Delta 2015 SkyMiles Award Chart

Last week Delta made the big announcement that they’ll begin award SkyMiles based on revenue as opposed to miles flown. This is a massive change to the way legacy carriers have historically issued mileage. This came only a year after Delta announced a revenue requirement for earning status, which United quickly matched.

When Delta announced these changes to the SkyMiles program there was a lot of concern over what the award redemption chart would look like. I wasn’t exactly sure why that was a big concern, because I wasn’t expecting huge changes on the award redemption front.

Rather I simply saw this move as a way for Delta to issue fewer miles for actual travel, while not actually altering the way miles are redeemed. After all, Delta is making a lot of money off their SkyMiles program for those earning miles through means other than flying, so Delta has no reason to severely alter the redemption side of their frequent flyer program.

Now of course I didn’t buy into Delta’s marketing hype either about how it will be easier to redeem miles because they’ve listened to our feedback:

We’ve listened to your feedback – you want it to be easier to redeem miles you’ve worked hard to earn, so we’re making Award Travel more flexible and giving you more redemption options.

But I also didn’t think they would make redemption costs much worse.

Anyway, Delta has just released their 2015 SkyMiles award chart, and it looks pretty good.

New Delta Economy Award Chart:

Delta 2015 Economy Award Chart

New Delta Business/First Award Chart:

Delta 2015 First/Business Award Chart

A few key takeaways:

  • Delta will begin allowing one-way SkyMiles redemptions for half the miles of a roundtrip
  • The new SkyMiles award chart applies for bookings made on or after January 1, 2015 (regardless of travel date)
  • Previously there were three award categories (saver, standard, and peak), while there will now be five award tiers
  • Of the 44 award level pricing changes, more than 95% are decreases (supposedly)

Anyway, the new SkyMiles chart isn’t much different than what I expected:

  • Saver level redemptions remain exactly the same cost except in three regions, and in those regions the prices are going down by 5,000-10,000 miles.
  • The cost of peak level redemptions is going down in nearly 20 markets, while it’s going up in only one market
  • The new Level 2 and Level 4 redemption rates are basically in-between the previous redemption rates

Bottom line

Last year Delta announced a pretty substantial SkyMiles award chart devaluation, so I wasn’t expecting the SkyMiles award chart changes to be dramatically negative. That being said, I’m actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that the changes are positive overall, so kudos to Delta on that.

Now, Delta is announcing these changes nine months in advance. Given that Delta has a history of devaluing the SkyMiles program without notice, can they really be trusted to not make further changes to their award chart? Last year Delta not only adjusted the SkyMiles award chart, they announced an interim award chart devaluation, so I don’t really think Delta can be trusted on that front.

Furthermore, the pricing of the award tiers is only half the story. Without knowing what percentage of award inventory will be allocated to each level it’s hard to know the true impact of Delta’s award chart changes. All we have is Delta’s word that “more award seats will be available for fewer miles,” whatever that means.

As I wrote about this morning, I don’t think the legacy airlines want to radically alter their frequent flyer programs on the redemption side.

Frequent flyer programs are thriving businesses on their own, and airlines such as Delta simply want to make them less rewarding for travel, given that planes are filling themselves nowadays.

We’ll continue to see the shift towards airlines issuing more and more miles for non-flying activity, as they continue to transform from frequent flyer programs to frequent buyer programs.

Comments

  1. i thought it was illegal for Delta to announce any changes in advance… should we file a police report???
    😉

  2. The biggest change was and continue to be one way redemptions, which make SkyMiles a lot more useable. Even at Standard I can now book a one way from NYC to HKG on Delta and then book a return via Avios or Alaska on Cathay. The ability to mix and match different awards is a big plus for users. Glad Delta made that change.

  3. Hello Lucky,

    One a separate note, I have the Platinum card from Amex and have presently listed Delta for my ‘$200 Airline Fee Credit’. I’m on the verge of moving away from DL to AA and wondering if it ‘s possible to change my statement credit to another airline starting next year?

    Thanks!!

  4. Lucky,

    Any idea how this will affect their openjaw policy? Is it safe to assume openjaws are still in effect if we book a R/T ticket?

