My take on the #Skymiles2015 changes (and what to do in 2014)

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renes skymiles and amex spend totals for 2014-2015

By now, you have been looking at all the blogs, newspapers and reading on Delta.com what it all means. Twitter has exploded and most are deeply upset (there are a great many other words too) about the changes. This is a MASSIVE change. Some facts we do know while others are yet to come out from the “mothership”.

There is no way to cover everything in one post so for now I will touch on some of the highlights and low lights of the changes and my thoughts so far. First the good parts for us as flyers (and much of this is from my perspective as one who flies Delta a bunch).

  • We have some time. Unlike other changes, for now, Delta is allowing us until 31DEC2014 to BOTH earn and burn at the current levels. As long as your scheduled takeoff is before 23:59 on 31DEC2014 you are earning at the old rate. As long as you book before 23:59 on 31DEC2014 you can redeem at what is currently in place.
  • One way awards. We have asked for this and it is coming. This is good news. Will we be able to still add an open-jaw and or stopover as now? It looks that way and could be a real win and a way to get even more value out of Skymiles.
  • Points+cash. Please note this is VERY different from PWM that is Pay with Miles. This new one is an AWARD TICKET (see the difference is we start with miles and add cash not the other way around that PWM is). So, medallions DO have a shot at upgrades like current award tickets.
  • All new award site. Delta is tossing out the old award page. This alone is great news. The bad news is Delta “IT” is making the new one so who knows if it will work any better than the old one. At least the old one will be gone and that is just good!
  • Delta AMEX Credit cards. Clearly, as you can see from my opening graphic, I enjoyed this year meeting my MQD exempt status in less that 2 months. I will have spent $30k by my statement cutoff. I will then earn 15K Skymiles Bonus and 15k MQM bonus too. Thus, 45k Skymiles this year from all sorts of ways of spending. This will, as of now, NOT CHANGE! Mfg. spending is going to be one of the best ways to earn Skymiles in 2015.

cwsi-net showing how many MQMs earned

  • Earning MQMs does not change. Is mileage running dead? No, but the rewards will be less on the Skymiles side. Bottom line is if you need MQMs you still have to get them. Credit card MQMs will be worth more and mileage runs will still earn full MQMs at dirt cheap prices – we just get much less Skymiles in 2015.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eIZxH_7dPk

  • Short hop and many business travelers. Many will LOVE these earnings changes. Those who have to make many short hops and pay mid-high prices for tickets can earn a bunch more when flying Delta. Especially medallions.
  • Low level awards at current levels should still be found. At this point, and things as we know can change on a dime, both coach and premium cabin low level awards will be possible. Just like now, many will overspend to get the flights they want. The 5 tier pricing could make for some sweet deals and some not so good prices. This is Developing!

Now on to the bad news and there is a bunch of it mostly on the earning side from flying.

change in earning on cheap tickets

  • EARNING Skymiles will be MUCH lower than in the past and based on price of ticket; take for example an $800 round trip coach ticket from Detroit to Amsterdam (below is r/t earnings). For those who pay more, you get more. Also, the highest medallions get the best rewards no matter what the price.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URks4sCBoSI

  • Redemption is not known yet. DeltaPoints readers are a mix of coach and premium reward redemptions. Delta “says” we will have MUCH better space open in 2015 at low levels. We will see.
  • Mileage Runs. Today, at sub 3CPM you can just about get paid to fly if you value a Skymile at 2 cents each. In 2015, cheap flights will be to earn MQMs and some token Skymiles! But when you look at what Delta was selling MQMs for in Dec2013 a MR may still be a bargain in comparison. We will have to hunt much harder for value in MRs!
  • Partners. This one hurts. As we saw with Korean Air this year, if you want to earn you had better be flying and buying DL marketed flights. Unless Delta gets paid, don’t expect full Skymiles credit.

My head, much like yours, is spinning. There is a TON to take in. You see those who “hate” Delta and Skymiles tell you “we told you so” but take a deep breath. This is not as bad as it could be and, you know what, we “are” gamers – right? We will find ways to get the seats we want, at a good price and find value in the program no matter what changes they make.

Those who I do feel sorry for is the “now and then” flyer. The Skymiles program was complicated before. Now, unless you follow the blogs and are willing to do what it takes to understand the ever changing rules you are not going to get it and will be disappointed. More on the way this week.

The thought I will leave you with today is 2014 may be the best year ever to earn under the old program – depending on what the 2015 award chart is – and we will not find that out until Q4 of this year so YMMV applies as always! – René
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46 comments

  1. John, wouldn’t your miles go down under the new system? I think the DM bonus is already included in the 11x earn rate now. Let’s say, for example, you bought a $450 flight that was 2000 miles in distance round trip.

