Delta Releases New Details on 2015 SkyMiles Redemptions And I Am Cautiously Optimistic

by on March 6, 2014 · 35 comments

in Delta

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Last week, Delta dropped a bombshell that it would be massively overhauling its SkyMiles program with a new revenue-based earning structure and a new redemption schedule that would include new features like cash & miles awards and one-way awards.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 8.57.09 AM

While the airline released all the details on its new earning structure – you basically earn between 5-11 miles per dollar you spend on airfare depending on your elite level and 2 more if you pay with a Delta American Express card – they did not announce how you’d be able to redeem your SkyMiles after January 1, 2015. The only facts Delta included in its original announcement were that awards will be based on a five-tier structure where the lowest level, SkyMiles Saver Awards in Economy, will be around the same levels they are now, i.e. 25,000 miles per roundtrip award ticket for travel within the U.S. and Canada, excluding Hawaii.

Additionally, Delta said it would introduce One-Way Awards (finally, welcome to 2007, I mean 2015!) starting at 12,500 miles for travel with the U.S (excluding Hawaii) and Canada – so at half the level you’d need for a roundtrip award -  as well as the option to use Miles + Cash, and the airline suggested that awards will be easier to redeem and there will be no blackout dates, though to me that just suggests last-seat availability at very high redemption levels.

Today, Delta released additional details on redemptions, and here’s what it looks like for awards booked on or after January 1, 2015:

Delta new chartSo it is indeed a new five-tiered structure with the three former levels – Saver, Standard and Peak – bridged with two new interim levels. So for instance for economy awards within the US, the new levels will look like this roundtrip.

Level 1 (Saver): 25,000 miles
Level 2 (New): 35,000 miles
Level 3 (Standard): 40,000 miles
Level 4 (New): 50,000 miles
Level 5 (Peak): 65,000 miles

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 9.23.41 AM

You can find the other redemption regions in the chart above.

For Business/First domestically, the awards will look like this:

Level 1: 50,000
Level 2: 65,000
Level 3: 75,000
Level 4: 90,000
Level 5: 110,000

You can find the other redemption regions in the chart above.

Miles & Cash Redemptions

Details are still light on this new aspect of the program as well, but with the Miles & Cash example Delta gives, it looks like miles will be worth about 1.6 cents apiece, which I think is actually pretty generous and a better value than the current pay with miles option, where miles are worth about 1 cent each.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 9.26.35 AM

Initial Thoughts

I mostly book Saver level awards, and it looks like certain Saver level awards will actually go down, so as long as Delta actually does improve the amount of Saver award availability and continue to offer partner awards at those levels, as well as working to fix technical difficulties in booking partners like Air France and KLM, as well as trying to improve its website functionality, then maybe this isn’t so horrible after all. That’s a lot of if’s, though.  We won’t be able to tell whether any of that will actually happen until this new redemption schedule launches in January 2015.

I actually think the new redemption chart could have been a whole lot worse. It seems like Delta was waiting to release this while it gauged consumer response to the earning changes and that if everyone had just stayed quiet and accepted those, it might have released a drastically different chart, but that this is actually a positive bit of news thanks to all the backlash the airline received from consumers and the media. All that’s to say, if you called/emailed/tweeted/contacted Delta to complain about the SkyMiles changes, I salute you. I think it made a difference to today’s news and the award chart the airline released, and it goes to show that your voice does make a difference.

I am still not planning on flying Delta in the coming year, and especially with the new earning structure going into place in 2015. However, I do plan to use SkyMiles to book awards on Delta and other airlines because it is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so it’s easy to transfer points into my SkyMiles account for specific awards or top up my account that way. (Hey Delta, to ease the pain of all this news, I think a nice thing to do would be to offer an Amex transfer bonus – hint, hint!).

