In response to a post I wrote about devaluing elite benefits in the BalticMiles program of Latvian-based airline Air Baltic, Gene wrote,
Maybe you can spend your time bashing them instead of Delta now.
My criticisms of Delta are, I think, fair.
Delta is a well-run airline, and has a frequent flyer program that offers much less value than those of American, United, and US Airways (and offers a worse redemption program in my opinion than Avianca Lifemiles, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Air Canada Aeroplan, and many many more around the world but that’s not important right now).
I coined the term ‘Skypesos’ for their currency because Delta miles don’t go as far as many other major currencies. They’re harder to use. They don’t permit one-way awards for half the cost of roundtrip (neither does US Airways). Their agents are poorly trained for award booking, their award booking website offers limited partners and is generally quite broken. International first class awards aren’t allowed.
Historically their miles have been quite easy to earn, although promotions have been almost non-exist over the past twenty one months or so. They have a good elite program for domestic upgrades, a very poor program for international upgrades.
Are there ways to make use of Delta miles effectively? Absolutely. Here are my top 8 best uses. Here’s how to reduce the cost of their one-way awards. Here’s how to successfully navigate a call with one of their agents to book an award.
That it’s possible to get value from the program doesn’t mean the program is as good as its competitors, and it doesn’t mean the non-expert will do as well with Delta miles than they will with United miles where they can pretty much go to the website and make an international business class booking to Europe or Asia much of the year.
And though many of my readers already understand this, the population at large does not. And that’s why Delta can get away with it.
I sat at lunch recently within ear shot of another table paying its bill. I didn’t hear any of the table’s conversation except my ears perked up when one woman comments that the person grabbing the bill was using a Delta American Express card.
- Woman #1: “You’re earning Delta miles for this!”
Woman #2: “Yes.”
Woman #1: “Have you used your miles for trips?”
Woman #2: “Not yet.”
Just wait until she goes to redeem. She’ll either be frustrated, or think that the mileage price Delta quotes her is normal. In the former case she’ll be turned off to miles altogether, in the latter she still won’t know she could be doing better.
That lack of good information (really, everyone ought to be reading this blog just like you are!) means Delta can provide less value and do just fine by it. They count on the ignorance of their customers.
I’ve said before that nobody living outside of Atlanta, the Upper Midwest, and parts of Utah and their surroundings ought to be flying Delta. I do understand why folks in those areas do, and why folks whose travels are heavy to those areas do.
It’s folks like these DC area residents, who are accumulating Delta miles because they don’t know any better, that I say we have to shout about the value of Skypesos from the roof tops!
And why, contra reader Gene, I won’t stop ‘bashing Delta’.