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The ways to extract value from Delta / SkyMiles in 2016 after so many devaluations.

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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.


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Does Delta really think its Skymiles members are all idiots?” Was a recent comment by Flyer Talker uclacolumbiaunc in the “official Delta company thread” on the social media board about the latest destruction to the $kyRubles program. This comment was quickly followed by “I don’t think so. I think they just don’t care.” By user Zeeb to answer that question.

Both are honestly true and here is why. Delta would not make all these horrific program changes unless they knew they could get away with them. They realize that most business travelers really could not care less about SkyMiles and will fly Delta for the transportation they provide. And yes, I do think Delta thinks most leisure travelers are idiots (I don’t think so, just to be clear). Delta thinks they will just take anything Delta shells out and, for the most part for the past year, that is clearly true. And that lends itself to the second quote as Delta does not care what people think because they are still flying their jets full, selling more 1st class seats, and can simply park jets in the desert if we ever stop flying them to make sure prices “Keep Climbing” on Delta!

Well, that is about the most depressing thing I have seen in print this week (just wait, the weekend is a long way off, there could be more). But none of this helps me extract value from Delta and my $kyRubles. How do I do that as promised? Let’s make a “Top 10 List” and break them down one by one.

“Game On” really needs to be the way we fly Delta from now on. Everything that is not violating the rules is what we must live by. Delta has shown utter disrespect and treated us so reprehensibly that there is no reason to feel any shame for using and abusing everything we can. What games? Much of that will be covered in the next 9 points but bottom line of this is play by the rules, but game them in every instance we can.

“Book Partners” was broken down well in my post the other day but that can be used in conjunction with gaming Delta. You see, especially with regional partners, there are often schedule changes. If you can find LEVEL 1 award space on a them and there is change push Delta to change to Delta metal. Believe it or not I have had success with as little as a 10 minute schedule change to be allowed to change flights. Use this – all you can!

“Elite Perks”. Delta, nauseatingly, on each flight, thanks medallions for our choice and loyalty to Delta (while the mothership stabs us in the back with program changes). Anyway, use these. Push these. Read what you can do as an elite and use ALL the perks. When you get an answer you don’t like REMIND the Delta people what status you hold and do not appreciate, as an elite, being treated this way.

“Be Stingy” like MJ on Travel. Even if you live in a Delta HUB fortress city, like Atlanta, you do have a choice. MJ this year has chosen to Fly American and has really enjoyed it. He has a fabulous upgrade percentage (compared to nearly worthless with Delta as a Platinum Medallion). This makes my point, don’t over spend on Delta. Unless your employer DEMANDS you fly Delta – don’t! Choose other airlines and especially so if you’re booking expensive 1st class tickets. Get value for your airline dollars and miles flown. Consider, if you do have to fly Delta, crediting to Alaska Airlines vs. Delta. When you go to spend your points you will thank me. I would have never thought about buying tickets on anything but Delta last year. Now, I will shop around and you should too.

“SDC & SDS” as a tool for more. If you are booked in 1st class you can “same day change” to any open seat in the 1st class cabin as the fare class does NOT matter (unlike coach). With coach, push it. See if you can get a change despite the rules. If no, look at how much it is to upgrade to a fare class that WILL allow the change (and ask them to waive all other fees to change). This way maybe you can eke out a few more MQMs for your flights. “Same day standby” is also a nice tool if you are an elite and there is no fee for you to use this feature. Use it if award space is nasty to get home when you wanted in the first place.

“Bumpertunites” are still very nice. Sure there are drawbacks but Delta is testing more and giving you an AMEX or other gift card. These are amazing values as you are not stuck with “Delta Dollars” that have so many restrictions they can be hard to spend unless you are buying Delta tickets all the time. I tend to use my bumps for mileage runs as well as positioning flights. This is a great way for Delta to pay for me to earn my status and all the perks that come along with it. Use this!

“PWM Tickets”. This is a blessing and a curse. As an elite you can really game this to your advantage. As I have talked about in the past if you can find a low enough business class fare, even internationally, this could be a better redemption price than using SkyMiles award charts. Do consider this if you have a Delta AMEX card.