    Old system: 2000 miles + DM 125% bonus (2500 miles) = 4500 miles
    New system: $400 in fare (the other $50 is taxes) x 11 = 4400 miles

    This is an expensive fare relative to the short distance and even a DM is earning 100 less miles overall. If my math is incorrect please correct me, I’m trying to understand this too.

  2. @John
    I could be wrong, but I think the multiplier for a DM is 11 (not 13). The extra 2 miles per dollar for using a Delta Amex is something we already get for using a Delta Amex today, so I’d exclude that from the calculation as a constant. I think the 125% DM bonus is being replaced by the more favorable 11x multiplier (not added to it), so my point is that even a DM buying expensive fares like yourself is in the same position or a slightly worse position. Everyone else is definitely in a worse position. If I’m missing something here please let me know!

  3. Nice short review Rene, thank you. You are correct, 2014 will be a great year to earn (and burn). I too have hit my MQD exempt status on AMEX CC spend and I’m glad I have both the personal Platinum Delta and the business Reserve Delta to feed me MQM. I was not planning on a lot of mileage runs this year as my normal flying plus the AMEX spend got me Platinum last year – but now I’m going to be aggressive and shoot for Diamond.

    Last year once I hit the $110K spend on the personal Platinum Delta plus the business Reserve I quit using the cards (because there was no more MQM to earn) unless I needed to pay for a flight. Should I consider continuing to spend on these cards to earn miles only? I know, we have quite a while until I am at that point but like you I have a bunch of business spend I can make on any card I choose.

  4. René, the sky is falling, the sky is falling! To me this all comes down to the new redemption tiers and availability. My MQMs will earn the same way as this year and I can still get a MQM boost via the Reserve card to maintain Platinum. Most of my SkyMiles are earned through credit card spending and not flying. Yes, my miles from flying will go down, but not that much at 9x. But if a 25k domestic award ticket is only good for what amounts to a $150 fare, or every 125k international business award to Europe prices at 200k, then the program will truly be gutted. In my mind there’s no need to panic until Q4 when the redemption details are announced.

  5. This is good for me for one reason. As a DM living in MYR, most of my southeastern flights are $350+ and only net me 2,000 Miles + DM bonus. Now that figure will go up to 4550 + DM bonus.

    I’d like to feel bad for the international flyer (because they will get pummeled by this), but all of the equipment upgrades over the past few years have been on the international planes and not the “clapped out 757” I get stuck on from ATL – FLL or MCO.

    BTW, I’m currently sitting in the ATL SC on F Concourse during a 3hr layover home. I came specifically to see to NEW enhanced food/snack offering that was touted a few weeks ago. Yeah… A self serve pancake machine and what looks like something that resembles the fresh fruit they serve for breakfast in first class. #Yum #Value #Not

  6. This is a big hurt for the corporate traveler (like me) who travels between 25-30%, and has to book with a corporate card that is not a Delta AMEX. I make GM most years but barely, and usually by MQM and not MQS, I am also flying out of a small market so for me it is going to be a big hit. Additionally the lack of Domestic SkyTeam partners is a big consideration. Will definitely have to look at United’s program. They do a 90 day status match challenge.

  7. Rene – good analysis. I agree that mileage running for hte more “casual” traveler is dead. There may be some MRing if you want to maintain status.

    But also agree that this is just rewarding more the folks that earn their miles by way of CC spending / bonuses

  8. Part of being a “gamer” is having the ability to figure out when you can better invest your time and money elsewhere for a higher return. IMHO this program has gotten way too complicated for the potential pay-off. Anyone who could jump all these hoops would make more money and have more flexibility looking for other games to play. Once the frequent flyer program becomes a second job, it makes more sense to actually get a second job and earn cash that can be applied to the flights (or anything else) you want. As for MFG spend, I have a very different philosophy…If I’m having CTRs/STRs filed on me, it’s because I’m getting/winning actual cash. Not ever-depreciating Skymiles. But if all this hoop jumping is somehow still worth it to you, go for it.

  9. @Steve – I value 1-2 cents each and simple. I fly to Sweden 2-3x a year and want biz. That cost $3-5k each and at 125,000 low level the math is not all that hard!

  10. Sigh, just another reason to leave Delta. If the exclusion of guests from the Clubs wasn’t enough, this certainly is. I guess I’ll burn my last 250,000 miles and focus on Southwest…

  11. @Mitch

    The average cost to fly out of Myrtle Beach is ridiculous. The typical fare for a Florida run is somewhere around $450-500. At a multiplier of 13 (DM + Amex) that puts me over the typical 2000 mile, even with the 125% bonus added.

    If they’re not adding the additional DM milage bonus to the new program then that just makes the change a like 4 like swap. But, on the release and Delta.com page I didn’t see where they took that out. If they did, then my mistake.

