Delta 2015 SkyMiles Updates — Good News, For Once!

Okay, when a frequent flyer program announces “updates” in this day and age it’s almost uniformly negative. And that’s especially true for Delta SkyMiles, which is quite possibly the biggest “innovator” when it comes to airline loyalty program.

Anyway, Delta announced some updates to the 2015 SkyMiles program. The updates are minor, and in many cases they’re not even “updates” since they’re just rehashing what has already been done. That being said, they are worth covering, in my opinion.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Delta has increased award availability

Or so they claim:

When we announced the SkyMiles 2015 program we committed to making more award seats available at the lowest prices and since the start of 2015 we have expanded award availability at the lowest prices by greater than 50%. We are seeing a double digit increase in award redemptions since January and other customer-positive award redemption trends in terms of the average number of miles redeemed, partner awards, and one-way award usage.

My guess is that the “double digit award increase” has to do with people booking one-ways rather than roundtrips, as opposed to there actually being a lot more saver award availability. But I suppose that’s not quite as fun of an explanation. šŸ˜‰

One-way awards for as little as 10,000 miles

This is good news, I suppose:

In 2015 we will be offering One Way Award tickets beginning as low as 10,000 miles (plus taxes and fees) in select markets in the contiguous 48 United States and between the 48 contiguous United States and select Mexico/Caribbean destinations. Travel will be valid through December 31, 2015 with a 21 day advance purchase.

Some shorthaul awards on the website are pricing at the 10,000 mile level:

Delta-Awards

I would ask whether they’ll eventually update their award chart to reflect which routes are eligible for the 10,000 mile pricing, but then I remembered that Delta SkyMiles no longer has an award chart, so… šŸ˜‰

Award shopping calendar additions

Not only has Delta greatly improved their online award calendar, but they’ve also added several new SkyMiles award partners online:

We are pleased to confirm that we have added four new airline partners to our award shopping engine over the past few weeks following a quiet soft launch. You can now book awards online with China Airlines, China Southern, China Eastern and Gol. We will be adding more partners in the coming weeks and even more by summer of 2015.

This is something that has been happening over the past several weeks, as I covered on the blog when China Airlines, China Southern, China Eastern, and Gol were added to delta.com.

SFOTPE2

Earn MQDs on most partner-ticketed flights, exception fares

Delta was the first US legacy to introduce Medallion Qualifying Dollars as a requirement of qualifying for status, so it’s really interesting to see them backtracking a bit on how they count those numbers:

New for 2015 when you travel on flights ticketed by most of our airline partners you will now earn MQDs, which will help you qualify for Medallion status faster. This change will be retroactive to January 1, 2015 to include your travel from this Medallion year. Flights marketed and ticketed by partners may earn MQDs based on a percentage of distance flown as determined by the fare class paid. You can visit www.delta.com/partnerairlines for details by carrier. Itā€™s going to take us a little bit of time to process retroactive credit for past flight activity, but they should post to your accounts between now and March 20. You can also earn MQDs on most exception fares, such as bulk, consolidator and group tickets. Learn more by visiting www.delta.com/exceptionfares. In addition to the MQD changes weā€™ve also made minor changes to the way you earn Medallion status on Alaska Airlines flights, effective April 1.

As you can see, MQDs won’t be calculated based on actual spend (as is the case for travel on Delta), but rather based on a percentage of distance flown based on fare class. My gosh, the airlines are making these programs so darn complicated.

Diamond Medallions now board first

Recently Delta started letting Diamond Medallions board with first class (interestingly American changed the policy in exactly the opposite way recently, no longer letting Executive Platinum members board with first class):

Many of you have caught on to this already, but as part of our branded products experience that launched on March 1, we are pleased to confirm that Diamond Medallion members are now invited to board the aircraft with customers in Delta One or First Class as part of our Premium boarding zone.

Delta-BusinessElite

Bottom line

These are positive changes, so kudos to Delta on that. I mean, the SkyMiles program is still leading the race to the bottom, but it’s at least nice to see them “giving” without “taking.” Though perhaps the “taking” is on the way soon. šŸ˜‰

What do you make of these Delta SkyMiles updates?

Comments

  1. I’d be willing to bet that these positive changes are a way of softening us up before announcing more sweeping (negative) change by the end of Q2. Any takers?

    My SkyMiles balance is currently under 2,000 miles (was over 380,00 as of January) because I suspect a complete annihilation of the program by year’s end.

    Here’s hoping I’m wrong!

  2. Wake me up when the fight with KE is over. That was my only reason to maintain status in SkyTeam, and KE flights have been ineligible for Delta MQMs for over a year now.

  3. The change Delta is planning for 2Q is that you will no longer be able to see how many skypesos you have… after all, Delta doesn’t understand why you’d want to know such unimportant information?

    you’ll simply have to try booking the award ticket and see if it goes thru.

  4. Never, ever trust Delta. Wait and see what is coming. They are just softening up and make loyal customer relax a little bit before coming back at full strength with more terrible news. BTW, good luck in finding 10,000 miles awards.

  5. The biggest change for most of the travelers is introduction of 21 days advance purchase requirement, which you surprisingly ignored and didn’t write even one word about it. This whole announcement, overall, is a terribly bad news, although some good news were infused to it, most likely, to partly cover the main bad news.

  6. @Nick E: +1!!! 12 months ago my SkyRubles balance was close to 1MM and now it is down to 70,000. Earn and burn strategy here. I wish I could dump Delta for good but having the ability to fly non-stop flights with them is worth the pain of keeping myself loyal to them. šŸ™

  7. Since UA already allows 10,000 point short haul redemptions, did DL technically copy them? šŸ˜€

  8. @Santastico, sorry to hear that you are a hub captive. I’m based in Central Florida so I have the luxury of being picky when it comes to which airline to fly. For now, I am leaning towards AA/US but plan to take whichever carrier is the most convenient!

  9. This is the announcement that precedes the one about the redemption side of the Skypsos program also going revenue-based. The brief ray of sunshine that precedes the violent storm.

  10. @ Miz — What am I missing? Best I can tell that only applies to the 10K pricing. So nothing is getting worse, the addition of the 10K awards is just a bit restrictive.

  11. Lucky, I have an explanation of why they have added the MQDs for the partner airline tickets. In the past when calling the medallion line it was easy to get them to ticket you a flight with a partner airline on Delta ticket stock. Although their rule internally said that there must be at least one flight operated by Delta, this was never ever enforced. I mean even an agent tried to sell me a ticket on Cathay Pacific once for the love of God šŸ˜‰ but last week when I tried for them to sell me a ticket on CI business class, the agent was able to find the right fare but at ticketing it error out. It would not let him sell it. He said this is weird. He try doing it manually and again the system will not let him sell it. He called international help desk and he was told that this could not be sold that was unless it was changed to the Delta code shares numbers which actually priced the ticket three times higher. I hanged up. Tried again. Same problem. I didn’t try a third time as I did not have time to waste so I decided just to use Expedia instead. So this makes sense. It looks like the system is now not letting them sell partner airlines only tickets. What do you think?

  12. I am currently Platinum Medalion.
    I just want to express how disappointed i am at Delta for gradually ruining its “Loyalty Program.” First they introduce MQD, and as if that was not bad enough, now they deliberately reduce mileage award based on ticket prices. I was credited 6,800 miles for flight to Kenya from PA – which used to be 32,000 miles. There is no way, i will leave a lower fare just to get miles. The miles are usually devalued anyway and are mostly almost useless. Because of these reasons; i am now aggressively looking at other airline program and looking to move my business else where.

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