Life after SkyMiles – Perhaps we just fly Delta as an airline? Why not?

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life after skymiles

When the party is over, some people just refuse to leave. I hate those types. I am not going to be one of “those” kinds of people. Maybe it is time for a rethink since the fun is now over.

Earlier today I mused:

“Maybe it is time to forget about the Delta “points” program and discount it to zero and just view Delta as a transportation company without a reward program and simply look to other programs for our award travel needs.”

So basically we just give up on SkyMiles (since the points are becoming worthless day by day) and why not just focus on Delta as the airline to fly but collect points other places. What a concept, and maybe a good one. I mean if we discount SkyMiles to almost nothing then look what we have with Delta (it is a long list and could be longer):

1) The best run airline in the USA
2) The most consistent airline in the USA
3) THE most Wifi on domestic planes and faster service on the way
4) Very good on time record and extremely good completion rates
5) Good upgrade chances especially for Platinums and Diamonds
6) Good elite perks targeted for Platinums and Diamonds
7) Outstanding direct routes especially for hub captives
8) Willingness to bend rules & waive fees for elites
9) Very good food in business class
10) Elite points are still distance based
11) Handles IROPS expertly and efficiently
12) Did I mention they treat Diamonds really well
13) Is, albeit slowly, reducing CRJ200s
14) Upgrades to Skyclubs are coming this year
15) Has a very good DeltaONE product i.e. biz product
16) Is expanding route networking including from SEA
17) Allows MQM earnings with PWM tickets
18) Really friendly and attentive crews
19) Free drinks in C+ seats including Woodford Reserve
20) A fine mobile APP & updates
21) Quick and good twitter response
22) Good AMEX credit card perks

I really could do this all day long when it comes to running the airline. Function wise Delta, just, ROCKS! Again, all we have to do is consider the SkyMiles program as worthless and done and then only spend the pittance of points we earn as a PWM ticket to still earn MQMs and we are good to go. See my point?

Delta is, after all, clearly focusing it’s “love” on the business traveler or the frequent leisure traveler that wants the above not award points. Maybe this is enough. I mean, what a novel concept, an airline as a transportation company. Who knew? 😉

So let’s really look at my list and tell me if this is enough to pick Delta for transportation needs:

The best run airline in the USA. This one is maybe up for debate but they sure are darn good at running the airline. They are making money off those who are non-elites hand over fist and, due to little competition, they are able to charge a ton for last minute flyers and that is good for Delta.

The most consistent airline in the USA. I hear nightmare stories again and again about UA or AA/US having poor seats or old seats or non working seats or promising one aircraft only to fly another. Aircraft swaps do happen at Delta, but not all that often.

Wifi on most planes and fast service on the way including international. Say what you will about GoGo (and I do) but it is just about always there for the asking. And, they are addressing the speed thing and adding wifi to international birds. Love it!

Very good on time record and ridiculously good completion rates. Delta HATES to cancel a flight and just about never does. This, and being on time, is a bit of an obsession for Delta and it SHOULD BE. If we are only looking at Delta as a transportation company they had better get this right – right?

Good upgrade chances especially for Platinums and Diamonds. Now before you argue with me on this one that your upgrade percentage is MUCH worse in 2015 I am talking in general here. I, who know how to game the Delta system and have some flexibility on travel times, am still over 90% on all my upgrades this year. Yes, I have had to use a number of RU certs to do this, but I will do what it takes to score my upgrades.

Good elite perks targeted for Platinums and Diamonds. Again, discounting SkyMiles, the other Choice Benefits really are quite nice. The RU and GU certs are an amazing value. Just the GU certs can save me well over $5,000 (if not $10,000) per year. Take the value of gifting Gold Medallion status or some of the other choices and you are talking real dollar value of reaching the top elite status with Delta for travel.

Outstanding routes especially for hub captives. This really is the bottom line for so many when you fly from a Delta hub, that is, getting from A-B as fast as you can and Delta does that well for those of you in those cities. Even for little old me, my choice, when I want fast, is often Delta from South Bend. Oh sure I can drive to Chicago or Kalamazoo but South Bend is just the closest airport for me when time matters. Call me mini-hub bound as my only other choice is United and I am not about to fly United unless I absolutely have to.

Willingness to bend rules & waive fees for elites. Again, before you whine about this one, if you know how to game Delta you can really push this. I have, over the past few years, only paid a fee once EVER! (I am not counting the $3.58 fare difference to do an SDC a few months back). Truly, if you HUCB you can, as an elite, get away with just about anything you want. Impressive.

Very good food in business class. It is funny when you think about it but DeltaONE seats, if the service was 1st class, could be a 1st class experience. The seats really are that good and if you had put them in jets 10 years ago would have crushed any 1st class seat at the time. Just a solid nice business class experience.

Elite points are still distance based. If elite status matters to you (and I know it does) then Delta just works. Nothing has changed regarding elite points in all the mess of SkyMiles 2015. It is just the same as it always has been and maybe even better as I will touch on later on.

Handles IROPS expertly and efficiently. If you have flown other airlines, and had IROPS, you know how bad it can be and often is. Sure Delta jets are very full, but the few times I have had really bad issues Delta has even gone as far as booking me on an other airline. Sure it helps being an elite but if you are going to fly Delta as a transportation only airline you need to be an elite.

Did I mention they treat Diamonds really well. Honestly I cannot say enough good about this elite level with Delta. If you are a Delta Diamond, or dare I breath Delta360 Diamond, they cannot do enough for you. You can push anything and they will likely do it for you.

Is, albeit slowly, reducing CRJ200s. Sure they are taking MUCH longer than expected, much of this due to lower fuel costs, but they are working to dump these “fledgling” birds as a reader so aptly phrased it.

