clubs at the same time, although that’s not necessary, and the changes are reportedly about SkyMiles itself rather than Sky Clubs.

In general SkyMiles is the weakeast major loyalty program. This is literally by design, what the airline intends. They are the strongest airline brand, and the strongest carrier in their largest markets, and haven’t needed to invest in loyalty.

Where other airlines have seen dropoff in co-brand credit card spend when they devalue, Delta hasn’t, and reports that nearly 1% of GDP is charges to Delta American Express cards.

Ultimately you engage with SkyMiles if you fly Delta, rather than choosing to fly Delta because of SkyMiles. However charging anything to a Delta co-brand credit card for any reason other than status earning is literally insane. And that’s true even if you somehow want to earn Delta miles, since American Express has cards that earn points faster in their own currency and that transfer to Delta as well as to other programs. Yet it was just a little over a decade ago that Delta claimed:

You can bet that any changes aren’t going to be favorable to customers, but might be favorable to the airline.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. AA’s scheme of Loyalty Points has been successful in driving incremental spend on partners (not just cobrand cards – also through shopping portals). DL will almost surely follow suit.

  2. One could ask how much more can Delta devalue a program that is already pretty worthless?

    My guess is that Delta’s response would be similar to “hold my beer and watch this”.

  3. Your parroted what Gary already said. You fly delta to use delta not skymiles. At some jobs that are important. On time and no cancellations is the driver. And that would be law firms that are ready to pay top dollar for consistency not penny pinching peasants trying to got miles off the employers dime

  4. As long as Skymiles and the Amex relationship are worth multiples more than any other airline loyalty/credit card, Delta will continue to do what makes sense not just for itself but also for how the program is perceived.
    And Delta does not dominate the large coastal markets including NYC, Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle, although it is the largest by revenue in the first 3.
    If AA supposedly added a bunch of longhaul international flights from JFK in order to boost the value of its loyalty program, it is certain the same principle applies to DL as well.
    Because coastal markets are much more competitive – and UA has been unable to get the benefits from coastal markets for its loyalty program that DL or AA – DL cannot trash the program into oblivion and still keep the revenue growing.
    And Amex ads are all over the US Open – currently playing to record crowds next to LGA – which certainly helps Delta.

  5. @J Smith – although Delta’s advantage in that regard, while still present, has significantly degraded over the last few years.

  6. Changes coming?
    All delta sky miles will have free access to all clubs?
    Premium cabin award availability will be cut in half to approach near retail value?
    Amex cards will have vastly improved earnings and no annual fees?
    Hi from the parallel world

  7. Congratulations, Big 3. You have all reached the bottom of the barrel. You may now eliminate your mileage programs completely, as they will now do nothing to drive any business to your airlines. We will have finally reached the day where FF programs will offer no useful benefits and only morons use airline credit cards for anything other than SUBs. Just buy first class and use the money from your cancelled credit cards to buy Ozempic instead of eating a bunch of crap in the lounge..You don’t need so much food anyway. If you’ve become an alcoholic from binge drinking in the lounge, join AA (not American Airlines…)

  8. Well a change generally is not good for the flying public, however I’m flying to Anchorage all on sky miles comfort plus round trip , so there is a up side

  9. I have three Skymiles Amex cards. This time next year, it will be zero. Fees keep going up and award values go down. I hope more people will vote with their card cancellations. I will be shopping airlines going forward.

  10. Worthless? I’ve flown to MSP-LAX-SYD, First Class to MSP-AUS, and have tix for MSP-OGG in the last year for a total of less than $500 total using award flights.

  11. In today’s age, it is somewhat laughable that they still use the term miles when most accumulations are not due to miles or fraction of miles. In the old days, adding together the totals of several such accounts would give a reasonable indication of how far you had flown, at least for a coach flier.

  12. You know address the issue about the shipment you taking about airline I know how can I can I my shipment without paying that $9595 that you not mention or io I refu,nd

  13. You know address the issue about the shipment you taking about airline I know how can I can I my shipment without paying that $9595 that you not mention or io I refu,nd now I’m very upset about the situation

  14. I’m with @2808 Heavy. Around a dozen years ago I was a huge Delta fanboy but their ongoing animosity toward their most engaged Skymiles members drove me off. The final straw was the rapid triple devaluation during Covid. At that point I cancelled my Delta Amex and have never earned another mile with them since.

  15. I plan to cancel my delta Amex as soon as I fly n my companion pass which is also impossible to use . I never get upgraded despite being a platinum medallion member . Their skymiles program is pretty worthless .

  16. Wouldn’t shock me if Delta now feels like they were too generous with the 15% kicker for holding their card…and now they want it back. LOL! I wouldn’t put anything past them these days.

  17. I don’t remember what compelled me to take their gold Amex long time ago. My only delta flight was one way to Hawaii 25 years ago. It was the only card to not drop me when I went chapter law a decade back so I kept it even though I can have any card now. 300K miles and I haven’t found a way to use them, most routes from my hub have a few connections and are too long. I told Amex I wasn’t paying a fee anymore, so they changed me to a blue delta Amex which is free. I always figured to use those miles on a last ditch effort to get to Maui again, but that idea is obviously shot now.

