Now LIVE on Delta.com – The greatest threat to “free” Medallion upgrades ever – Upgrade with SkyMiles

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My wife will NOT go for Diamond Medallion status again next year!

Last week Delta implemented what was promised during the $DAL Delta Air Lines Q3 investors call that is, the chance for just about any type of booked Delta flight (other than E Basic fares) to be upgraded with points. In my post about the quarterly call I said:

“The big push for the coming year will be more ways to “burn” our SkyMiles (his words here). As an example would be in the Fly Delta App “on the way to the airport” to buy an up-sell. He used the example that if an upgrade was $170 it would, next year, cost 17,000 SkyMiles.

This shows us that in the Delta executive’s mind a SkyMiles is worth 1 cent each – period. This does not look good for the pricing of award tickets in general moving forward. He also stated that cash or SkyMiles is the same as far as Delta is concerned.”

There are a number of reasons this is so bad for those of us who truly value our elite status for “free” (not really free as we pay to earn status) upgrades – let me break them down one by one for you:

Hey René – 1 cent value here! 🙁

  • The value of a SkyMile pegged at 1 cent each (more or less). For years now Delta has been promoting that folks burn SkyMiles at low value with programs like “Pay With Miles” that lets you use 5000 miles to knock $50 off your ticket (and so on). This is one more step in cementing in flyer’s minds that 1 cent is the value of a SkyMile.

560k SkyMiles tickets? Uh, no thanks!

  • Hard to burn miles for awards (at a good value). If you have not checked for a while, unless you are really flexible and work hard at it to get Level 1 or 2 award prices, SkyMiles tickets in business class are a tad bit expensive (and especially so last minute). Now I work to get value but most just think these prices are what to expect and drive down value in the minds of flyers.

Oh boy! I CAN wait! No really, I can!

  • Delta digital marketing. Again turning to the $DAL investors call, we see the above. Coming soon, on the way to the airport, Delta will likely “push” the Fly Delta app to alert you to upgrade with SkyMiles. You loyal elites who are at the top of the upgrade list – expect any open seats you were hoping for to vanish like a vapor trail in a clearly blue sky – poof.

Just burn them!

  • And lastly, Delta flyers just don’t care about SkyMiles anymore. This is really the biggest issue – how we now feel about SkyMiles! When you take all the above into account, many just think use them at any price just to get rid of the darn things. After all, the points were “free” from your employer paying for your tickets so burn them baby, burn them!

Bottom line, the perfect storm is brewing for 2019 to be the year, for all practical purposes, free medallion upgrades dies. I fully expect, using all my tools for the best upgrades chances, to maybe be 50% next year as a Diamond Medallion.

I have really been weighing in my mind the value of status for 2019. I am planning on one last year of re-qualification but I am less and less certain of the true value with the death of free upgrades. The rest of the perks are just not “that great” and I can simply buy 1st class on any airline I wish to fly vs. the games Delta plays with my loyalty. I will clearly make Platinum, at least, to keep the option to cancel award tickets for free and re-book but Diamond again? Maybe not worth it anymore.

What do you think. Do you agree that this is as big a game changer as I  think  know this is? – René