Looks like most Delta customers will start earning less miles for the miles their fly come 2015.
The airline announced a fundamental change in its SkyMiles program: earning miles based on airfare rather than miles flown, and it’s not meant to impact everyone in the same way. In many cases, it’s a substantial reduction in the number of miles in your account.
In essence, it’s a deal for the rich to already get richer. Ninety-nine percenters beware: in essence, the new program is punishment for scoring a great deal on a long-haul flight.
In the past, a roundtrip flight from New York to Los Angles would earn 5,617 miles, whether you paid $450 or $800. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015 that same flight will earn 2,250 or 4,000 miles, respectively, as Delta will offer five SkyMile points for every dollar spent and an extra two if purchased with a Delta American Express. Either way, you lose, but the savvy traveler is set to lose more, especially on long distances.
The concept isn’t entirely new. JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America already have a similar fare-based award program in place. But, Delta is the first airline of its size to implement this type of program, and it’ll be interesting to see if United and American soon follow suit.
“In the past, everyone got the same miles, no matter what they paid,” said Katrina Roberts, CookTravel.net’s New Zealand specialist. “It’s the airline’s way of rewarding their high-paying customer. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Redeeming the miles will be different too. The traditional three-level chart (Saver, Standard, Peak) will morph into five levels, to be revealed in the fall. While the positive additions include no black-out dates, award ticket search and shopping at delta.com, and new one-way awards and miles + cash award options, there’s still some disparity on who the real losers and winners are. MileCards.com crunched the numbers and found out:
The biggest losers
Travelers who fly the lowest fares earn less, and those who fly the furthest lose more.
-Business flyers who pay anything but the highest coach fares on flights about 1,500 to 2,500 each way (think: flying to and from the Midwest to either coast) will earn about half as many miles as before.
-Leisure flyers – the lowest advance coach fares will earn fewer miles on all but the shortest flights.
-International flyers who average flights of 5,000 miles each way or longer using typical coach fares will earn about one third less than before – even less on further flights.
– First Class flyers who fly on sub-$800 first class fares on medium to long flights within the U.S. will earn about one third less.
-Mileage runners are pretty much obsolete, as there’s no reason to fly longer distances just to earn mile unless the Medallion status (and its perks) are that important to you.
-There won’t be a revenue-based earn for partner airline travelers, and they’ll earn less than before. Their fate is uncertain until Delta releases the new award chart in the fall.
The biggest winners
Generally, if your airfare divided by miles flown is greater than 0.2, you’ll earn more miles under the new system.
-Flyers who fly short distances frequently can earn up to twice as much on 500-mile flights at typical fares.
-Customers who buy unrestricted (more expensive) fares or tend to fly on nearly sold-out flights at the last minute.
-International and coast-to-coast business class flyers will benefit the most, especially when they book short notice.
In the middle
-People who earn miles primarily via credit card spend won’t see much of a change, and it appears the new five-tier award chart will still feature some of the old awards. The 25,000 miles for an entry-level coach ticket will remain intact, and Delta promises better award availability. The number of miles required for some awards may not change much on average, but the award price of many business class international flights will move up a great deal.
When American Airlines created the frequent flier program in 1981, they wanted to reward their best 150,000 customers in secret, looking to avoid the likes of the “great unwashed.” Now more than three decades later, Delta is trying to do the same, and the program change leaves little incentive to fly with them.
The takeaway: the concept of miles is fading away, so buy your flights based on price alone, not loyalty, because loyalty won’t earn you much in the future travel industry.