Delta Publicly Declares the End of the 25,000 Mile Award Standard

Yesterday I wrote about the fatal flaws in the IdeaWorks study of award availability. But not everything in it is wrong. I think the methodology discredits the results, but they do happen to claim correctly that Delta SkyMiles is less good on the redemption side than most other currencies.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution naturally focuses on this Delta result.

And they get some juicy comments from SkyMiles. I do much respect Delta’s Karen Zachary for her candor..

“We’ve worked really hard in trying to keep our commitment to opening up more seats on the lowest level,” said Karen Zachary, Delta’s SkyMiles managing director of global programs. “We used to be really bad.”

…“The 25,000 mile round-trip award fare that historically has been a standard for the airlines, I think you’re going to see that completely change,” Zachary said.

Read those sentences again. And then a third time. The ‘gotcha’ here isn’t the admission that Delta’s program has historically been really bad.

The key takeaway is that she says the baseline 25,000 mile roundtrip is going to go away. I think it’s fair to say that’s because Delta sees awards being based on paid fares rather than award charts.

The Journal Constitution does flag, “[Delta] also removed from its website the charts that show customers how many miles are required for award flights.” That’s a kick me that just isn’t going away.

(HT: Ryan)

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. I have no interest in Delta’s program any more. I’ve burned most of my Skypesos, and just need one one-way somewhere, then will cash in the rest for magazines or donate them, and say goodbye. They’ve decided their business model does not have room for a viable loyalty program.

  2. Your headline is a bit click-bait-y as per usual lately. While I have no doubt about Delta’s ill intentions, and don’t trust their shady program at all, the full context of the quote doesn’t really stack up to “declaring the end of the 25K award”, which makes it sound like DL has, right now, increased their 25K lowest level price.

    The full quote is:

    “With the 10,000-mile awards and other systems such as Southwest’s frequent flier program requiring points for a flight based on the fare, “The 25,000 mile round-trip award fare that historically has been a standard for the airlines, I think you’re going to see that completely change,” Zachary said.”

    So, she’s noting DL’s recent 10K “sale” for domestic awards and WN’s fare-based redemption rates, leading into the sentence you quoted. If anything, I take her comment as more of a hint about a coming DL switch to a fare-based redemption (which they already have anyway with the AMEX cardholder option and the partial pay with cash+miles option) than that DL intends to increase their base 25K to something more. At any rate, at most, she PREDICTED the demise of a 25K base – across the industry not just at DL.

    By the way 25K is only historical if you go back so far. It used to be lower long ago, in most cases.

  3. I think the title – and the quote – are completely fair. Delta sees the end of the standard fixed 25k saver award. A few awards that would otherwise be super cheap to buy go down, while tickets that are more expensive go up. Lots more hoops to jump through on the cheapest awards like 21 day advance.

    Basically, a break from the idea of a zone based award chart. Some have already noticed Delta going in that direction, but here’s public acknowledgment of it (for the first time, that I can recall). And that seems like a big deal.

  4. the funny thing is I love southwest and I am fine with their award chart, differenceis I have complete flexibility on my tickets

  5. I usually don’t condone extrajudicial action of any kind but can someone assassinate Delta.

  6. Delta’s gutting of their frequent flyer award program is unparalleled even by Hilton’s standard.

    Your Title is completely fair. This is one Airline FF program that I will ignore in the future for any paid flights (and getting rid-off the SunTrust as well and will not apply any AMEX Delta cards).

  7. Click-bait-y was a good and fair assessment. The title was very misleading. I would not have clicked if the title reflected the content.

  8. “Delta sees the end of” and “declares the end of” have very different connotations and you know that, hence the click-bait headline.

    Plus, none of this is exactly a news flash and 25K hasn’t been without exception for a long time. WN’s program has been fare based for a few years now, and was flat journey-based before. UA has had 10K one-way awards on shorter city-pairs for years. AA has had reduced mileage awards for cardholders on variable select routes for many years. Jetblue is fare-based.

  9. Revenue based is fine and often advantageous in a program like southwest who flies 1 class planes and for the most part domestically. Awards can be had for as low as 4k points each way.

    There’s a breakdown in the system when you thrown in international business and first class. It becomes unrealistic to pay 500k points each way in a revenue based system.

  10. @Eric your complaint is the semantic difference between ‘Sees’ and ‘Declares’? Since I was reporting on a statement (declaration) from the Managing Director of the program who ran it on an interim basis after Jeff Robertson was moved out, it seemed about right to me. You can divine all you wish but in this case a cigar is just a cigar.

    Point of the post is that Delta sees award charts as outdated, that awards will vary with price, and while it’s been clear that’s where Delta is going it’s the first time I’ve seen it spelled out this way *by Delta* and that struck me as quite newsworthy. Opinions, of course, vary.

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