Delta sure has shaken things up with the new “spend Skymiles” math for 2015!

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My post from this week with the news about the fact that ALL, not just business class, Pay With Miles (PWM) tickets on Delta, a perk from the Delta AMEX cards, will earn points has really made the choice of buying tickets a mathematical equation to make sure you are coming out ahead with each trip you book.

Let me break this down for you and some things to think about before you make any choices. First, let me get out of the way, the choice to spend your Skymiles for domestic coach or business class tickets. Some say that there is no value in this as you are better off just buying these kinds of tickets and ONLY redeeming / spending your Delta points for international business class redemption’s. From a raw cost value this may be correct, but for others they do see value in the domestic redemption. So for this post, we put this argument aside and look at value of this choice.

Now back to the numbers and value. The value is very flyer dependent. For example, since earning MQMs does not change under Skymiles2015, those who value MQMs may, even for a coach tickets, choose PWMs. This can be the choice when the PWM prices is the same or even slightly higher than the award price at the redemption level you pick (please be low).

But is earning MQMs and other perks always the best choice? Many times I would say NO WAY! Why? Once you move from an award ticket, even if not low level, you are giving up the chance for Platinum and Diamond Medallions to have unlimited and free changes (until 72hrs before flight). So, if you pull the trigger and change over to a PWM ticket you are stuck with what you have booked under most circumstances. That may not be worth the value of the points earned vs.the value of the flexibility to change your ticket as you see fit.

I hope you can see just where I am going with this. One reader told me he will only change to a PWM when he is 100% confident he will have zero chance of needing to change the ticket. Then, the price must be so low that the cost of buying the ticket vs. the redemption will earn you more points back to make the switch worth it. It really comes down to the math and value to you and no one else.

I will give you my personal take and this is not one that I am recommending you follow, just what is in the head of your DeltaPoints blogger.

I have a ski trip out west on the way this winter. My choices are that I can, if I drive to Chicago (ORD), get low level 25,000 point coach round trips award seats. From South Bend (SBN), for the perfect flights, 32,500 points each. If I take horrid flight times I can get to low level from SBN. I can get business class from Chicago for 50,000 or from SBN at 62,500 – both very good business class flight times. I can also buy coach tickets with PWM from ORD for around $250 and from SBN for under $350. Business class for about $650 from ORD and about $1000 from SBN.

What did I choose? Award tickets in coach and hoping for upgrades for 32.5k seats. Why? I can as a Diamond keep working get my current split low/mid redemption down to 25k low level tickets until 72 hrs before the trip. The other choices just cost too much in gas, parking or convenience to make them the “best” choice for me. Plus, the flights are not that long and I can put up with a coach ride for 3-ish hours if I must (yeah I am “that” cheap)! Now if I can find the perfect flight times out of SBN at around $250-ish each round trip in coach, then yes, PWM will be one to seriously consider, so I can earn almost 4,000 valuable MQMs for the trip. Then I will just redeposit the award tickets and be on my way earning and burning with PWM tickets.

I look forward to your weekend musing of what you think about this new Skymiles2015 feature and if you plan to take advantage of this new coach class redemption perk! – 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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  1. @Rene-

    Are you also saying that if, in your example, you chose a 32.5K Award ticket that if Delta opens up another award seat at 25K that you can switch to the 25K seat and redeposit your 32.5K miles?

    If that’s the case, I like that strategy for booking (and securing) seats way out for a valued trip and then “playing the market” hoping for a cheaper award ticket until I can no longer redeposit.

  2. This is actually making me rethink Delta. I had status matched to American, but this might keep me on Delta. I never redeem miles for award travel because my company won’t pay for business-class when I travel abroad on flights even in excess of nine hours. Thus, I use my miles to pay for business-class and still earn. The fact that I can now do this on coach is even more enticing, in my opinion. For me, it’s all about status, in-flight comfort and a (theoretical, if I’m in economy-class) chance at an upgrade. Now, if Delta would increase the number of global upgrade certificates to six or eight and allow me to use miles on say Air France first-class, it would have me and I would stop my flirtation with American.

  3. @FNT Diamond, I wish we could use our miles for AF F, but you’re gonna have to talk to them about that one…not Delta. They make award space available to Flying Blue elites only. Even at that point, it was something ridiculous like 160k each way…sigh

  4. @Garrett — actually I heard it is Delta that does not allow first class redemptions (Korean Air is another example, you can’t book them with Delta miles) You can book AF first with Korean Air miles, and vice versa, without issues, so it’s definitely not Air France who is responsible for this limitation.

  5. I’m not sure I’m following the logic in your example. I thought award tickets did not qualify for your medallion upgrades. Now that I think about it, I thought PWM tickets also did not qualify for medallion upgrades. Did something change with the upgrade rules?

    Earning MQMs on a PWM ticket is a nice benefit for me in many different scenarios. But I can see the value of booking a pure miles award ticket and waiting to see if the cash cost goes up or down to make a final decision.

  6. I’m only guessing here but I suspect Delta doesn’t want high-dollar customers experiencing Korean or Air France first-class service and then switching to them instead of normally flying Delta business-elite or one (whatever it’s called now).

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