  5. Knowing Delta , they will now just shift award availability– so that the old saver award seats will now mostly be in the new level 2 group etc

    Delta treated the F.F. as the enemy( Something as simple as fixing the booking engine they would not do because it would make it easier for f.f. to use miles )–so I do not believe they have now changed

    starting award trips from Europe , the YQ IS HIGHER THAN B.A. OUT OF LONDON

  6. The question is what percentage of awards Delta allocates to the lowest tier of miles needed for award redemption. They can program their computers to only offer 3-5 percent for these types of awards. What is the worst aspect of Delta’s changes to SkyPesos is the massive reduction of miles earned versus miles flown. JFK-SFO would currently be around 2581 x 2 = 5162 miles for a non elite, 10324 for a DL Platinum elite. A non elite buying a $400 ticket would now only earn 2000 miles and a DL Platinum would earn 3600 SkyPesos. Yet DL requires 125,000 MQMs to be earned for their top level.

    Contrast this with the continued awarding of 1 mile per dollar spent on the DL AMEX cards, and one has to wonder why DL would create incentives for people not to fly on their planes but to spend on their DL SkyPesos branded credit cards.

    A final insult of the new SkyPeso program is the cap of 75,000 miles earned on the purchase of a ticket, so a purchased DL Biz class ticket to SYD at $10K only earns 75K miles?

    At a certain point, loyalty to an airline frequent flyer program no longer makes sense, and it is best to simply find the best valued product for the price. The international carriers like SQ, LH, CX, TG and EK offer a far superior product relative to their American competitors.

    DELTA: Driving Every Loyalty Traveler Away.

  7. The award chart is exactly the same at the saver level. So the real question is will Delta release the same generous saver amount, or will the release less?

    Also Lucky, will partner awards be redeemable as one-ways for 1/2 the price of a round trip? Any info or guess.

  8. I am guessing we will see more of the new tier between saver and standard. That way, Delta doesnt have to release more saver awards and people feel better that the got “lower level” ticket.

  9. I’ve got to imagine that with one-way awards available, open-jaw should still be possible. I worry about the good stopover routings that could become more restrictive.

  10. Seems like a lot of smoke and mirrors to get some good PR about lowering the cost of most awards. I’m sure a email blast tooting their own horn will be coming soon. This new “lower” chart is only useful if there is level 1 availability, which is doubtful.

  11. @ EY — They’ve only published the one for travel originating in the lower 48 so far. I doubt the charts for travel originating elsewhere will look much worse, given that they only represent a small percentage of redeemed miles.

  12. You are a bit over optimistic ? (Again). The “S” in more availability in lower levels – rather than lowest level means that it is a certainty that the meager saver availability will be further reduced (otherwise Delta would have said the lowest level will have more availability).
    For second lowest level is often close to standard. For domestic it is 35,000 instead of standard 40,000 and saver 25,000. So I consider it a big devaluation as I very rarely book any award except at saver. So the new second low is much closer to the former mid level.
    Also it further devalues partner awards as only the saver will be available.

    Sure they reduced a fair number of high end awards that most people can not afford or use anyway.

    But what do you expect from Skypesos. I feel sorry for people who live in Delta Hubs…

  13. Is the ‘cash and miles’ only for DL metal or for partner redemptions (like avios allows for some) ?

  14. Same ol’ Delta playing pea in the shell game. Doesn’t make much difference what they do if you can’t find low level space. Dollars to doughnuts, Tier 1 and 2 space will be equivalent to current Saver space, so in effect, you’ve got another defacto devaluation as you’ll need to pony up to Tier 2 pricing to find any availability at all.

  15. If you have one of their gold AmEx cards and you purchase a Delta ticket with it, how many points do you get per dollar?

  16. So on my flights from Florida to Hawaii I will only earn 8,400 miles instead of 11,500 (figuring an average ticket is $1,200). Looks like I will be doing more business with USAir and American)

  17. I have Platinum, as I fly a lot of long hauls to Africa, and I am also a bargain hunter. This new strategy make it hard for me to get to same elite level; for instance, I already have 68K MQM (30K carried over from 2013)and still have not hit Silver yet because I have not spent enough. My conclusion; it’s time to move back to Emirate or US/AA. I find that it is much easier to redeem their miles than Delta’s.

  18. Hi Lucky, I have some SkyMiles left and don’t intend to use them any time soon on award tickets. What would be a good way to trade/spend them?

  19. Ben, do you have an update on the availability of stopovers on one-way DL award tix? thinking about Tokyo-HNL (stop) – PDX. Can’t even find anything at DL site.

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