Will Delta’s reported plan to leverage SkyMiles for cash impact frequent flyers?

Aug 27, 2020

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There’s no question that airlines around the world are facing a bleak financial future, especially over the next few years. In the meantime, most carriers have valuable assets they can tap for much-needed liquidity — their aircraft fleets — with some choosing to leverage a “sale-and-leaseback” option to add much-needed cash.

Given the scale of this latest crisis, though, U.S. airlines have begun looking beyond their previous fundraising arsenal. In June, for example, American Airlines pledged its brand and a mix of slots, gates and routes to lock in funds, while United Airlines secured billions of dollars using its MileagePlus frequent flyer program as collateral.

Related: Delta Air Lines retires more jets amid shaky outlook, nearly $6B quarterly loss

Now, according to a Bloomberg report, Delta Air Lines plans to follow United’s MileagePlus move, leveraging its SkyMiles program in order to fund additional financing. While a Delta spokesperson declined to comment on the upcoming deal, it seems the carrier is planning to offer SkyMiles-secured bonds and loans on Sept. 7, according to Bloomberg’s report.

SkyMiles members can redeem miles for flights on Delta and its partners. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
SkyMiles members can redeem miles for flights on Delta and its partners. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Of course, the natural question for SkyMiles loyalists is how this latest move will impact the program. I turned to industry analyst and Atmosphere Research president Henry Harteveldt for more.

“It certainly won’t have any immediate impact on SkyMiles members, and if Delta runs its business well it won’t have any impact on its customers whatsoever,” Harteveldt said. “This is certainly an unusual move but it doesn’t raise any red flags with me.”

Related: United Airlines mortgages MileagePlus for coronavirus funds

“What I do worry about though is when an airline starts leveraging too many of its assets. That’s generally a negative sign, because it has fewer levers to pull later,” Harteveldt added. “I think the challenge for all airlines right now is to be very careful in terms of what assets they are collateralizing and for how much.”

In other words, if Delta’s financial situation worsens significantly, the SkyMiles program could be impacted either way. The sooner leisure and especially business travel return, the better the industry’s prospects. Still, Harteveldt doesn’t expect this particular move to have any direct impact on SkyMiles members, so we can rest easy — for now.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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