I know, most of the Boarding Area bloggers told you yesterday of the doom awaiting the Delta SkyMiles changes beginning next year, but for those with accumulated miles, this may actually be good news.
A short recap; Delta is changing their mileage earning method for redeemable miles (RDM) next year from one based on miles to revenue. General members will earn 5 mpd (miles per dollar) instead of 1 per mile flown with a 500 minimum. Silver elites will earn 7, Gold earns 8, Platinum earns 9, and Diamond earns 11. This is for Delta marketed or ticketed flights. Alliance partner flights may earn less.
As before, there is an additional 2 miles/dollar earned for using a Delta-branded American Express Card for Delta flights and 1 mile/dollar for everything else. If this is how you earn SkyMiles, there is no change.
Delta previously announced that earning elite status will require minimum spend of 10 cents per mile (cpm). That is, Silver elite would need to meet $2,500, Gold $5,000, Platinum $7,500, and Diamond $12,500. However, the airline also offered a waiver for those who spend at least $25,000 on the Delta AmEx cards (not required for non-US). While this latest program change has no direct impact on status, without argument most elites will earn far less RDM’s under the new method. A quick calculation shows that many, after meeting the minimum spend requirement, will earn half or less RDM’s under the new rule. While 10 cpm might be the minimum for status, Delta raised the bar to about 20 cpm for earning the same RDM’s but this varies based on routing. This will have a dramatic impact by decreasing the number of miles that are earned each year by most passengers, even elites.
How much of a change will there be? Use the Delta Mileage Comparison Calculator to find out.
Who will earn more miles with these changes?
- Those who purchase late expensive fares, often certain business travelers.
- Those who generally pay more than .20/mile for airfare.
- Most (but not all) of those who pay for first or business class.
So what’s good about this?
- If Delta holds to their promises of more low award seat availability and an improved calendar – which they have promised before but failed to deliver – this will be a benefit to those who have saved up their miles.
- If you buy expensive tickets on Delta, you could actually earn more miles under the new method.
- The miles don’t expire (well, they do when you do) so they can be saved for those travel dates with low award availability.
- And there is one long awaited benefit from this change. Finally, Delta will be offering one-way awards. This opens many possibilities like flying Delta outbound but maybe United for the return because each offers low mileage options only in one direction or the other.
What about the other airlines?
Since United Airlines nearly copied Delta’s minimum spend requirement, it does not seem unreasonable they will do something similar with RDM accrual. American Airlines is still a bit of a wild card because of the new merger but they know why Delta did this and will have to find a way to reward their own high spend passengers. Southwest already has a revenue-based system but they lack the international network of the other three.
So, should you burn your SkyMiles?
Those who earn-and-burn now will be in a more difficult situation next year due to the increased earning requirements from flying. Instead of burning, this may be a good year to accumulate as many miles as you can because next year, it may take twice as much flying to earn the same number of miles. Of course, this requires faith that Delta will deliver on their promises and their new 5-tier award system has some merit. I certainly understand why some would be skeptical.
No, SkyMiles will not suddenly be worth more in terms of dollars but if there is a substantial reduction in miles earned next year – and if Delta delivers on their promises – miles accumulated this year will have more award opportunities next year and beyond.