Overall, this isn’t the apocalyptic revenue-based redemption chart we all feared. However, it is still going to be wait and see at this point to see how much more availability and how much easier it will be to book awards. I hope Delta actually does try to improve the program with all these changes, but only time will tell.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Charlie

    I am not so sure about the 1.6 cents per mile analysis. I agree that the the marginal cost of the last 10,000 miles is 1.6 cents per mile, but what Delta is not showing us is the cost to book the ticket with cash. If its a $500 ticket, then we are doing pretty good at 25K plus $160, but if its a $400 ticket, then we’re back to less than 1 cent per mile.

    Of course, if its a $400 ticket that can be booked for 35K miles: well that’s about all I expect (and maybe a little more than I expect) from my skymiles.

  • Justin

    Cautiously optimistic is the right term here. If Delta was half as organized as they should be they could’ve simply waited and laid out everything at once. They’re causing themselves a lot of needless grief by piecemealing these releases and charts (and making changes without notice in some respects). It’s not enough for me to go running back to Delta cards and travel but it seems like they’re releasing updates in order of most to least painful.

  • Steve

    I’m in a tough spot here, do I dump the 90,000 skymiles I have now or wait to see what the redemption will be like in 2015?

  • Nick Aster

    Only an accountant could appreciate this crazy chart. How long did it take them to come up with something this complicated?

    Anyway, I too don’t think this is that big of a deal. The big deal is MQDs and minimum spends for elite status, which United has too, and likely AA at some point.

  • Bill Silverstein

    Yeah right. When they went from 1 to 3 tiers, Delta also claimed it would open up availability. What they failed to mention is that low level awards became very difficult.

  • peacemeal

    Couldn’t find any information on award flights not originating or ending in the US. For example DL has AMS-BOM/DEL flights (DL metal). Not sure what the mileage requirement for that would be.

  • Juno

    Brian, just a quick question about the chart. Why does Delta’s award flight within US at Business Elite level cost more miles than First Class level? I’m a bit confused. If you have 3 level of service, isn’t First higher than Business? or is Delta different? Thanks.

  • Dave

    I don’t think Delta has any 3 class aircraft. “First Class” is their typical domestic premium product for shorter routes (for example, ATL-LGA) and “BusinessElite” is the typical domestic and international premium product for longer routes (domestically, think JFK-LAX, with the flat-beds and all that). Generally BusinessElite is nicer in my opinion

  • Amber

    BusinessElite on Delta means lie flat seats you normally see on international flights, where as first class just means plain old domestic first class…

  • Steve Bierfeldt

    Agreed Nick. My eyes hurt. If after all the negative feedback, Delta felt that putting out this chart would ease fears, I’m even more concerned than I was last week

  • Jim Read

    It’s not apocalyptic, but it also doesn’t compensate for the negative changes made last week to the way most of us earn miles.

  • Thomas

    It looks like the free companion ticket with the American Express Platinum Delta CC is gone with the changes. Not sure if it was inadvertently forgotten or if it’s gone for sure? I find the changes to be way to complicated to want to calculate my trending status pre-booking.

  • hldc1

    It doesn’t really matter if the Saver awards are 25,000 if they are rarely available. I used to fly often on Delta on 25,000 mile tickets out of LAX. Those days are long gone.

  • Icheckthingsout

    Doesn’t make any difference how many miles for a Saver award. I’ve been trying for years and they are never available.

  • John

    Any word on Round The World award redemptions??

  • salamacuse

    Really? Do you actually think they will have decent “Saver” award availability? Really? That chart is insane! It’s confusing and that is probably by design. Come on TPG, This is DELTA we;re talking about here! Actions speak louder than words and ALL of Delta’s actions over the last two years tell me that redeeming for tickets at the saver level, especially for high priced business class tickets, won’t be any easier to find come next year. This is reassuring me that I made the right choice to jump ship. They’ve lost this SM.

  • rachel

    Duck Felta!!! Reward airlines that appreciate your business.

  • Skilled Travel

    Thomas, what makes you think the companion pass that comes with the platinum delta Amex is going to be discontinued?

