Will The Last Delta Skymiles Member Please Turn Out the Lights on the Way Out?

Randy Petersen‘s opening remarks in the new Inside Flyer offers on hypothesis that members might be okay with announced changes to the Delta Skymiles program because the commotion that was set off when those changes were first announced has seemed to die down — as opposed to, you know, that we now know everything they’re willing to tell us (not as much speculation now), and the changes are 8 months away.

I’d even suggest it’s an equally plausible explanation that things have quieted down because the last Skymiles member left is just going to have to turn off the lights on the way out.

We’ve always known that Delta was terrible for award redemption. It costs a ton of miles to get anything out of Delta. The refrain of their defenders was always to admit that, but point out just how easy it was to earn miles in the program. Now even that is changing.

So the question now is, what value is even left in the Skymiles program?

  • The median member will earn fewer miles.
  • For all the talk about rewarding high spenders, they’ve set the break-even bar so high (20 cents a mile) that it’s literally double what’s required under the new revenue-based rules for earning elite status (10 cents a mile).
  • Elite members will have to spend more than general members to break even with the miles they used to earn.
  • And even benefiting the highest-spend members buying all international business class isn’t so clear when they cap the number of miles that can be earned on a ticket no matter how much the ticket costs.
  • We can’t really say what a five-tier redemption chart will mean — although I’d guess that the ‘low’ award level becomes less available rather than more available if such a thing is possible with Delta
  • Delta still won’t release any award charts for travel not beginning or ending in North America
  • Partner awards are so restricted with Delta that even when Air France is offering award space — to its own members, to members of other Skyteam frequent flyer programs, to members of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan — you frequently cannot book that space with Delta miles

Any deafening silence about the impending changes to the program may just be Delta Skymiles making itself irrelevant to consumer buying decisions.

People still fly Delta because they live in a Delta hub city, or because they live in a city with predominantly Delta service such as in the Upper Midwest. They may fly Delta because it’s a pretty decent airline.

But who is going to be choosing Delta because its frequent flyer program is better than competitor programs?

Delta has long had a corporate mantra of being “best in class” in everything they do. Their internal metrics told them that they weren’t meeting that standard with Skymiles, while they were at least coming close in most everything else they dd. There was always hope that their rethink of the Skymiles program would change that.

Instead it looks like they’ve gone ahead and given up that goal with Skymiles, although I suspect they’ve managed to convince themselves that they haven’t. The deafening silence says otherwise. One thing you don’t hear much of? Consumer excitement. And that’s the one thing you really want when you’re running a multi-billion dollar marketing program.

Will the last Skymiles member please turn out the lights when you leave?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. to each his own. The AA/US decision took me off the fence with DL and I will be staying with them now.

  2. I used to be a staunch supporter of the America West program because it was pretty easy to get elite status and that elite status was actually pretty useful. Plus, their availability was pretty good for reward flights. Then they went and bought US Airways and that all went to hell.

    So I moved to Delta because, as you say, they’re a pretty decent airline, getting status wasn’t too hard and that elite status was actually pretty useful. Then they bought Northwest and that all went to hell again.

    So, here I am, contemplating where to next and, low and behold, it’s back to Doug Parker land, only this time, it’s American. Why? Because Delta sucks and United sucks and there isn’t really anyone else.

    That sucks.

  3. I am a member of Delta Amex and I have never used its miles for trip or so. However, when i book Delta flight for travel, Amex covers overseas travel insuarance. I had been a member of Northwest, so, I became a Delta member. After thier milage change, I do not know it worth beeing a member or not.

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