Upgrading Skyclubs this year. I really have amazingly high hopes for the Skyclubs this year. Delta knows they have pushed it too far with what they have to offer for the price. I expect craft beers, for free, in each city that has a club. I expect tweaked food choices that will be even better. I expect house wines and other drinks to improve and even rotate selections for variety. I expect wifi to continue to improve in speed. Again, I expect improvements either by year’s end or into next year.

Has a very good DeltaONE product i.e. business product. As close to a 1st class seat as you can find. Service, while not 1st class, is very good. Domestic DeltaONE is good but nothing like international DeltaONE service and choices. International DeltaONE works.

Is expanding route networking including from SEA. Alaska could only dream to be as connected and have as many choices as Delta. They can talk a good talk but they are no Delta. Sure it is sad they have downgraded the promise to offer DeltaONE SEA to JFK but then again they are offering free medallion upgrades on that route again so we have that.

Allows MQM earnings with PWM tickets. Again, we all agree SkyMiles are worthless for award travel. Other programs, including bank programs are better, so let’s just burn them to buy tickets outright. We know both for coach and business class you can earn FULL MQMs for tickets. Why not offset your elite point earnings by burning SkyMiles?

Really friendly Delta people and attentive crews. It is the absolute exception that I have anything bad to say about a Delta person. Most gate agents are helpful and SkyClub people are good as well. Crews are very attentive and I have, on over 50 segments this year, only had to “ding” once.

Free drinks in C+ seats. While I miss HOOUs very much (as I am often on CRJ200s) having free adult drinks in C+ seating is very nice. And then there is Woodford Reserve. This ALONE may be enough reason to fly Delta without a frequent flyer program 🙂

A fine mobile APP & updates. The APP, despite the irritating 1st class upsell nagging, really works well. They have a real commitment to make it as perfect as they can. As far as a useful travel tool it just works so well. Very impressive considering how bad much of the other Delta IT is 😉

Quick and good twitter response. If you need help, for a bunch of basic things, Delta Assist is quick and “johnny on the spot” to get it done for you. If you ONLY use twitter for this one perk it is worth doing.

Good AMEX credit card perks. The bottom line, even discounting SkyMiles, a Delta flyer needs to have a Delta AMEX card. The perks the card gives you if you are a non elite provide elite-lite perks and if you are a high level elite the Delta Reserve card DOES help with upgrades (one of the main reasons I hold it) and the shot at earning so many MQMs each year is so valuable. Lastly the BOGOF cert in business class can pay for the fee for the card in full.

So there you are. This may be the right and smart approach to take as in all reality SkyMiles is dead and worthless to me. Sure I will spend points when they slowly trickle in but on flights to earn status as a traveler as opposed t o awards. I really think this is a healthy approach to take (and frankly keep me from losing my mind trying to spend $kyRubles on award travel and be rewarded with any kind of semblance of value back).

What do you think? Is it enough to just fly Delta as an airline and focus our award travel in other places other than Delta? Is it even possible to be loyal to Delta and just forget about award travel on Delta and just use other airlines when we need to travel on vacation? You tell me! Can this work and is this even possible to do? – René
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15 comments

  1. I think, Rene, if you accept the premise that all the major US carriers will move to a revenue-based award model within two years of DL doing so . . . or if you are a DL hub captive, I think the real question is what is does the points/miles earning model look like to fly DL but minimize your SkyMiles earn beyond what’s needed to maintain status?

    It’s a tough nut to crack because it involves a lot of mileage running or manufactured spend to maintain the status and yet keep all your personal spending on a card that offers a truly rewarding awards currency.

    I don’t see status matching to AS as a realistic option, as the benefits flying DL have been degraded so much for passengers who purchase discounted economy fares. And this relationship seems headed for a breakup soon enough.

    The other problem is it’s a moving target. After all the American carriers switch to a ticket price based award system, what’s to cause us to believe that most of the other desirable carriers won’t fall in line.

    The truth is, as you noted in an earlier post, that the days of outsized travel rewards for modest cost may simply be coming to an end, until the next recession pushes some airlines back into the old ways.

  2. @Royce – When we have the answer to all you just said we are golden. A great comment and much appreciated. We will all try to work as one to find the sweet spot and where to go next as they keep moving the goal posts on us all! Again, my thanks!

  3. I see someone going though the five stages of grief and is on the final stage – acceptance. Really sad.

  4. It’s not a bad idea, just thinking of DL as an airline. I see them as the same as Allegiant without charging for a carry-on.

  5. as an ATL flier that primarily does MCO, ORD, LGA, and DCA. I’m pretty much chained to Delta, Kinda stinks that I know I’ll keep hitting my Reserve spends to get status, but having status just makes my life a little bit better.

  6. I don’t see why elite status being distance-based is a good thing in a general sense. Sure, it’s good for some particular people who fly particular routes and can get cheap fares, but for many business travelers, it’s terrible. I fly out of an expensive market and although my corporate policy is to always buy the cheapest available ticket, I usually fly on short notice. In 2014 I had more than enough MQDs for Platinum, and in fact almost enough for Diamond, but I only had enough actual miles for Gold.

  7. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the airline rewards program, if all the others did it too. After all, there aren’t too many other businesses that give me free products. I wish my bespoke tailor would have a points program! I think the real future are credit card programs.

  8. @FNT – If they were not such big money makers for the airlines I would agree. But if they all destroy the programs like Delta has no one will use them so I agree we will see a flight to the banks for true value. Delta has lost it and just has not woken up to the fact they have destroyed all value in SkyMiles!

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