The inimitable Brian Sumers interviewed the Vice President of the Delta SkyMiles program for Skift and put the question to Prashant Sharma why does Delta charge so many more miles for the best awards than other airlines?
Delta SkyMiles award pricing can frequently be double, triple or more than what you’d find elsewhere. That’s true even when you’re trying to fly Delta.
And Sharma’s answer is pretty simple: it’s because they can get away with it, and customers keep earning SkyMiles and signing up for the Delta credit card.
We take very seriously that the customers see value in the program, and the value is very holistic. A large portion of that for sure is using your miles to fly which is the promise of joining the program. And we feel confident that as we look at where customers are flying and their ability to use the miles, we are actually seeing that actually approach 2019 in terms of how customers are using their miles to fly so demand remains high. It’s also validated by the fact that customers are not only joining the program at record levels but also taking up cobrand at record levels which is further faith that this is a currency they want to earn.
So we looked at the value holistically. We feel very good that what we’re offering to customers. We continue to solicit feedback and satisfaction with the ability to redeem miles and the value of redeeming miles.
As long as customers keep engaging with SkyMiles, they have no reason to offer better value to members. In fact, Sumers digs a little deeper and talks about how Air Canada’s Aeroplan purposely offers awards that – while affordable for the program – look like outsized value to the member. Sharma sees no reason for Delta to do this,
Our focus here is to provide consistent and sustainable value…so we are not necessarily trying to play the game with customers or with bloggers. We listen to what customers want and we try to offer that on a compelling value across the board and that’s been our focus and we look at value more holistically as well. Mileage redemption is a big portion of it, but also just everything else that Delta can provide in terms of experience and making them come back to us.
He does highlight occasional sales that Delta runs, generally for coach travel out of specific cities, as a sweet spot in the program. You won’t find these good deals whenever you happen to search for award travel. Rather if you can watch for deals and jump on them when they come up you can get reasonable value out of your Delta miles flying coach.
We had offers for customers living in New York where they could do a roundtrip to Europe for 34,000 miles in Main Cabin or they could go to Miami for 15,000 miles roundtrip in Main Cabin. So we continue to have a portion of these for customers depending on when they want to go and where they want to go.
Sy Syms, CEO of the Syms Corporation, used to use the slogan “an educated consumer is our best customer” in 1980s TV spots. Delta could consider, “a consumer who doesn’t look for value, doesn’t know any better, is SkyMiles’ best customer.”