  12. Based on my 2013 travel, I would have come out slightly ahead (~5000 RDMs) on 200K BIS-miles (some long MRs to IST and SCL would have been far less lucrative). 2014 so far I’d be way ahead, due to a lot of short-notice high-fare travel.

    @Mitch – the 11X multiplier is only 120% DM bonus (6/5), so arguably a bit of a devaluation.

  13. 1-way awards finally! The killer will be changes in award redemption. If they significantly devalue in this 5-tier chart that’s my big issue.

  14. I’m probably a “now and then” flyer, although I enjoy the game. This doesn’t seem so bad for folks like me. I don’t fly frequently enough to care much about having status, and my time is much too scarce to do real MRs. I, and my family, pay our own money for all of our trips, and for a long time flying has been the least efficient way to earn miles.

    I would like to see how things shake out on the redemption side of the equation, but this doesn’t seem all that bad for those who don’t have the time and money to fly too much. Hopefully there really will be better availability at the lowest level.

  15. @John, Mitch is correct. It would be absurd if a DM would earn 11 miles per dollar PLUS some EXTRA DM bonus, because 11 miles vs. 5 miles per dollar already includes the DM bonus (of 6 miles per dollar, which translates to 120% bonus).

  16. @Mitch/Ralf

    Cheers boys!

    I see what you’re talking about.

    Ugggg… Anyone down for a skunky beer in the C concourse SC?

  17. For earning usable miles, it looks like I will break even. Also, I should be able to maintain status easily. The BIG QUESTION for me is what do this new mileage charts look like to redeem award tickets — especially in BE to Europe. Yes, DL claims there will more low level award seats, but if the low level goes from 125K to 200K or 250K that would be hard to take.

  18. Goodbye Delta. I realize it’s only a matter of time before they all start doing this, I’m done with this game. I’ll be switching to Virgin America and others…

  19. @John – it is afternoon so I don’t have to feel bad about drinking a SkunkyOne now right? I still think as this plays out, there is some good stuff for some of us, just NOT the masses. But then again, we have always been smarter when it comes to points than the masses right? 😉

  20. @DON in ATL – there “may” be even lower biz seats to Europe than now. Fact is we don’t know yet. My guess, as now, peak times will be more, maybe MUCH more, but off times, could be a bit lower.

  21. I agree with Peachfront. This isn’t really fun any more, it’s just stupidly complicated. Delta could probably make more money by firing the pack of goons who sit around all day concocting this insane system.

  22. I have let this digest a bit, and I understand it. If it’s true that 4% of passengers drive almost half of DL’s revenue, then these moves make a ton of sense. And, that’s probably true. Heard Peter Greenberg claim that if an airline sells out its 1st & Biz Classes, they can fly the rest of the plane empty and make money. Conversely, if they sell out their economy cabin and don’t sell a single 1st or Biz seat, they lose money.

    These are the economics of the airline industry. As such, anything that rewards their 4% of customers is good for their bottom line, especially if it brings in more of those types.

    I suspect this will eventually price us out of many of the premium redemptions we aspire towards. January Biz Class to Australia will probably be tier 5, for instance. But, I guess we’ll see the other shoe drop later in the year. As a casual, leisure traveler I am more worried about redemption than earnings. Though, they are linked. I like to redeem for Biz Class to Asia or Australia. Anywhere else I’m fine in economy. Going to be harder, I think.

  23. Looks like I will sit on my 300K miles and wait a while to see if the award levels pan out as a value first. It’s just not fun anymore knowing that a $250 6-leg trip to the west coast from Birmingham AL on a MR netted me 8500 miles, and will only net me 2750 next year for the same hassles. ….Move over American, another status match coming your way

  24. @dejamo – Maybe 2015 will be the year of empty skyclubs and ez upgrades as so many will have “left the building”. Could be the best year ever for an elite to fly Delta! 😉

  25. Sorry to be a pest, but I still don’t see on the Delta web site and via an email sent to me from Delta, that confirms 100% that $1 on purchases on my DL RES. AMEX for NON Delta tickets equals to 1 mile. All I have been able to confirm is when using AMEX to purchase Delta tickets the double miles etc.
    It’s also a Big deal as next month my AMEX anniversary date or $450 is due and will of course cancel the card if $1 no longer gets me $1 mile as we spend over 90% of household expenses on AMEX RES. card.

  26. Given how long Skypesos have been poorly regarded, I find it very difficult to believe that the “4%” would let the number of RDMs they earn influence their purchase decision.

    Where this will hurt Delta is with the infrequent flyer. The jump from 25% to 100% in bonus miles from Silver to Gold was significant, 7x vs 8x not so much.

  27. @SL – From Delta FAQS page:
    Is anything changing with the way I earn miles with my U.S. Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express or my Card benefits?
    No, nothing is changing — you will continue to earn double miles (up to 2 miles per dollar) on Delta purchases with the Card. You also will continue to enjoy the many benefits currently associated with your Card.
    Please note that while the miles you earn for Delta flights are determined by base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges, the miles you earn with your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card will be based on the total ticket price.

