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TPG reader Jonathan asked:
“I would love to hear your opinion on the relative merits of Flying Blue vs. SkyMiles given the sweeping changes to SkyMiles coming in 2014. I fly about 80,000 miles annually on SkyTeam partners, typically on trips to Africa. I love the free upgrade to Economy Comfort that I get with my Platinum Medallion status, especially with all the long-haul, red-eye flights I take in a year. But I’m a scientist, flying economy, and booking low-cost tickets, which on routes to East Africa, almost always means booking on KLM or Air France, since Delta-coded flights for the same route are often double the price, so it’s unlikely that I’d hit $7,500 in Medallion Qualifying Dollars in a year, and I may not put $25k on a credit card in a year, either. But it also seems that a lot of the low-cost KLM/Air France tickets may have reduced qualifying-mile payouts, making it tough to get higher-level elite status. What do you recommend?”
Unfortunately, you are spot on. Not only are the airlines devaluing – Delta has two major devaluations set for 2014 and Air France/KLM announced a huge devaluation earlier this year – but they several including Delta are also adding in spend requirements, so if you don’t spend $7,500 on Delta or Delta ticketed flights on their partners, then you don’t get Platinum Medallion status. Even if you continue to fly 85,000 miles a year but only spend $5,000 on tickets, you will still only qualify for Gold Medallion status.
For all the details on the changes, read my post: Delta Officially Confirms New Revenue Based Medallion Program.
These are going to be the requirements starting in June, 2014:
In addition, earlier this month, the airline announced that it would be increasing mileage redemption levels sooner with a new award chart it would put in place for tickets from February 1-May 31, 2014 before the “big” devaluation that will take place in June and drive up premium international awards.
I think this is a great time to consider your 2014 elite strategy and ask yourself, does my current loyalty strategy make sense? The biggest issue is that in SkyTeam, you don’t have a lot of better options. If you are flying cheap coach tickets and join Flying Blue, you’re not even going to get 100% of the miles flown most of the time. So instantly, even though you’re flying 80,000 miles – if you only get 50% credit, you’re only at 40,000 miles anyway. Even if you are a Flying Blue elite, you’re not going to be getting the upgrade priority within the US like you would with Delta, and their premium awards can carry some insanely high fuel surcharges. So for those three reasons alone, I really wouldn’t recommend Flying Blue as an alternative.
I do have a solution, though, that I think will make a lot of sense for you though – bank your miles to Alaska Airlines. They have got a pretty strong partnership with Delta, and if you hit the 75,000-mile level crediting your earning to Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, the airline will give 100% and first class bonuses on Delta fares. At the 75,000-mile level, you are going to get upgrades on Delta in the US, a 50% discount on Economy Comfort, and at the end of the day, Alaska miles are much more valuable than SkyMiles thanks to the airline’s amazing partners across both SkyTeam and Oneworld as well as non-alliance airlines.
Alaska’s airline partners include a bunch ofSkyTeam partners like Air France and KLM, but also American, Cathay Pacific, BA and Qantas in Oneworld (among others), and Emirates (which can be a really good carrier to fly to Africa), Fiji Airways and a whole bunch of other options. Check out all the benefits of their Mileage Plan here.
So for your circumstances, Alaska is a far smarter option all around to gain valuable miles and elite status benefits without having to alter your travel patterns too much – and you don’t have to worry about those pesky revenue requirements!
For more information on the changes at Delta and opportunities with Alaska, read my previous posts below: