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What could cause Delta to backpedal with Skymiles2015

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

skymiles 2015 from delta-com

There will be no saving of the old Skymiles program. The Delta people that I immensely respect and praise at each chance I get, the hard working pilots, the fight attendants, the rest of the Delta people just don’t care about Skymiles2015 one bit (they should, but they just don’t understand the impact)! The company, no matter how much we beg or plead, just doesn’t care what we want. There is something they do care about and that will be the only thing that could cause them to backpedal and it will be virtually in real time if it happens. Let me explain and try not to confuse you as I do.

Numbers are amazing. Real time numbers even more so. When it comes to airlines, they track, in real time, so much data. They can see that what is happening over hours, translates over to days and so on. Trends show very quickly in numbers and real time numbers outside the norm can show either positive or negative trends. Interesting, but so what you may say. Hang on, follow with me.

SDC, that is Same Day Change. What is that? It is something very important to business frequent flyers. Same Day Change is finding your meeting has ended sooner than planned or canceled all together and rather than spending 8 hours in a Delta Skyclub you can “SDC” to a flight that gets you home to your family sooner than later. Priceless. Well maybe not priceless, but I can tell you first hand that many business flyers have departed Delta over this issue. Many more are ready to jump ship over Skymiles2015.

You see, back in the day, that is about 1.1 years ago, that is before the end of April last year, if you had booked ANY seat in coach, i.e. fare class did not matter, and there was a coach seat on an earlier flight, you could change. Depending on your elite level there was or was not a fee but let’s not worry about that for now. The point was you could, even with possible connections involved, get home sooner than later. The problem with this was it was a lost stream of revenue for Delta. Call it what you will, but many business travelers were unitizing this feature quite often. So Delta changed the rule to require a seat in the same FARE class, not just cabin. The result of this for many is either paying a huge price to change or stuck spending those 8 hours in an airport waiting to fly home.

Now I said just a bit ago the fee did not matter, but in real time it did. Initially Delta deiced to charge everyone to change even under the new restrictive rules. My guess is in real time Delta saw some very negative feedback a.k.a. less bookings by high spending passengers as nothing makes them more crazy than to have to pay for something they expect to get for free. So Delta rolled back this fee but left the rest of the “enhancements” in place to SDC.

Time goes by and Delta must have again been looking at the numbers and seen those who were booking 1st and business class tickets were choosing other airlines due to the SDC rules that also apply to the 1st class cabin. While less of the alphabet soup of fare codes, 1st class is also broken down to many categories and under the SDC rules that had to still be available. Apparently that did not sit well and was costing Delta money as now fare class, at least in 1st, does not matter and for those buying 1st the SDC rules are back to where they were before the change a year ago. That is to say, Delta backpedaled and undid what it had done at least for 1st class tickets.

Thanks for hanging on so far and for this background as we look to Skymiles2015. Delta is concerned that this major project is going to, for lack of a better word, fly. You can tell by the surveys they have been sending out to elites that they want to know if how many Delta points you earn will impact your business and leisure choice to buy tickets. They have little real time data on this as not all that many are buying tickets into 2015. Sure some, but so many, especially business travelers, are not buying until weeks or even days before flight. So real time data as to the impact of travelers truly seeing the impact of Skymiles2015 on their frequent flyer account will not be known until the end of January 2015. Personally I think most, unlike those who read, just have not taken the time to understand how badly they will be impacted by the new program.

But I think when the “stuff” hits the fan next year and reality stares them in the face, I think that real time data will begin to impact Delta. They will then see bookings start to drop off by business travelers. At first a trickle and people may attribute the numbers to the slowdown in winter travel or such, but then as February and March hit and the numbers of bookings begin to decline at alarming rates it will be evident that both business and leisure flyers do care about their Skymiles. That is when either small or several changes to soften Skymiles2015 will be put in place.

Always understand, the only thing that will have any impact on the company is what we do with our wallets – not what we say in 2015. – René
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. So even though SDC went back to the way it was for FC, a first class ticketed passenger would still need to pay the $50 fee (if they don’t hold status)?

    • @Shane – most times yes but can be free if high enough 1st fare vs discounted or “up” fare. I bet you could get most reps to wave fee if booked in 1st. says:

      Silver Medallion members, general SkyMiles members and non-members:

      $50 USD Same-Day Change Fee – If your requested flight is same-day confirmed eligible
      Applicable Change Fee -These fees vary based on your ticket and its fare rules, and will be due if you have a restricted fare and your requested flight is outside of same-day travel eligibility. Change fees are dictated by the fare rules.

      Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members:

      $50 USD Same-Day Confirmed Fee Waived – If the requested flight is same-day confirmed eligible the $50 fee will be waived.
      Applicable Change Fee – These fees vary based on your ticket and its fare rules, and will be due if you have a restricted fare and your requested flight is outside of same-day travel eligibility. Change fees are dictated by the fare rules.


  2. to answer the original question : what could cause DL to backpedal SkyPiles2015 ? Answer: nothing, especially when profits are high and hubris is running amok

    basically DL has abandoned the middle market. they either want kayaker (to fill seats) or the last-minute short-haul traveler (to deliver revenue)

  3. There are two things working against your theory, Rene. One, the media did an absolutely superb job of purveying DL’s messaging on the SM changes. Most of the folks I have spoken to believe that business travelers and high-value travelers will see increased levels of rewarding in 2015. Secondly, the maddening array of bonusing multiples and award tiers serves to make the program even more opaque. Who can really tell if they’re doing better or worse until they start trying to turn their miles into travel.

    I wish you were right about this, but I fear the new system is so opaque as to be inscrutable.

  4. Excellent post! I had not thought about it from that angle, but it all makes sense.

  5. Thanks Rene, that’s very helpful. I’ll be starting to fly Delta more often out of PHL,since their FC fares have been so much cheaper than US Airways

  6. I wish I could keep flying Delta, I do love Delta and my friends and family know it, but it just no longer makes sense to fly them.

    The two changes you mentioned really did it for me. Why sit at an airport for so long if you don’t have to, and I don’t anymore. I’m enduring US Air, they have been good for what I need, and I anticipate actual improvements when they become AA.

    On top of that, the fast track to platinum promotions are terrible as well. Just poor, poor moves to the “loyal.”

  7. So—when they lose the business travelers, doesn’t Delta realize they are going to have to work a whole whole lot harder to win them back???

    When Delta no longer supports a Skymiles debit card, they will lose me.

  8. Great post Rene!
    Just to comment on your post. This past fall myself along with my family were in Boston for the weekend and arrived at the airport to fly back to ATL and breezed through security quicker then we could have ever dreamed. Well almost every 1.5 hrs there are flights between BOS and ATL so I asked the GA if there were 4 seats and she said “plenty of seats”. I then asked if we could get on the earlier flight and she said of course. As she started typing, she asked me for $200! I said for Silver Med. on a flight that is going to take off with empty seats? No way..
    To me good CS would have been to waive the SDC for Silver Elite and get us on an earlier FLT IF there were going to be empty seats anyway.
    It’s these small things that upset folks such as myself who live in hub cities like ATL who feel like we are being held hostage to DL AND their fee’s ..

  9. somewhat related. When trying to bump last week I requested food vouchers. They said Delta no longer did that because of feedback from customers. BUT since they got rid of it, people have been requesting it when getting bumped and getting angry, so Delta is considering adding food vouchers back as a benefit for voluntary bumps.

    But then again, the lady said I would be bumped for $400 and to wait until she called my name.
    The boarding doors closed, she called my name and asked why I wasn’t on the plane. When I reminded her she told me to wait until I heard my name, she put me in my normal seat and I got no bump :(, so she may not know the rules.

  10. Mileage runners won’t like the changes and people who buy the cheapest available ticket won’t either. Delta doesn’t really care about those people. From the perspective of running a profitable airline they don’t need to.

  11. This isn’t to say that the new program won’t be tweaked, but SkyMiles 2015 is coming, and it isn’t going away. Everyone else will follow with their own version, and I predict that within 5 years, SkyMiles will be a purely revenue based accrual and redemption program akin to Rapid Rewards, perhaps with a redemption cap of some description just so there’s no million mile award floating around….yet.

  12. I know we discussed MR’s not dying completely with SM15. Do you think though the drop in revenue from so many milage runners just manufacturing miles will affect the program. Revenue is revenue after all so maybe they’ll increase the bonus miles per medallion level. Just my 2 cents.

  13. DiamondDave Reply

    I am a DM and last year just missed the MQD requirement by a few hundred dollars. When I fly for pleasure (35% of my miles) I choose the very lowest price. The rest of my travel is booked much closer to the travel date and tends to be more than double the CPM of my personal travel. I may not spend a huge amount but I would think I am a customer that Delta would care about, but apparently not.

    I will lose 40-60% of my sky miles if my travel patterns remain the same. To tell you how bad it will be, I flew to Singapore a couple weeks ago, 22,000 MQM’s and something like 48,000 Sky Miles. Next year that same flight would earn me under 17,000 miles (only if I book with my Delta Amex). I would actually fly more miles than I will receive credit for!

