A week and a half ago Delta announced its revenue-based changes to how miles are earned through flying. And then this past week they shared some of the details on how mileage redemption will change next year.
Since then there’s been much electronic ink spilled (much of it by me) trying to make sense of it all, combing through the details, explaining what it all means.
But it’s really not that complicated. We were told far in advance what to expect.
Delta has been working on these changes, in one form or another, for more than three years. Early planning was leaked two years ago.
In fact, three and a half years ago Jeff Robertson, the head of the Delta SkyMiles program, stated clearly that they thought they were too generous with the program and that had to change.
The frequent flyer model of over-awarding is not sustainable and must be changed. It’s either going to be redemption or accrual or both.
And it’s both. It was clear at the beginning of this. So no one should be surprised that’s what we get.
Of course, they’ve made it really complicated and that helps to obscure that fact.
They show a few reductions in their award chart, but have gone from 3 award levels to 5. (United and American have just 2)
When members are already overwhelmed by programs — not the median reader of this blog perhaps, although many blog readers too — Delta is making their system far more complicated, rather than less complicated.
In addition to the expanded award levels, when you fly Delta will now be separately track your:
- Medallion Qualifying Dollars (spending towards elite status)
- Medallion Qualifying Miles (flying towards elite status)
- ‘Miles’ earned from your ticket price (that now have nothing to do with the miles you fly)
And you don’t even earn miles for the ticket price on all flights, partner flights on partner tickets will earn some percentage of distance flown based on fare class. And you don’t even earn qualifying dollars or miles on all of their alliance partners.
As they’ve re-thought the program, the one thing they haven’t done is made it simpler for members. And that complexity serves to mask the changes in value — but statements of their intentions are plain enough.
I’m not saying there’s no longer value in the Skymiles program. There is. I have hundreds of thousands of Delta miles and I will be earning more (through non-flight activity). But I’m under no illusions that these changes are making even a substantial plurality of members better off.