  18. 1961 Tom
    DL Airlines continues to charge more and give less!!!

    I’m moving into another direction where customers are still important and valued, today.

    Agree with those saying, DL is beginning to drill the hole in the bottom of the barrel.

    “Greed” will be their demise and is to most that treat customers this way‍♂️

  19. It will never happen but wouldn’t it be fun if Delta reversed course suddenly and made their program valuable again. I doubt that would generate “concern” from customers however.

  20. I guess I must be one of those morons. Yes, the cards are expensive, but comparable to the other airlines where you actually get something. And no one else gives you qualifying miles for flying using miles, Delta does. I take two vacations a year using those miles, and its a win for me to get status as well from that. I hope they don’t kill it.

    One day that will stop having value for me. Either when they kill it or I drop out of the Platinum tier. I do like that they are more reliable and have better customer service than the other two. I have never been a bottom feeder but the day is coming when I won’t play the game anymore.

  21. While it’s highly unlikely, wouldn’t it be delightful if Delta were to unexpectedly turn things around and restore the value of their program? I highly doubt such a move would cause any “concern” among their customers, though.

  22. It’s almost always an inferior award currency (even ridiculously so) on the routes that most people redeem for. But I’ve had good luck sometimes redeeming for flights on partners in other parts of the world, so I wouldn’t quite say the miles are worthless. Next trip includes a Tunis-Dhaka award I got a good mileage price for.

  23. flav,
    every time Skymiles is discussed, there are people that come out of the woodwork to tell us what a horrible value Skymiles is and why they want nothing to do with it.
    And yet Skymiles remains the most valuable loyalty program in the world and its value keeps growing.
    there are clearly people that see value in Skymiles to create that level of value in the program for Delta but given how fast Skymiles revenue continues to grow, they clearly have not lost their midas touch.
    Delta is a profit-focused company. If they see their strategies aren’t working to generate and grow profits, they will step back and re-evaluate.
    I get that we are all interested in our own economic well-being above all else but you would expect that some people, esp. miles bloggers and commentators, would be able to acknowledge that no airline runs a loyalty program for its customers’ benefit but rather to enhance the airlines’ own interests. Like so much else, Delta has simply figured out how to run a loyalty program better than any other airline in the world, despite the fact that DL was actually later in developing one than alot of other airlines. and it is the strength of DL’s loyalty program that is fueling its growth in high competitive markets such as BOS, NYC, LAX and SEA and not just because of DL’s dominance of its core interior US hubs – ATL, DTW, MSP and SLC.

  24. I wonder how many participants are like me, buying into it for decades with the credit cards and never a rarely a passenger on a flight. I was awarded 200 dollars in vouchers by AMEX during the pandemic for 20K spent and Delta would not honor the vouchers, and I followed the terms & conditions exactly. I know, it is a small amount of money, but I don’t like being given something and finding out it was a false gift. I took the time to write letters to both AMEX and Delta, pointing out the contradictions in what was in writing and what was being verbally said to me. Neither company responded. I was trying to use the vouchers on the fees of reward travel, and the terms & conditions on both the Delta website and the vouchers did not prohibit me from doing so. My home airport these days is MCO, Delta doesn’t have much leaving here that works for me. I learned I could keep my 300K Delta miles valid by switching to the blue free AMEX card, which I did. But I am no longer using it for 10K a year spend. Now they get 6 dollars a month for my XM subscription, that’s it.

  25. @Tim Dunn –

    ” there are people that come out of the woodwork to tell us what a horrible value Skymiles is and why they want nothing to do with it.
    And yet Skymiles remains the most valuable loyalty program in the world and its value keeps growing.”

    You fail to realize that these two things are not inconsistent with each other, in fact I note and address them directly in the post.

    “Delta is a profit-focused company. If they see their strategies aren’t working to generate and grow profits, they will step back and re-evaluate.”

    Delta has made profitable decisions, even with SkyMiles, as I note in the post. However this is a fallacy. Businesses make mistakes all the time, the mere fact a business (that seeks profit) takes an action doesn’t mean that action will be profitable, or that they will realize in time and adjust course when it isn’t.

    “Like so much else, Delta has simply figured out how to run a loyalty program better than any other airline in the world”

    No, Delta’s lessons – frequently copied by competitors – are not replicable by other airlines (figuring out how to run the best loyalty program) they are unique to Delta’s assets.

  26. Gary,
    this is a pretty weak retort, even for you.
    Hoping that Delta will slip on a $6.5 billion banana because other airlines have is about as likely as it is for Delta to overtake WN in AUS.
    Delta is extraordinarily well-run precisely because it doesn’t make flash in the pants changes to its strategies.
    It wasn’t that long ago that you accurately noted that AA had the most valuable loyalty program even if solely by valuation – but it is pretty hard to argue now that anyone else is even remotely in the same ballpark as DL and Amex among loyalty programs.
    Of course companies can make mistakes. To think that DL will make one with Skymiles is pure fantasy from those that can’t accept that DL has strategically done what no one else – even with a much stronger head start – has been able to match.

