My friend Rene at Delta Points is a bit of a Delta fanboy. It’s kind of amusing at times. Naturally I checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1 when I saw his headline yesterday — “99 Days till #DOS – Why #Skymiles2015 will be horrid for EVERYONE! (even Delta)”
He takes January 1, 2015 seriously… he even has a countdown clock! While I’ll likely spend New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop on TV, Rene will be in a bathtub eating ice cream (which, on second thought, sounds more fun than watching the ball drop on TV).
Anyway, Rene’s post is actually quite interesting, so I’d give it a read.
In part it’s interesting because I largely disagree. Rene says the 2015 SkyMiles changes are bad for EVERYONE… even Delta! I disagree, because I don’t think the changes are bad for Delta, and I don’t think they’re bad for me (though I certainly think they’re bad for most Delta frequent flyers).
Delta’s 2015 SkyMiles changes
In February, Delta unveiled the revenue based frequent flyer program they’ll be launching next year. Instead of earning miles based on miles flown, you’ll earn them based on ticket cost. They’re making some other changes to their program as well, like adding more award tiers, allowing one-way awards for half the cost of a roundtrip, etc. They even unveiled their new SkyMiles award chart, and it doesn’t look half bad.
Of course I hate these changes… in theory
I love miles & points, and for years I did mileage runs. So of course I hate the changes that Delta is ultimately championing in the industry — revenue requirements and awarding miles based on ticket cost doesn’t bode well for those us that enjoy outsmarting the system.
Delta runs a solid operation… and that’s why people fly them
As much as I enjoy throwing shade at Delta, I’m also a realist. The fact is that Delta runs a really solid operation. They’re truly the airline of the business traveler — they have amazing operational reliability, a huge route network, more planes with wifi than any other airline, etc.
And I think Delta’s success also explains United’s failure. Delta has made change after change to their frequent flyer program. Why? Because they can. Because they know people will fly them because of the airline they run, and not because of the frequent flyer program the run.
This also explains United’s woes the past few years. They see the changes Delta makes, think “oh, if we replicate them we’ll do as well as they do.” The problem is that they’re trying to replicate their frequent flyer program, and not what makes them so great, what allows them to get away with their not-so-great frequent flyer program. If United spent as much time focused on operational reliability as they do focused on copying Delta’s frequent flyer program, they might actually be doing well.
Delta’s 2015 frequent flyer program is good for me
So to slightly counter Rene’s point of Delta’s 2015 frequent flyer program being bad for EVERYONE… I’d argue it’s actually good for me.
What do I like about Delta SkyMiles? Ultimately the ability to redeem miles for premium cabin travel on their partner airlines. I like Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, Alitalia, Air France, KLM, Air Tahiti Nui, etc. And unless I’m missing something, those opportunities will be improving:
- Delta SkyMiles will begin allowing one-way awards for half the cost of a roundtrip as of January 1, 2015
- We’ve seen the new award chart, and it’s not half bad
- Fewer miles will be issued through actually flying, so theoretically there will be less competition for those award seats, as fewer miles will be in circulation
So for me it’s a win… no?
Frequent flyer programs are cyclical. When the economy is doing poorly, they’re a great way to get people on planes, and a great way to generate additional revenue through partnerships. When the economy is doing well, they’re a great way to generate further revenue through partnerships, and also a great way to encourage even more profitable behavior.
As someone that’s passionate about this hobby I of course hate to see the direction that Delta is leading the industry in, but at the same time I can’t really blame them.
And in this particular instance, I certainly don’t see the changes as being bad for everyone — as someone that accrues Delta SkyMiles almost exclusively through credit cards, I only see positive changes with the new program. And I’m guessing the number of people accruing SkyMiles primarily through credit cards makes up a pretty large part of this community
How about you? Are the 2015 SkyMiles changes good or bad for you?