Delta’s First Story Didn’t Work. Their New Line Isn’t Any Better. Don’t Be Fooled.

When Delta removed all the award charts from their website without any notice (indeed, just weeks after they went into effect and less than 3 months since some were even posted), their initial story was that they had improved website award search enough that they were no longer needed.

[W]e did remove Award charts today. Delta’s expanded search capabilities and calendar at offer more flexible and accurate view of Award prices.

Of course, that was disingenuous at best.

  1. The website’s award pricing was still very broken
  2. It still doesn’t support many of Delta’s airline partners
  3. There’s no mutual exclusivity here, having a functional award booking site and having an award chart go perfectly well hand in hand. (Cf. United Airlines, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways to name a few.)

Now — after changing terms and conditions of the program without notice — Delta changes its story. The new reason for pulling the award charts?

Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta, downplays the impact. He says that shopping for a reward flight will simply be like buying a regular ticket — plug in the days you want to travel and see how much it will cost.

This too is disingenuous in the extreme.

  • There is a ‘published’ value of cash. Delta doesn’t tell you anywhere how much your miles are worth towards paid airfare.
  • You can use cash equally with Delta or any other airline (or to buy anything you wish). You can only use delta’s proprietary currency in whatever manner Delta proscribes.
  • Forget award tickets for a moment, how much do upgrades cost?

Frequent flyer miles are not like cash. If you try to turn them into cash, you create a poor substitute. And you undermine the very thing that makes them special to members.

Miles aren’t mere rebates. They hold the promise of going places, of experiencing things, in a way that you wouldn’t if you were spending cash. They capture our imagination.

If they’re just going to be airline funny money, then the alternative of federal reserve notes is clearly superior. There’s no reason to accrue points, say, through a co-brand American Express card (they’re really throwing American Express under the bus after tricking them into a $2 billion commitment). There’s no reason to chase the points. Sure, by all means, join the program and enter your number and take the points because it’s better than not taking the points. Just like you’ll get your local sandwich shop to punch your ticket and get every 10th sub free. But there’s little reaosn to decide what to eat because of a punch card (not least of which because all the other restaurants have better programs).

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. “will simply be like buying a regular ticket”

    Oh, so DL says it will be like a regular ticket? Great. So they’ll let me upgrade an award ticket now and offer no-fee refundable award fares, right? Perfect.

  2. Sounds like pretty much the same story they gave at first — their award search engine will henceforth act as the source of award pricing.

    Not a good story, certainly, but it’s not obvious to me what’s new here?

  3. I understand wanting to know the value of the miles, but before with the chart all you knew is the maximum you would have to pay, I still had to find out how much it was going to cost by searching each day and time. I never used the award chart before. I think it is like before, use skymiles when they fit your flight times and offer a good value, use AA miles when they do, Rapid rewards when they do, etc. Or a combination of one ways that make the most sense. I guess it is not as annoying to me since Delta is usually my third or fourth option, only for certain cities that the others don’t fly to. I recently booked Delta for July 4 because there was no holiday “penalty” unlike US Air and AA – so in that situation skymiles offered the most relative value.

  4. Saying DL “tricked” Amex is pretty far off base. DL negotiated well, but trickery wasn’t involved.

    There are more major card issuers (and wannabe major card issuers) than there are major carriers. That is the most important fact in any of these co-branded card negotiations. Not too long ago, the ratio was stacked the other way.

  5. Time to post up a TSA rant maybe?? or has Delta replaced that in your

  6. Ron Mexico, If you just roll over, they’ll hit you again. Leaving DL and the AMEX DL card are the best choices, but to say “get over it” and keep going back to DL without a peep is just dumb.

  7. well that’s your choice…isn’t it and mine…but, we must “whinge” about the

  8. Gary,

    I appreciate that you keep calling out Delta. Normally, I get more upset when someone thinks I am stupid. Now Delta clearly thinks their “loyalty” customers are stupid. Pulling the award chart with no notice totally kills any loyalty on my part, a.k.a including the value of the points in my booking decision. Isn’t this what the loyalty program is supposed to do?

    This is the first time when I truly believe that a loyalty program hurt itself rather than the owners of their skypesos. I think they should be called “skyzimbas” after the Zimbabwean Dollars.

  9. Well, everything must be okay with Delta now, after all the guru douchbag DeltaPoints is back to saying what an amazing airline they are, and gracing us with pics of his latest domestic mileage run (can you even call it a mileage run with Delta?). The only thing that can #keepdecending further than Delta itself is his pathetic blog.

  10. Almost putting the plane into the water, isn’t the same as being with a shoe in a game of horseshoes.

    In regard to punch cards, shrinkage, aka employees thief, caused a few B&M chains to halt their program.

  11. It looks like Delta doesn’t want mileage junkies anymore. Which is fine, except that they’re affecting people’s existing balances.

    But we all knew very well that these programs were legal scams (thank you Congress, DOT and all so-called libertarians/tea party/etc.). So we got scammed, as advertised.

  12. Yep, it seems to me it’s getting more and more difficult to get better value than the 2% cash back I can get. Business class overseas is definitely worth it, but how often do I go there? And how much time do you have to spend to become an expert in how to use them? So I’ve been using miles & points as much as I can, basically if I can get 1.5% or better out of them I use them, and I have burned off a million or so. I still have about a million, but I am putting at least 75% of my spend on cash back now.

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