Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Last week, if you were not paying attention, Alaska REALLY smacked Delta in the face by announcing that they are NOT going revenue based next year and will be paying out the same or more points for travel in 2015 and will remain a distance based program (for now). We all know Delta’s program, as far as Skymiles goes, should now be called SkyDollars as the “miles” part of SkyMiles no longer matters after 1JAN2015 – it is all about dollars spent depending on your medallion level (or lack thereof).
So this begs the question, in a rookie way, should we all switch to Alaska and credit our flight “dollars” to Alaska’s program instead since they are a Delta partner? The simple answer, if there is such a thing anymore, is for a leisure traveler with no status with Delta, YES, but it comes with many conditions (I told you nothing is simple now – and this is a lot of info for a rookie post btw). For GM+, talking raw numbers not value, Delta will often still be the best choice most times.
Before I look at some examples, there are reasons why most Delta HUB flyers are going to be stuck choosing Delta metal. The bottom line is that for so many routes Delta has the flights you need or to fly Alaska metal you are talking crazy 2 or 3 leg connections often with an overnight vs a direct Delta flight. Fare class also plays a big factor in earnings as does elite status. Also, if you decide to credit to Alaska for those direct Delta flights you will pay the discounted distance percentage penalty and if you are a Delta elite you will come out ahead with Skymiles. I am valuing 1:1 a Skymile to an Alaska mile and I think just about everyone would agree Alaska miles are worth much more than Skymiles. But that is too much for this rookie post so we will just be going with the 1:1 comparison here.
A quick bit on status matching. If you do find the Alaska network (partnered with AA) does work well for your flying routes then it is VERY simple to get a match. All you have to do is:
1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and asked for a status match.
2) Provide a screenshot of your elite card from your Fly Delta APP plus a screen shot of your current Delta statement.
3) Scan or photo your drivers license along with your Alaska FF number.
It really is just that simple and you will know just what they are willing to offer you to come over and fly their airline. You can also reach out to them via twitter if you want the same way (via DM clearly so all this is NOT in public). Also keep in mind this will likely be a one shot deal so if you plan to status match later down the road you may want to wait.
So just when is it a good value and choice, even when flying Delta, to credit to Alaska? Take a look at some routes as a NON-Alaska elite:
In this example with cheap X & V class fare it works out very well to compare (it really does not for most other hub routes). If you wanted to fly a weekend trip to Seattle from Atlanta you would spend $340 BASE with Delta and all in $393. You could find a much cheaper deal just buying Alaska tickets on Alaska air. The math works out this way (note SM = general skymiles member)
SM – 1700
FO – 2380
GM – 2720
PM – 3060
DM – 3740
Now any of these flyers, if you take the Delta flight, and credit to Alaska, you are earning 2182 miles at this fare class. However, if you pick the Alaska flights over the Delta flights and credit to Alaska you are earning 100% of miles flown so 4364 miles.
This example is the most “perfect” situation and one very skewed and I am freely admitting that. As already talked about, most routes are NOT as good and “all roads going through Seattle” is not going to be the choice most want or an American connection to get a trip done. So let’s look at some others for that same weekend trip in January. For these, I am just talking about flying Delta and crediting the trip to Alaska.
Another example would be transcon NYC to SEA. Delta has many of these direct flights.Your earnings next year if you credit to Delta will look like this:
SM – 1480
FO – 2072
GM – 2368
PM – 2664
DM – 3256
And if you choose to credit your trip to Alaska on Delta you are getting 2421 Alaska points. This again is a long haul flight so distance matters. What about a shorter flight. Let’s look at the same weekend from Minneapolis to San Francisco.
Once again we will compare the Delta earnings vs the crediting to Alaska one.
SM – 1695
FO – 2373
GM – 2712
PM – 3051
DM – 3729
And finally if we do credit this to Alaska we are simply getting for this low fare class 1589 points.
As you can see, for short trips, and low cost tickets, under many circumstances you are better crediting to Delta even under the new lower Skymiles2015 – that is again taking 1:1 value of points.
Is your head spinning yet? All of this is simply looking at redeemable points value and earnings. We are not talking elite points that do not change next year if we credit to DELTA as a DELTA elite. That, for so many, will be an overriding factor compared to earning a few more spendable points (since you do not spend elite points which just help you get status). If upgrades matters then you will still want to credit to Delta to get those MQMs based on distance.
Another important point for you to consider. As Delta flyers we have to often think CODE SHARE to get full points. Take Korean for example. Book a CODE SHARE you get full points – otherwise not so much. Alaska does not care about CODE SHARE. Fly Delta metal, even if you got the ticket on Alaska.com, you are on the Delta earnings chart.
So is there a way to boil all this down into a simple choices and equation? Yes, mostly. I would choose this way.
- Choose Delta if you are GM+, care about upgrades and perks & those who spend mid to high numbers on tickets. Also if you can, like me, earn a ton of points from other methods other than flying just credit to Delta and don’t really care how many Skymiles you earn from flying as they are a pittance anyway.
- Choose Alaska as a Delta flyer if you are a once in a while leisure flyer and are always in coach anyway and pick the cheapest ticket you can find.
- Choose Alaska if you can fly them as an Alaska elite and their route network works for you. You will just about always earn more points as they are rewarding you for distance and for paying more for a higher fare class.
These are rather simplistic assumptions after looking at the bulk of this post and the real nitty gritty if you want to get the best rewards for you is to look at each and every trip, ticket and route before you buy and choose who you are going to credit your flight to. Lastly we just don’t yet know how simple Delta’s new award page will be. Right now, the Alaska one is very good and works and they have many partners.
I can tell you for myself, I will be looking at each and every flight I book as to what will reward me the most; this is something I would never have done before 2015 as it would always just have been Delta Delta Delta – not anymore kids – René
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