Criticism Of Delta SkyMiles Deemed Racist: “SkyPesos” Nickname Under Fire

A recent blog post calls out frequent flyers using the term “SkyPesos” for Delta’s SkyMiles as potentially racist. And, since it acknowledges that the term – which took off in mileage circles – is something that I originated, they’re suggesting that I’m being racist.

The first online use of the term was in 2009. That’s many, many Delta devaluations ago. Even then it was important to understand that not all “miles” were created alike. Miles in United Airlines Mileage Plus, American Airlines AAdvantage, and even Continental One Pass and Northwest Worldperks were much more valuable than Delta’s miles.

  • Miles are a private currency, with no central bank. The airline determines how much they’re worth. This was a key point that Delta and others made when raising debt against their frequent flyer programs during the pandemic – they could choose to devalue that currency at will.

  • Since Delta’s had been so devalued, calling them all ‘miles’ didn’t make sense. Instead, a currency that was worth less than what most of us (those I was writing to, at the time both on my blog and on FlyerTalk) used regularly seemed more appropriate. Instead of miles or dollars, Pesos were ‘worth less’ or ‘more devalued’.

Is it racist to acknowledge that Delta’s miles, like Mexico’s peso, are relatively devalued currencies? That’s just… true. Delta even explained at an industry conference that they aren’t trying to offer greater redemption value through the SkyMiles program.

And, contra the Your Mileage May Vary post it doesn’t mean that the people in other countries have less moral worth, but it does mean that other governments have managed their currencies less well.

I did think comparing the low value of SkyMiles to pesos was condescending, as well as a short, perhaps even subconscious jump into feeding into many Americans’ belief that the U.S. is better than, say, Mexico

The United States is, broadly speaking, “better than” Mexico as a place to live and in terms of its state capacity. To say otherwise ignores which direction traffic flows over the metaphorical wall that President Biden continued to build.

U.S. per capita GDP is six times higher than Mexico’s per capita GDP. In purchasing power parity terms U.S. income is just over 3 times higher. As an American, with a U.S. income, may certainly enjoy visiting Mexico. However Mexico also has some of the world’s greatest inequality. And for all the flaws of the U.S., it is far more difficult to succeed there.

Here’s a comparison of per capita GDP from Our World In Data:

Nonetheless, they enlist the opinions of anonymous others on the racism of the term “SkyPesos”

“it is classism; it’s punching down, it’s claiming superiority.”
“plays on the myth of American superiority.”
“reinforces the idea that latin america is inferior bc the peso is of lower value”

The term SkyPesos doesn’t claim superiority – except that other frequent flyer programs offer more valuable earning and redemption than Delta’s. It may play on American AAdvantage superiority over Delta, and of the U.S. Federal Reserve over the Bank of Mexico, but says nothing about the people of either country more broadly. Would you rather have 100,000 U.S. dollars, or 100,000 Mexican pesos? Similarly, would you rather have 100,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles or 100,000 Delta SkyMiles?

To be sure, the U.S. has certainly made mistakes managing its currency. Covid-era inflation was completely predictable and predicted (Cf. Larry Summers). Expanding the money supply (Fed beefing up its balance sheet) and putting money into circulation via widespread deficit spending even after shutdowns had passed and while the economy was seemingly doing well had the obvious effect of debasing the currency. Fortunately, while we’ve capitalized a higher price level, we’ve pulled back from continued devaluation of the dollar.

Delta, on the other hand, has kept its foot on the devaluation gas, however it does appear that the program’s economics has plateaued. So while in the past it seemed like they could devalue with impunity they may finally have hit a wall. Certainly they got the message that changes to the elite program announced last fall were a step too far, which is why they walked those back.

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. Instead of.this lengthy defense, you could have just apologized for offending and agreed not to use the term in the future.

  2. Kind of an overly lawyered response. The main thing is that it’s not even that accurate any more. No one under 30 will really get why they are called Skypesos; there hasn’t been double digit inflation in Mexico since the 1990s. The peso has been relatively well managed since then.

  3. For those who think that the Mexican Peso has been stable over the past 30 years, they are wrong. Check out the graph on macrotrends. After the government wiped out three zeros from the old Mexican Peso in 1993 to create the new Mexican Peso, devaluation continued but at a slower pace. In 1994 the Mexican Peso was pegged at around 4 to a dollar but now the number is closer to twenty. A bit of strengthening lately does not negate the overall trend. At one time petroleum could float the economy but that is in the past. inflationtool can help for longer periods.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. As a decades long member of Delta’s Skymiles/Medallion program and former stock holder in the airline;
    It’s completely inescapable that the current management of Delta has decided to make the program the absolute least level of acceptability. It has become, what is the absolute MINIMUM value that we can offer before we kill demand?

    I have spoken to many people like myself who have stopped even trying to qualify for diamond status. On my regular trips to Europe, a quick glance at Google flights reveals several carriers are 50% less than Delta on the same route with advancedpurchase.

  5. If “SkyPesos” were to be a racist term, then what about FlyerTalk’s long-standing biased reluctance when it comes to opening new airline-specific forums for airlines from non-OECD countries (other than the richer GCC countries)?

  6. Thanks for the guidance in the proper spelling and format….I was using “Sky Pesos”.
    From this day forward, I will spell it correctly!!

    Does this also apply to AApesos??

  7. Your fine Gary.

    This is ridiculous!
    I’m Hispanic and I love the term Sky Pesos!

    These wacko far left snowflakes gotta go!

    And I’m a Democrat…..

  8. Government dabasing their citizen’s./society’s currency for political expediency is not racist, and probably not Delta either.. but perhaps deflection and projection. Hilton pesos anyone??

Comments are closed.