    .
    Plus, AMEX is not Delta. They control how many points they award per dollar spent on a Delta AMEX. They control the bonus MQMs too. No changes (for now).

  28. So your advice for what to do in 2014 is “wait and see”?

    Delta just gutted the value-proposition for earning SkyMiles on flights… Redeeming already stinks, but now they want SkyMiles members to “stay tuned” to see how redeeming will be further impacted. I suppose it’s a good thing I have been concentrating my earning elsewhere, I just need to find a decent redemption or two and then I’m out.

    On the off chance that I need to take Delta, I’ll simply credit to Alaska (for as long as that remains an option.)

    It will be interesting to see how these changes effect the “battle in Seattle” especially if Alaska keeps a traditional distance-based program.

  29. So glad I liquidated most of my SkyPesos balance on 4 biz seats to Australia last summer when they announced their first devaluation. BTW, 95% of those miles were earned BIS on paid biz tickets to Europe and Asia so theoretically I am the type of customer DL wants to keep. But as Mr. Wonderful would say on “Shark Tank”, DL is dead to me.

  30. Not a fan. As a traveler who flies to Asia 4 times a year the drop in getting the actual mileage flown is the deal breaker for me for 15. I will continue to fly for 14 while earning lots of miles creating my own routes to and from Asia but as of Jan 1 it will eb time to find another airline for business travel that rewards me more, United is the second preferred airline here at work so I might see if they do a status match and see what happens there….

  31. I can’t find any details about how this will affect non-US medallions like me. We’re currently excluded from MQD… Will we also be excluded from this new earnings regime?

  32. I reread your post and feel a bit better. Rene- I have great confidence in your strategies !
    I’m already silver for 2015 and
    “Miles to go before I sleep”
    I’m thinking about positioning for bump flts for revenue .i think that’s an area of serious exploration?
    I still have flts booked and may just retain my mile stockpile for future use .
    Love your new blog page! I have an ANchorage MR in may and HNL in April
    Namaste

  33. Rene,

    Thanks for a great overview. And for recognizing that some flyers actually stand to benefit quite significantly — including me. I fly 90% for business, usually short flights (~100 DL segments last year + 60 more on UA), usually on refundable tickets, and my home airport is a very high-yield market (BTR). For personal flights, a T class ticket BTR-ATL r/t is usually >$300, so yeah, I get annoyed that I earn very few miles for that while mid-price transcons earn a lot more. And I sometimes travel long-haul J for work, which will mean a whole lot more miles under the new system — I am at $23k MQD already this year. I like DL better for a lot of reasons, but could often take UA or especially now AA instead. Also, I used 240k Skymiles for a great J redemption on MU, KL, and MH to/within Southeast Asia and got great value out of the miles. And if the Skyclubs are emptier and there are fewer elites above me on the upgrade list, I will be a happy camper. I sympathize with many readers, though for my own part I am actually looking forward to the changes.

  34. @John, sorry for late reply, but I live in a different timezone (Germany). Well, a SkunkyOne would have been great. However, as you might guess from my first sentence, I’m a bit too far away from any SkyClub.
    Hope, you enjoyed yours!

  35. So, just to confirm what I think you’re saying about MQM… Will I still earn my qualifying miles in the same fashion as I do now (i.e. based on miles flown w/ 500 min per segment)? While the buildup and spend on miles is nice, in the scheme of things for me the real value is in maintaining my platinum status since that tends to make all my work travel more humane given the upgrades, sky priority boarding and baggage handling, and access to the better call desk. The rest is a bit of a bummer, but not a total killer I guess since I’m mostly a captive to Delta anyway given options from my local airport.

  36. Just got my letter saying I can cancel my reserve card and get a refund because of the sky club changes. Bad timing?

    I thought delta cared about BIS but this makes spending on the cards more attractive, correct?

    I thought it was complicated before. Now – sheesh!

  37. I personally Love this change! I purchase lots of last min flights and rarely leave the 500 mile radius. My flights get put on a corporate account so I don’t get the Amex bonus. I am the type of traveler who spends 25k -30k on short flights that Delta is targeting however it is interesting that Medallion is still based on in the seat miles. I hit status with MQS and thats a miserable way to do it especially if you miss it by a few. There should be a spend threshold to get Medallion status. When do we want it? Now!

  38. This change is a big plus for me. I am based out of DTW and fly a lot of short haul flights. They used to be cheap but prices have skyrocketed over the last 2-3 years. The only upside to the higher priced short flights is this change… I only wish they would have changed the elite status to a revenue model.. I’m looking forward to the change, but do feel for those that are taking a hit on this…

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