Delta Releases New Details on 2015 SkyMiles Redemptions And I Am Cautiously Optimistic

Mar 6, 2014

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Last week, Delta dropped a bombshell that it would be massively overhauling its SkyMiles program with a new revenue-based earning structure and a new redemption schedule that would include new features like cash & miles awards and one-way awards.

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While the airline released all the details on its new earning structure – you basically earn between 5-11 miles per dollar you spend on airfare depending on your elite level and 2 more if you pay with a Delta American Express card – they did not announce how you’d be able to redeem your SkyMiles after January 1, 2015. The only facts Delta included in its original announcement were that awards will be based on a five-tier structure where the lowest level, SkyMiles Saver Awards in Economy, will be around the same levels they are now, i.e. 25,000 miles per roundtrip award ticket for travel within the U.S. and Canada, excluding Hawaii.

Additionally, Delta said it would introduce One-Way Awards (finally, welcome to 2007, I mean 2015!) starting at 12,500 miles for travel with the U.S (excluding Hawaii) and Canada – so at half the level you’d need for a roundtrip award –  as well as the option to use Miles + Cash, and the airline suggested that awards will be easier to redeem and there will be no blackout dates, though to me that just suggests last-seat availability at very high redemption levels.

Today, Delta released additional details on redemptions, and here’s what it looks like for awards booked on or after January 1, 2015:

Delta new chartSo it is indeed a new five-tiered structure with the three former levels – Saver, Standard and Peak – bridged with two new interim levels. So for instance for economy awards within the US, the new levels will look like this roundtrip.

Level 1 (Saver): 25,000 miles
Level 2 (New): 35,000 miles
Level 3 (Standard): 40,000 miles
Level 4 (New): 50,000 miles
Level 5 (Peak): 65,000 miles

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You can find the other redemption regions in the chart above.

For Business/First domestically, the awards will look like this:

Level 1: 50,000
Level 2: 65,000
Level 3: 75,000
Level 4: 90,000
Level 5: 110,000

You can find the other redemption regions in the chart above.

Miles & Cash Redemptions

Details are still light on this new aspect of the program as well, but with the Miles & Cash example Delta gives, it looks like miles will be worth about 1.6 cents apiece, which I think is actually pretty generous and a better value than the current pay with miles option, where miles are worth about 1 cent each.

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Initial Thoughts

I mostly book Saver level awards, and it looks like certain Saver level awards will actually go down, so as long as Delta actually does improve the amount of Saver award availability and continue to offer partner awards at those levels, as well as working to fix technical difficulties in booking partners like Air France and KLM, as well as trying to improve its website functionality, then maybe this isn’t so horrible after all. That’s a lot of if’s, though.  We won’t be able to tell whether any of that will actually happen until this new redemption schedule launches in January 2015.

I actually think the new redemption chart could have been a whole lot worse. It seems like Delta was waiting to release this while it gauged consumer response to the earning changes and that if everyone had just stayed quiet and accepted those, it might have released a drastically different chart, but that this is actually a positive bit of news thanks to all the backlash the airline received from consumers and the media. All that’s to say, if you called/emailed/tweeted/contacted Delta to complain about the SkyMiles changes, I salute you. I think it made a difference to today’s news and the award chart the airline released, and it goes to show that your voice does make a difference.

I am still not planning on flying Delta in the coming year, and especially with the new earning structure going into place in 2015. However, I do plan to use SkyMiles to book awards on Delta and other airlines because it is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so it’s easy to transfer points into my SkyMiles account for specific awards or top up my account that way. (Hey Delta, to ease the pain of all this news, I think a nice thing to do would be to offer an Amex transfer bonus – hint, hint!).

Overall, this isn’t the apocalyptic revenue-based redemption chart we all feared. However, it is still going to be wait and see at this point to see how much more availability and how much easier it will be to book awards. I hope Delta actually does try to improve the program with all these changes, but only time will tell.

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