What did Delta Really Change in their SkyMiles Program?

Frequent fliers woke up to some interesting news this week.

Starting in 2015, Delta Skymiles will change how its fliers earn redeemable reward miles.  Instead of the traditional model which allows passengers to earn miles based on the number of miles flown, or:

600 miles flown = 600 redeemable miles earned
(plus any premiums depending on your Skymile status)

the new model rewards passengers with 5 miles for every dollar spent, for example:

$600 for a r/t ticket = 3000 redeemable miles earned

If you have silver status or higher with Delta, your reward mileage conversion increases by the following multipliers:

  • 7 for silver;
  • 8 for gold;
  • 9 for platinum; and
  • 11 for medallion

So what does this mean to the everyday traveler? Probably not much.

Remember, this change to Delta’s mileage program doesn’t change the way you earn qualified miles (or frequent flyer status), only on the way you earn redeemable reward miles.

Did you catch that?

If not, you’re not alone.

Let’s say you want to plan a trip to Paris from Washington Dulles in September.  An economy class ticket costs $1282; a business class ticket costs $5058.

Assuming this passenger has no status, the economy class ticket would earn about 7722 miles r/t; the business flier 11,583 miles (with 50% bonus miles).

Based on the 2015 plan, the economy flier would earn 6410 miles; the business flier 25290 (with 50% bonus miles).

So while the redeemable reward miles earned are greater under the 2015 plan, in order to earn Silver status, both would earn the same number of qualifying miles (based on 7722 miles of actual distance flown) from this flight.

In fact, the biggest change has to do with the dollar component now required to earn status.  Not only do passengers need to fly the required 25,000 qualifying miles to earn silver status, but the 2015 plan also requires customers to spend a minimum amount on Delta tickets for each level ($2500 for silver, $5000 for gold, etc.)

I have to believe that Delta didn’t make this confusing on purpose; but it took me nearly half an hour to really decipher what changed and what didn’t.  I consider myself a very educated person, but it took some time to find the right link to tie together all the figures and tables and conversion charts on the website.

At the end of the day, all you really need to know is this:

Delta’s 2015 Skymiles Plan essentially rewards customers who spend more per ticket, or buy many tickets over the course of time.  This means more miles redeemed on Delta and partner flights or other affiliated services.  It’s a great ploy to build brand loyalty.

Redeemable miles are not the same as qualifying miles which will still be calculated on actual distance flown.

Status will be achieved through a combination of qualifying miles + minimum qualifying dollars spent.

Let’s take one more example of a last minute business traveler who’s jetting from Washington Dulles to L.A. for a meeting.

A last minute economy seat costs $1108, a business seat about $2000; the distance is the same at 4756.  Starting in 2015, the economy flier will earn about 5500 redeemable miles, the business flier 10,000.

HOWEVER, assuming they both have no status they BOTH earn 4756 qualifying miles with the business flier earning a 50% bonus.

Got it?