Rumor: Delta Considering Drastic SkyMiles Changes

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According to a thread on FlyerTalk, rumors are floating around that Delta is considering changing its SkyMiles frequent flyer program from a distance-flown formula to a revenue-based formula where the number of miles you’re awarded is based on the money you spend, similar to the fixed-value programs of JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America.

Rumored Rollout Plan
One of the posters even went so far as to leak a supposed rollout plan for the changes, which I’ll quote here, but again as a disclaimer, we have no confirmation from Delta that this is actually happening:

“The Loyalty Program is comprised of two projects that seek to increase revenue and customer loyalty along with
decreasing liability related to unused award miles. Coordinated communication to the general public regarding the
intentions of these changes is paramount to acceptance.

Revenue Based Mileage Accrual (RBMA) project shifts the basis for awarding miles to a revenue based accrual approach
Release 0: Support the communication/announcement of upcoming SkyMiles program changes (targeted 1Q12).
Will no longer display distance flown miles for departures after new miles accrual effective date (targeted for 3Q12)
Release 0.5: Provide Mileage Calculator to calculate approximate revenue based mileage accrual based on travel
after launch ((targeted 2Q12)
Release 1: Convert SkyMiles System from flown miles to revenue based mileage accrual (3Q12)
Release 2: Reward SkyMiles members with miles for all non-air purchases (i.e. SkyClub, Seats) (currently On Hold)

Fare Based Award Ticket Redemption (FBATR) project
Fast Track Release – Provides limited base functionality to align with the Polaris Chicago release timing

Phase I at Launch introduces Fare Based Award Redemption Model, Single Shopping Experience for Customer, New Award Inventory Controls, Cash + Miles Award Redemption Product, Award Redemption for OA, Modifications to the automated Award Refund, Redeposit, and Reissue and Exchange Process

Phase II – After Launch includes Bid for Price Award Redemption Product, Buy It Now Award Redemption Product, Volume Discount Award Redemption Product, Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates.”

If these changes were to go into effect, I think it would be bad news for several reasons.

As savvy frequent flyers, our goal is to get as much value out of our miles as possible. That doesn’t mean we’re bottom feeders who always just book the cheapest tickets, though. Many of us spend a lot of money on Delta—whether it’s buying business class seats, last-minute fares, or full fares so that we can upgrade—but if this change were to go into effect, it would effectively put out of reach awards that I and many of you enjoy like international and business class awards.

My personal stance is that if Delta, whose SkyMiles program already gets widely slammed for low-value redemptions, makes it even more expensive to redeem for the awards I want, then I will switch programs in a heartbeat, and I suspect many in the frequent flyer community will do the same. This coming from one of the few defenders of the program and a Platinum (and recent former Diamond) Medallion. There are a lot of great things about Delta as an airline – I love the in-flight WiFi, clean planes and people – but I will personally vote with my wallet if they devalue SkyMiles even further.

A lot is still up in the air, if you’ll pardon the pun, so I’m not panicking yet, but what is your opinion?

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