    You parroted AA execs in saying that AA’s buildup of international flights was due to the value gained for their loyalty program – and yet as soon as the NEA reached its predictable end, AA started dismantling their JFK international operation and returning to PHL. The NEA – despite AA’s willingness to subsidize it – was what incentivized AA to try one more time in NYC.
    I’m not sure why it is so hard to recognize that DL really has built its network in NYC, BOS, LAX and SEA on its own and sustained those hubs based on their own profitability – and THEN added a powerful loyalty program to turbocharge that growth which is happening far more than what AA or UA or B6 or anyone else can do.

    There will always be detractors from any change a business makes and there is no disconnect in what I wrote – which you do recognize – that ALL loyalty programs exist for the SOLE benefit of the company offering them. Well-designed loyalty programs are just designed good enough to allow consumers to also enjoy some benefits and that is what drives the benefit for the company.

    If Delta was as incompetent or stingy with Skymiles, they couldn’t have achieved what they have so far.

    It is pure naivety to think that Delta will get it wrong now and lose what is arguably its greatest revenue advantage

  27. If I were Delta, I would seriously consider ending SkyMiles completely. As the article said, people don’t fly Delta because of SkyMiles, so why not take advantage of the current situation and just kill the program?

    In fact, I’m guessing that’s basically what they are doing. By almost completely devaluing the miles, they have now fully boiled the frog. Amazing that people still bother to earn SkyMiles with credit cards, but we are a nation that gets what we deserve.

    Meanwhile, do they really need to reward loyalty? Now that they are the nicest domestic airline, anyone who wants a high quality product is flying Delta anyway. So why reward that?

  28. I used to think that few airlines could be as anti-customer as the old days of Leo Mullin “no waivers, no favors” Delta. Hard to believe that one could actually want those days to return, but that’s the state of affairs for most anyone that isn’t DL 360.

  29. Delta is a quality airline, great service, great personnel, seldom delays etc. I was happy when I switched from AA to DL based on location (moved from Dallas to Atlanta). But at least 10 years ago it was much easier to earn to the top status in their loyalty program (and thus getting more miles per flight) with AA. Raising the minimum amount on tickets spent to $20,000 to get to the top tier Staus was not a customer friendly move of DL, just was aimed to thin out the amount of customers who would earn their top benefits.And thus increase their profits. It sucks when you earn over 125,000 status miles a year and still have problems to get to their top tier status. Adding to the pain is their AMEX credit card: Traveling in Europe and in more rural areas of the USA it’s most of the time not accepted. And it is way more expensive than credit cards of other airlines.

  30. I don’t think Loyalty Points has been successful. I’m constantly getting calls to restore my status from AA. But Loyalty scheme is awful for biz travelers who don’t charge their fares to personal cards. Thus, every biz traveler I know now flies DL, yours truly included. It’s only a good scheme if you want leisure travelers who don’t understand how awful the earning tlrate is on a co-branded card. They should all get 2% cashback cards and call it a day.

  31. I hope they continue to invest in the product and not the frequent flyer program, which is a total distraction. AA got the math wrong and look at how weak their financials are.

  32. I’ve been a SkyMiles member for 29 years now, joining a year or two after I moved to Salt Lake City and I’ve had Diamond status for probably the last 10 years or so combined with their Delta Reserve Amex card. Are there more valuable programs? Maybe, but not for me flying out of Salt Lake everything is Delta (flyover country for me is the east coast on direct flights to AMS, LHR, CDG). And I find the program well worth it since I work for a cheapskate company that only recently started paying for premium economy on long haul flights and to get business class literally is sign-off by some veep in Europe. Long haul upgrades are my primary motivation behind keeping status – the price differential between the $4K premium economy ticket and the $12K Delta One ticket is a pretty good incentive.

    It is a rare domestic flight that I fly in any row higher than 4 or 5 and a recent trip to Uganda and the Congo was Delta One and KLM Business thanks to the SkyMiles program. An upcoming trip to India and Australia is also Delta One – and premium economy on Virgin Atlantic (my biggest complaint is rarely with Delta but with using upgrades on partner airlines – even applying the upgrades has caused ticket cancellations and other issues that make segments just disappear).

    I also found during COVID Delta was simply great – maintaining whatever status you had going in until people really started to return to travel. I didn’t lose Diamond status once. I am glad they made their Diamond tier a bit more difficult to get in – it means better upgrade availability for those who are. I wish they would do the same with the SkyClubs which are too often overcrowded because they open them to virtually everyone.

    I will admit that unless you are a top tier member, the complimentary upgrades particularly to first are almost non-existent (and it didn’t used to be that way – I remember many years ago being upgraded as a Silver medallion which is unheard of these days). The other consistent complaint is “SkyPriority” – which means absolutely nothing, not in bags, not in boarding – they do need to drop that whole concept.

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