  • Sherman

    Delta can, by “politically correct” very very fine prints, change their chart at any time if they want, and they don’t seem to be even hesitating a bit when they do it, like 2 new charts in half a year. Delta would make a great new member on Frank Underwood’s team.

  • Santastico

    Who cares that Delta added 2 new award levels? If they never release seats on those level nothing has changed. They are trying to fool people. I was never able to redeem at lower levels with Delta. Well, unless you want a 13 hours layover between your origin and destination in some other airport in between.

  • rachel

    Dump ‘em. Saver awards are hard to come by…unless you can leave the “office” at the drop of a hat. As TPG mentioned, loyalty currencies usually go down in value over time.

  • KurtisK

    An Amex transfer bonus to Delta would be great right about now! After over two years I think its about time.

  • Brian C. Lee

    That night help to dissipate some of the anger. Which is probably why they won’t do it. :)

  • deltad*ckheads

    I often fly Tokyo to Toronto for $1,000 USD and get about 26,000 miles (Platinum member). Next year I will get 9,000 miles for that trip. So I will now have to fly 3 times that route to get the same amount of miles but there has been almost no decreases in the award chart for saver awards.
    The ONLY reason I fly with Delta is because of their awards program. Their flight attendants (mostly northwest flight attendants on my routes) are MISERABLE. From Tokyo there are so many other choices of airlines (to Asia and the USA/Toronto) with young, attractive and service oriented flight attendants – think Thai, Singapore airlines, Asiana, Korean, JAL, ANA. These flight attendants put Delta’s (again Northwest flight attendants) to shame. I look forward to giving these other airlines my money and will only use Delta with my miles from their partners.

  • WBTM

    Great question. Until we have in writing that Delta plans to keep partner redemptions as level one and that RTW fares aren’t changing I think it is too early to celebrate.

  • Brian C. Lee

    “with young, attractive and service oriented flight attendants”

    What on Earth do the age and attractiveness of the FAs have to do with anything?

  • John Johnson

    It is still horrible for those living in Hawaii and needing to fly to the east coast. No matter what we get hit with the highest redemption levels…

  • Yeboah Troutman

    What he was trying to say politely is that Delta has a bunch of cranky old bitches working their crews…if I’m going to be treated like garbage, I’d rather be treated poorly by an attractive young woman than someone that looks and acts like my mom.

  • raflw

    I’ve used 25K saver awards for US tickets to unglamorous locations that are expensive for cash fares. We got two award seats for a trip to Houston from MSP that would have been $600 per person for 25K each. That $1,200 will buy an advance purchase trip to Europe so for 50K miles, well worth it!

    Just looked, and I might fly to SLC tomorrow to ski. $898 r/t, but a 25K award ticket. Very easy decision there!

  • jdg

    Check your SkyMiles account online. I didn’t receive a paper voucher this year, but it was credited to my account as it should have been.

  • S Taylor

    Will excess baggage fees be taken into account for the new revenue based rewards system? I’ve stopped using Delta, but since I spend 10′s of thousands every month on excess baggage, this could benefit me.

  • Thomas

    Thanks JDG. I had to contact DeltaAssist, and it got added to my account after more than a month. Interestingly enough though, if you were to sign up for a new Delta Platinum AmEx, there is no mention of the companion ticket. I’m hoping this isn’t foreshadowing in anyway.

  • Diamond

    Deltas FAs are f*cking old b*tches… And most of them are so fat they can’t fit down the isles… It is a true disgrace.

  • DeeBeeCooper

    you’re exactly the kind of free-loader i’m happy to be rid of. it’s cheapskates like you who take my upgrade seat and make me fly coach as a platinum… even diamonds are often left out because of you. my fare from atlanta to L.A. is often that much, and i usually cn’t get the even the economy comfort seat because i can only book a few days in advance. i can’t wait to get the upgrades next year, and watch you cheapers amble past me on your way to coach, while i’m nodding off with my umbrella drink and extra pillow.

  • DeeBeeCooper

    yeah but that’s not just delta… it’s all of the u.s. airlines.

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