Today, Delta Airlines announced their new SkyMiles program coming in 2015. I wanted to provide my thoughts as I think it is an example of how the airline industry is starting to shift.
When I first got married, my wife and I had a debate on whom our official airline partner would be. She had Silver Medallion status on Delta and I flew Southwest of course. Once I earned my Companion Pass last year, she decided she liked Southwest a lot in a hurry. I did decide to give Delta a try though on a couple of flights last year because they had a direct option from JFK.
From my experience with Delta, I noticed a few things. As I boarded I noticed the plane was pretty empty. Since I booked last minute, I got a Premium Economy seat because I booked last minute. That section was also empty. What I did like was how large the aisles were on the Airbus 320. For once I didn’t have to strafe down the aisle to find my seat. There was no chance of getting a free drink (and they certainly cost more). Internet cost more too. I figured I would earn a decent amount of points too since I booked last minute. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case at all. I only got about 2,000 points for the flight. Really disappointing.
When I read through the details of the new SkyMiles program, I laughed a little bit because I could tell a lot of these things were inspired by Southwest. The first change is that miles are earned based on the cost of your ticket now and not the distance flown. This is big for those short last minute flights which is how I typically accrue so many points on Southwest. For a person without status, you get 5 miles per dollar spent. That means a $500 ticket would give you 2500 miles (why they still call them miles in this new program I don’t know). For those with status, you can get between 7 and 11 miles depending on your tier. Although Delta has more tiers than Southwest does, this is pretty much on par with their program when it comes to bonus points. Miles never expire with Delta which has always been a nice perk of theirs.
Unfortunately, where Delta misses the mark is that earning status with Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) has not changed. You still earn status by distance flow or flight segments. This means, buying a more expensive last minute ticket will not get you status any faster (well only marginally faster). Like United, they also put a minimum spend on each tier as well. This means if you have enough miles for tier status but you got there on cheap tickets, you won’t get status.
When it comes to redemption, Delta implemented a no blackout date policy. Southwest has had this for some time. Nice to see other carriers adopting it. They claim to have more reward seat availability with tiers requiring fewer miles. Since the program is not live yet, we’ll have to see on that. Southwest has a policy allowing you to book a seat on any flight regardless of the revenue that particular flight. They’ve added the ability to do one-way flights as well (this seems like a no-brainer). Finally they have added a miles + cash option. That’s pretty nice and I would love to see Southwest adopt that some day.
All in all, I don’t see anything here making me want to switch Airlines. It’s a step in the right direction but they still have a long ways to go. Apparently this change is so drastic for them, it’s going to take them a full year to implement. If you’re interested in reading more about Delta’s new SkyMiles program, you can go to their site.