“AMEX Reserve” (and other cards). Use Delta AMEX card perks to their full. Earn MQMs then stop spending. Use the free bag and other perks. AMEX has paid Delta an amazing amount of money to have the right to market their co-Branded cards so let’s enjoy all those perks we can get!

“Choice Benefits”. Delta was so kind to give us a few Global Upgrade certificates (AA gives you a bunch more than Delta btw). Anyway, before you pay see if GU cert space is open and then pay a cheap coach price and fly in DeltaONE space. This is a great #winning perk of Diamond Status.

“Complain (to the FEDs)”. I have shown in the past how a reader complained his way to almost 100,000 SkyMiles. I do not recommend this, but if you do have a legitimate gripe do complain and get something back. If it is something that is price related DO complain to the DOT as this can get Delta in trouble. If they don’t care about us we can be sure to point out when they do things that will get the FEDs attention. I have only ever filed one complaint in a decade of flying, but I will look for more now (loyalty is a two way street, Delta).

There you are. This is quite a “top 10” list, but it really is up to us at this point. There is just no loyalty from Delta and they will cut and charge and take every perk away from us they can. It is completely up to us to eke out any kind of value we can when flying Delta. – René

 

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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.

8 Comments

  1. I agree with everything you said. The key to me is complaining to DOT when appropriate . Delta has to take DOT seriously and complaint numbers are tracked and published. If Delta starts to slip in customer complaints , then business travelers will begin to notice and perhaps switch carriers.

    I have started to “fly to rule” – when Delta doesn’t deliver what is promised , then I seek compensation. I haven’t filed any DOT complaints but will if the situation warrants. Passengers also need to file for EU compensation when appropriate and EU duty of care benefits. It is also important to file claims for luggage not delivered in the 20 minute guarantee timeframe.

    Loyalty is most definitely a 2 way street and so are penalties when either side fails to fulfill it’s obligations.

  2. The moment that AA removes the US CRJ-200s from the DCA-CVG route, I’m done flying exclusively on Delta. My SkyMiles balance will be zeroed out after a trip with friends to the UK next year (in low-level J, naturally), and I will start flying whichever of the two is cheapest.

    Assuming that AAdvantage isn’t gutted by this time next year, I will do a status match to AA Platinum. DCA-CVG is under 500 miles, so no need to worry about stickers, and it shouldn’t be an overly heavy route for AA elites.

    I hate to even have to consider this, but if Delta isn’t going to value my business, I’m not going to value them. After all, loyalty is a TWO-WAY street.

    I’ve saved all of my DL tickets so far this year, and intend to send them copies via US Mail, along with copies of the AA tickets that I will purchase in their place next year.

  3. IMO the reason Delta can and is making these cuts now is they have no competition. Once American and United get their acts together and start offering similar service and price levels Delta will have to treat customers better or WILL lose them. Right now the customer losses aren’t significant for Delta to care because they are generating greater profits on fewer customers.

  4. I think Delta is only taking back things that have gone overboard and are focusing on their most valuable customers. I’ve been on flights where almost 80% of the people on that flight were upgrade eligible. How does that make any sense? I’ve been on flights where i was not upgraded as a Diamond but I know Gold were .. generally because i booked very last minute and all First seats had already been handed out.
    Sure, if you are not Diamond (or at least Platinum) the value of status is a lot lower .. and it probably does make sense to look at other alternatives. But for Diamond its still a great deal. I just flew business class round trip to Europe and i netted 70k miles. Before i might have gotten 20k miles. So if some of the rewards seats now cost 20-40% more .. i still come out ahead.
    I am not a Delta apologist … I’d much rather fly those Middle Eastern Airlines they so despise. But the name of the game is committing yourself to one airline. And Delta does offer a broad national & international network … and their service isn’t really that different from the next best alternatives. So why switch? Delta knows it, I know it – waddya gonna do?

    • @TH – Sure you earned 70k vs 20k but those $kyRubles are worth, at best, 1/3 of what they were worth a few years ago. You are not coming out ahead – you are at best breaking even for such a very expensive ticket. As to where you are gonna go – stay tuned 😉

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