I have redeemed millions of Northwest Worldperks and Delta SkyMiles over my many years of flying the airlines. I have valued every dollar I have spent with both airlines. Skyteam has been an outstanding alliance for my travel needs and I have received good value back in points for the money invested in nearly 1 million MQM miles or as they say “butt in seat” miles.
Delta still runs a fine airline. They are, most times, ridiculously on time and just about never cancel flights. The product is solid, consistent and meets most travelers’ needs. Even the food is good for crying out loud! Internationally Delta has a very good business class product. So A to B, they are a good choice for many.
But at some point, points do matter. More than just a 12 point “Customer Commitment” is needed (and not always followed anyway). The dreams that frequent flyer points provide do make a difference and are why all of us collect them. They are not the reason for travel, but they are the reason we stay loyal to an airline. When we spend all that time racing from airport to airport, in the end, it is worth it because your choice in buying that airline’s ticket lets you take your loved ones to the most amazing places on the planet, often in remarkable comfort and style.
That is what Delta has forgotten and lost sight of and why airline points are so valuable to us. Delta is selling dreams, even if never ever realized, with frequent flyer points. Delta may have had very few yearly redemptions of round the world award tickets, but that was not the point. The point was the goal, the dream. To spend 280,000 SkyMiles and fly around the world in business class. The reason to save your points even if you never ever get there. A reason to keep being loyal.
The same goes for so many of the other dreams that Delta has crushed by ending stopovers and on and on. Nothing lingers in the back of the mind more than having to explain to those you love why you can not take that trip you have promised to take them on for years and years. This will impact you when you go to buy an airline ticket, especially if one over the other is a few bucks more!
Delta’s grand new experiment is “innovation”. The change on the way, it seems, is that SkyMiles will now be worth just ONE penny each. I think we all know, pennies are not what dreams are made of. There is no romance in redeeming a few points off a gallon of gas nor does a free Starbucks every now and then create daydreams of a frappuccino. No, dreams are bigger than that. Dream are what SkyMiles once offered us. Not any more, those dreams have been crushed. No one who is not in a vegetative state, should ever think about paying 300,000 or 400,000 SkyMiles for a ticket to anywhere (with or without stopover). That is a NIGHTMARE – not a dream!
On Sunday I posted I am done collecting SkyMiles. So where do we go from here? First let me look at a very strange reality and suggestion.
I have my Diamond medallion status. With a little work I will have it again next year (for the year thereafter). Why should you or I care about Delta status if we are no longer collecting SkyMiles? Simple, flexibly of redemption and re-deposit of your points. I have changed just about every award flight I have booked this year and I did it for free. I have a ton of flights this fall that I spent a ton of points on. I may fly them or, if things get in the way, dump them and rebook for another time.
So, the strange reality I suggest is that we all shoot for at least Platinum Medallion status as quick as possible, even with mileage runs, or simply with Delta AMEX cards that offer MQMs, while we burn all our SkyMiles down to ZERO.
Also, we can enjoy our choice benefits a few last times like my Global upgrades and trying to pay for those trips with vouchers on top of the certs to make it even cheaper or almost free. Our focus should now be all about burning and extracting max value from Delta.
But what next? What points will I personally collect? Really anything but SkyMiles. Kroger gas points, you bet, they are worth more. K-Mart shopping points? Sure, K-Mart will offer more dreams than Delta does now. You see my point – value is what matters and you are not, for now, going to see that from SkyMiles at one cent each.
To me the greatest value will be with AMEX Membership rewards from cards like:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (Learn more)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN (Learn more)
- American Express Gold Card (Learn more)
- American Express Business Gold Card (Learn more)
With these I can send my points to airlines that I can fly business or 1st class to extract real value from. Same goes for SPG points that I can do the same. Sprinkle in some Ultimate Rewards points from INK and Sapphire cards plus some to Alaska and lastly American and I am looking good for award travel.
That folks, are what my travel dreams are made of moving forward. Those will be the points that will matter to me. Plus, worst case situation, membership rewards points can just about instantly be sent to Delta 1:1 to top off for an award.
But what about when we have to fly Delta? Where do we credit our points? Do we still send them to Delta now that the points are worth so darn little and so nearly worthless to spend? The answer is really not as hard as it seems. I would do this:
If you have no status with Delta, or have Alaska MVP status, then credit to Alaska even at the greatly reduced earning rates. Even lower earnings on Alaska has value compared to full earnings on Delta that does not have much value.
What if you do have status? Then it depends what you value most, the shot at a domestic upgrade or the points down the road. Delta was also smart enough not to butcher the MQMs earned for distance traveled. So, they have us where they want us when it comes to domestic travel (unless you status match and jump ship). Now when it comes to international, it is not as simple a choice. Delta, for MQMs, may be the best choice or Alaska may be the right call. Weigh your options and rewards value.
I sincerely hope Delta wakes up one day. I hope they see the value of rewarding those who spend the most with the airline and are loyal and fly them most. I hope they will see the wisdom of selling the dream again rather than tossing pennies in the streets!- 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.