    My plan is to hit Diamond again as quickly as possible, get my global upgrades, use them on the longest flights I can find before the end of the year, and look into finding an airline that will status match for 2015.

  14. I fly about 70% for business. I and my coworkers will continue to fly Delta because they fly the routes we need and they get us there comfortably and on-time (and we can work during the flight- which I’m currently taking a short break from). With one exception, NONE of my coworkers give a fig about SkyMiles, and for her, like me, SkyMiles 2015 is at worst a wash and potentially a significant upgrade.

    I don’t pretend to know whether we are typical of the high-value flyers that Delta is targeting, but I do know that we in the hobby are a tiny fraction of all flyers. Looking around in First (MSP->TPA) I’d guess that as many as four out of 16 are flying on miles (most of the rest of us upgraded DMs). Rene’s absolutely right, though, like any business, Delta will react to the numbers.

  15. Well, if the sky clubs are as upgraded as delta says they will be, if you can’t get on an earlier flight without paying a fee, then go to the sky club and eat $200 worth of food and drink. As you leave, tell someone delta would have been better off letting you take that empty seat. (Yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek. And, yes, I am still upset that delta won’t allow me in the sky club with my husband the two flights a year I get to travel with him. And, equally as upset at my husband for not calling delta and telling them how displeased he is about that change. He only goes in there when I fly with him so he doesn’t care.)

  16. Deltasegmentflyer Reply

    As I am on a plane taking my 50th flight of the year I would have 50,000 more skymiles in my account if we were under the 2015 rules. I cannot wait for that to happen. I disagree about the business traveler Rene as that last minute ticket even the last couple weeks. For me I love the new rules and the sky club changes. I do not like the SDC change or the new get an upgrade with miles option as even as a Diamond my upgrade percent is headed down.

  17. I never thought I would say this, but I may need to look at AA/US.

    With the miles upgrade and 8 less seats in first class on the 757, what will be left?

    I just booked a ticket MYR-BOS for $606 and the first class ticket was only $187 more.

    this will force DM’s to pay the extra $ in order to get the 1st class seat without chancing the possibility of getting stuck in coach.

    Meanwhile, EVERY other flight I’ve looked at recently has been cheaper to fly on AA/US. But, I just keep my head down and keep trying to tell myself it’ll all work out for the best.

    I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen…

  18. Jerry Udell Reply

    Bravo! Well done.
    I know many Delta flyer who are no looking elsewhere to spend their $.

  19. SDC experience.
    Recently we were at DTW earlier then expected from Asia. There was an earlier flight to Cinti on a lovely RJ200 with seats open. They wanted to charge $100(2)to change. We’re both Diamond! I did not even answer her, looked at her as if she were from Mars and went to the Sky Club. Our flight was overbooked (which we knew before we requested SDC)so the idea was to volunteer for a bump, which we did. They needed 2 but took 2 others that could still fly that evening but paid out $300 each. Smart move Delta!

  20. @Christine – You’re upset at your husband because he’s NOT upset at DL? Seriously?

  21. Pingback: The Weekly Recap – May 10, 2014 - Marshall Jackson on Travel

  22. Well said. I’ve been a Diamond for 3 straight years and this will be my last – due to Skymiles 2015 and SDC rules. I will vote with my feet …

    • @Dave S. – you are not the only one. I fear for DAL stock price in 2015 Q3 when earnings turn to loss (IMO that is)!

  23. Rene,

    I will be Gold soon. Which will be a drop from my PM status this year. Mostly travel for pleasure and just can’t hit the MQM this year (also not likely to do so by credit card due to other choices).

    If I do not make PM due to MQD’s how many MQM’s can I rollover. For example, if I take some mileage run’s but still fail to get to PM, can I roll over 40K MQM’s or is my max rollover set at 25K?

    Basically, just want to know what the max number of MQM’s I can rollover if I only make Gold this year.


    • @vc3 – anything under your next medallion level if MQD exempt via CC spend. If not exempt lets say you only earn $5000 MQD spend you will roll over unlimited over 50k

  24. If you are primarily upgrade motivated, eliminating “mileage run” Diamonds should have very little impact on upgrade availability. Don’t they spend too little to get upgraded these days? I don’t have time to figure out complete system, but seems this weeks $1000 ticket GNV-ATL–DFW-MSP-ATL-JAX will get me around 6-7k in miles (though I only worry about qualifying miles) and new system will get me 13k (Diamond with card). To me, it’s “so what” if I don’t get upgraded and probably only getting 2 of 5 segments this week. What am I missing here?

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