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Delta Further Obfuscates SkyMiles, Slightly Enhances Upgrades

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It’s been a couple years since I dumped Delta and every time I hear about a “change” or “enhancement” I’m further comforted that I made the right decision. I don’t hate Delta by any means — I’ve got almost 2 million SkyMiles that I’ll be burning (mostly on partner 125,000-mile roundtrip awards to Europe) — so even though I won’t be booking many revenue flights, I’ll at least continue booking awards.

Today Delta just announced upcoming changes to its SkyMiles program in regards to award pricing and mileage upgrades, Platinum and Diamond Medallion benefits, and adding more ancillary products to count towards MQDs. Additionally, beginning June 1, 2016, redemption amounts will be based on destination, flight loads and other factors, and may increase, even from current levels.

That means award redemptions will be based even more so on the cost of the flight — something I knew was going to happen with Delta and why I really haven’t thought twice about leaving for carriers that offer more transparent and sensical award pricing. Note: Even with these changes, Delta refuses to publish award charts, meaning you’ll have to continue crossing your fingers and hope for a somewhat sane price for an award trip — something that doesn’t happen with most other carriers.

Delta One
Delta just announced some new changes to its SkyMiles Medallion program.

Here’s the official announcement from Delta:


For Diamond and Platinum members we are introducing greater flexibility with your Medallion Choice Benefits. Effective July 21, 2015 you can use Regional Upgrade Certificates in addition to Global Upgrade Certificates for a Delta One™ seat on eligible transcontinental flights between New York – JFK and Los Angeles – LAX or San Francisco – SFO. Regional Certificates are part of the wide array of Choice Benefits Diamond and Platinum Medallion members are able to select upon status qualification.


When we announced the SkyMiles 2015 program we committed to making more award seats available at the lowest prices and compared to last year, we’ve increased Award availability by more than double at the lowest prices to make it easier to use your miles. You’ll also find One-Way Awards starting at just 7,500 miles (plus taxes and fees) now through February 2016. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.


We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other dynamics. Most Award prices will remain unchanged. Miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.


Starting July 21, 2015, you can now earn MQDs and miles when purchasing Preferred Seats, Delta Comfort+, and paid upgrades to the Premium cabin.


It’s easier to use your miles with the ability to book Awards at on more partner airlines than ever (22 total now). We are working to add more partner airlines over time.

You'll now be able to use regional upgrades on Delta's transcon routes.
You’ll now be able to use regional upgrades on Delta’s transcon routes.

One Hand Giveth, The Other Taketh… and Taketh
Delta devalued its SkyMiles program in past years by removing Medallion upgrades on transcontinental routes and implementing a revenue based loyalty program, but while this latest change seems to potentially be a devaluation for SkyMiles awards, it’s a slight win for Platinum and Diamond Medallions, who will now be able to redeem regional upgrades on transcontinental routes. As Platinum you can get up to 4 regional upgrades (so you can upgrade two roundtrips, potentially) and as a Diamond you can choose 8 regional or 4 global upgrades.

Delta has been trying to build loyalty with business travelers in New York and on the West Coast and while this is a small bone, Delta still lags behind American which offers top-tier elites complimentary unlimited transcontinental upgrades and 8 valuable systemwide upgrades for almost any paid fare — on all routes. Something that I wish Delta would change is its stance on not allowing ANY international 3-cabin first class awards, like on partners Korean Air and China Southern. Even though great inventory exists, Delta bans SkyMiles members for redeeming for them. It’s a shame since SkyTeam now has some great first-class products.

Another slight benefit is that more ancillary products will count towards MQDs, including preferred seats, Delta Comfort+ and paid upgrades, however the easiest way to combat the MQD requirement is by spending $25,000 on any of the Delta co-branded American Express cards such as the Delta Gold, Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve cards.

Overall, a slight benefit to elite travelers, but the further devaluation and obscuration of SkyMiles redemptions doesn’t change my opinion of the program — it’s one that I’ll continue to dabble in when it suits me, but not invest in.

What are your thoughts on this latest change from Delta? Feel free to comment below.

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