I swear one of these days I will have a glorious happy post filled with positive news and notes from around the travel verse. Today is not that day. Sometimes I prefer to let the dust settle and see how things move before posting and the news that Delta’s loyalty program is in a tailspin is not quite new. The airline has shifted to revenue based earning which is fine but has now paved the road for revenue based redemption with a recent announcement.
The whole point of what we do is that it’s a game. Games can be won and lost. There are no winners or losers in revenue based mileage redemptions. In plain english: Delta wants to fix the cost of a ticket using miles to the cost of a ticket using actual money, an unprecedented move which is check mate in the game of miles. No winners, just losers because tickets will require a ridiculous amount of miles and value cannot be found. Miles matter because they allow you to save hard earned cash as a result of your loyalty. The more plugged in you are, the better chance that you can redeem your miles in an effective way. You’ve heard me talk plenty about cents per mile. Delta’s current chart, though not entirely favorable offers decent value with US domestic flights from 25,000 round trip in economy and for maximization, US to Europe for 125,000 miles round trip in business class, a great redemption. This is meaningful because a ticket for these latter flights would cost upwards of $5,000 on any given day using cash offering stellar value for your loyalty. Unfortunately Delta continues to move towards revenue based value killer redemptions, which it alluded to in this quote from Delta exec Anthony Black:
“Today no airlines tells you that fares are going up tomorrow or where the fares may change,” said Black. “We have announced that as of June 1, 2016 — more than 300 days away — the award price for some trips will change based on a variety of factors; just like they do today for revenue tickets.”
Essentially, an opportunity to redeem 125,000 miles for a $5,000 ticket, a nice return on your many hours with a butt in a seat, will vanish forever. To put shock to an example, if the move completes as expected and the program becomes revenue based “with many factors like revenue tickets”, this ticket would then require 500,000 miles per person assuming the current asking price in cash is $5,000. Who on gods green earth can accumulate 1,000,000 miles with any regularity? Oh yeah, I guess that’s the point. A problem which my favorite blogger Gary Leff alluded to is that Delta have removed their chart of miles required for each flight so there is in fact no way to know the current minimum mileage amount for any flight. It could be 125,000, the previous number before the chart was removed or alternately it could have changed without notice. We’ll never know. Delta is essentially handing us a compass and a paddle on a raft with directions to sh*ts creek. Thanks for your loyalty in this competitive airline world?
I find this all interesting because many loyalty programs have pledged to distance from Delta and never take away the rewards that loyalty brings. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have managed to increase to record profits without increasing the miles needed for great tickets. The whole point of offering miles is to curry loyalty. I am more likely to put my spending on an airline who seeks to offer me value and opportunity than one who wishes they weren’t offering miles in the first place. Thanks to our elite status with Delta we were able to recently status match to Airberlin and Turkish offering us comfort in other alliances. I certainly will not be spending any more on my Delta American Express card or banking any miles to the Delta program. Not unless I can use them in the next 300 days.
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