After Delta Devaluation, Should I Switch to Another Carrier?

Jul 26, 2015

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TPG reader Krystal asked me about her options once Delta’s latest devaluation goes into effect:

“I live in NYC; with the recent change to Delta’s mileage chart starting in June 2016, do you think it’s time that I switch to another carrier like American or United?”

I’ve lived in New York for years, and I used to be a Delta Diamond elite. While it was never the best program, I left a few years ago after Delta really started to move the needle because I saw what was coming. Delta has been steadily taking away the magic of frequent flyer programs (the ability to redeem a set amount for a flight) and instead moving toward a more revenue-based model. Certain people may be getting more value, and I never like to say that any one program is the best choice for everyone, but many SkyMiles members are getting less out of the program than before..

Photo courtesy of Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

We have a lot of options in New York, so the first step is to think geographically. Delta has a lot of traffic out of LGA, and just built a new terminal at JFK, so you have a lot of flights to choose from. Suppose you switch to United; the airline is moving all of its JFK flights to Newark (EWR). Is that going to be convenient for you? If it’s going to add an extra hour to your commute, you have to factor that in to your cost/benefit analysis. United’s miles may be of more value, but isn’t your time worth a lot more?

As for American Airlines, it depends. I think top-tier Executive Platinum is among the best elite status programs out there. The systemwide upgrades are super valuable, and you can still get upgrades on transcontinental flights. American is also loosening up its policy on changing transatlantic flights, which can save you a lot of money.

At the lower tiers, however, the AAdvantage program isn’t really that great in my opinion, so Delta isn’t the worst option if you’re aiming for low or mid-tier status. Yes, the SkyMiles program is devaluing, but keep in mind that the airline you fly doesn’t have to be the one you collect all of your miles with. Virgin Atlantic is a solid option for accruing miles if you don’t want to send them to Delta.

I recommend diversifying; get some other credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so you can expand your options and transfer points to United, British Airways and others. You can still fly on Delta, especially because with Gogo Wi-Fi on every flight and generally nice flight attendants, the Delta flying experience is pretty good. However, you don’t have to bank your miles there.

Ultimately, the answer is up to you. Don’t (as the saying goes) cut off your nose to spite your face. I wouldn’t switch to an airline that has inferior service and might be less convenient just for the miles.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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