This past Friday USA Today had a post about Delta and it was titled “Eight Reasons to Collect Delta SkyMiles“. I think it would be fun to break down how close to right or wrong they get as this was really targeted at everyday flyers as well as elites.
Let me first off say, to me, the true value to SkyMiles only kicks in when you are Platinum or higher. The ability to change tickets all you want when you want for anyone you want that you have booked from your SkyMiles account is without a doubt the most valuable perk in the program. Period. If you are not that high up an elite then you have to work the “Mighty Schedule Change Rule” to try to get the same flexibility out of the program (I did this for years btw).
But now let’s look at what USA Today said and if I (we) agree with them:
1. Delta doesn’t charge last-minute booking fees.
This is true but the real value of an award ticket is booking ONLY LEVEL 1 or 2 awards and as far out as we can (See E7 posts). Yes, sometimes, you can get lower awards last minute but most times they are stupidly high and booking far out is a better way not to overpay with your SkyMiles. I find this is not the number one reason to collect SkyMiles.
2. SkyMiles never expire.
True, but only sorta true. They only expire when you die. In the past, Delta did have the BEST in the industry program to, for free, transfer your lifetime collected points. Now they have the WORST in the air as you have to basically lie and not tell Delta your loved one has died so you can burn up their points that “never expire”.
3. You can earn elite status without ever flying.
Very true. Other airlines block you from spending your way to top status. With $60,000 in spend on a Delta personal and Delta business AMEX Reserve cards you can collect a total of 60,000 bonus MQMs. That means you “only” have to fly 65,000 miles to be top Delta Diamond for the current year and the next (you earn the next year’s status but ride free the current year).
4. Elite status is even easier to earn next year.
True, but only “if” you meet all the requirements. Delta is the ONLY airline that lets you keep your elite points by rolling them over year by year as long as you either are MQD exempt from spending $25,000 on one or a combination of Delta personal and business AMEX cards or you spend at least $3,000 in MQD money with Delta (taxes and such don’t count). But like so many main-stream press folks they “FAIL” in saying you earn more elite points the higher up you go ie “And once you have status, you also earn more miles per dollar spent on a flight (5 miles per dollar with no status, 7 with silver, 8 with gold, etc.), further helping retain your status.” No, you don’t. Your status helps you earn more SkyMiles but has nothing to do with elite points or MQMs to retain your status. How far you fly matters plus your class of service matters as a bonus. I wish folks would understand this!
5. Delta has acquired new and improved partners outside of SkyTeam.
True-ish (again). Yes, it is true that one of the best ways to find LEVEL 1 awards is by using partners like Virgin American. However, what is equally true is most partners are so stingy that finding space on them is all but impossible. BTW unless LEVEL 1 award space is found you cannot fly. USA uses coach as an example but really business class is where the real value is. That can be harder to find.
6. SkyTeam is getting better.
True, but only slowly better. For example, the fact that Diamonds can now use GU certs on KLM cheap fares is amazing. I will not call this one 100% true until much bigger strides are made to really make award space better.
7. Other loyalty programs are getting worse.
Oh come on! Really? Others stink so Delta is better? Because others are doing a photo copy of Delta but then making other changes on top of them to make them worse than Delta then this is a reason to collect SkyMiles? Uh no! It would be a reason to collect other points that are much more flexible and I will get to that in a bit. Call this one a total #FAIL and not true.
8. Delta’s tiered award system means more affordable flights.
Sigh. Did you try to come up with 10 good reasons and once you got to 5 on your list you started to grab at straws? USA Today keeps mentioning tiers. You mean award charts. That Delta DOES use but hides. That is a good thing? Yes, the hidden charts can be better than other airlines but if people don’t know what prices should be and could be it really is hard to compare value.
OK, so that is their reasoning and what we think about the suggestions about collecting SkyMiles. Now let’s do this right and look at what they should have posted.
Collecting SkyMiles is not smart. Sure take them when you can but it is MUCH smarter to collect other points like AMEX Membership Rewards points that can instantly be sent to Delta, should you want to, or to other airlines in SkyTeam like KLM Flying Blue that may not open up award space to Delta SkyMiles members but will to Flying Blue. Another good one (for now) are SPG points as you can again send them (with a bonus at 20k) to Delta or use them in other ways.
But let’s say you do want to collect a large pile of SkyMiles. Here is why I still see value in them when you can get them:
1) PWM or Pay With Miles.
This earns you coveted elite points when you buy a ticket in full or in part. If you buy 1st class with PWM you get bonus MQMs. I love this. Hands down a great perk.
2) As already mentioned ability to change awards all you want as a Platinum or Diamond.
If the price for a ticket drops from LEVEL 2 to LEVEL 1 that you booked you change for free. See another route you like better at a lower price, change for free. I could do this all day long but it is either the number 1 or 2 perk on any list.
3) Where you can go.
While it can be sometimes really hard to find partner space, Delta and it’s partners do cover so many places others do not. Sure you sometimes have to fly crazy routes but also as mentioned the business class product on Delta and it’s partners is most times really solid and competitive. No 1st class but very good business class offerings you can enjoy on SkyMiles.
4) Book for anyone you want.
This kinda ties in with number two if you are a top elite but either way you can book for anyone you want on earth. Your parents, your siblings or a friend – user your points for anyone and again if you are PM or DM you can, up to 72 hours before flight, make as many changes as you want to.
5) They can be so simple to get.
No, not from flying silly! Delta, when things go wrong, will hand out SkyMiles like candy. If your IFE is broken, the FA can give you points. If your luggage is late by 20 minutes or more, you get points. We could really do this all day long, but Delta is generous in giving out points. Then the other ways as mentioned with transfer partners makes them instantly at hand when needed. Lastly we have dining and shopping partners that can really stack up the points and even more so when paying with a Delta AMEX card.
6) One-way bookings.
Yeah I know other airlines offer this too but this is a reasonably new thing for Delta and it is a way to get real value from the points you have collected. Can’t find LEVEL 1 or 2 both ways on a trip? OK book one-way with Delta and the other way with another airline.
7) If Gold Medallion or higher you can upgrade on awards (domestic).
You may think this is reaching a bit and I am struggling to come up with 8 good reasons on my own as well but I stand by this one. If you really work what days you fly and what routes you fly and are willing to split records and do what it takes to get an upgrade (even on an award think #TeamBoardLast) you can get a decent amount of these each year. I think it is list worthy.
So there is my list of 7 good reasons why I think “collecting” SkyMiles is a good idea (plus agreeing with some of the USA Today list as well). Again, not at the expense of other programs that are MUCH better and more flexible but when you have points coming your way these are the reasons they are good to have and hold.
What do you think of USA Today’s list as well as my list? Agree or no? – René