Yesterday I posted the obvious, that is, the demise of SkyMiles. Honestly this is nothing new but the change in redemption value for non-Delta AMEX business Platinum card holders was the final “nail in the coffin” if you will. Ever since Delta went to revenue based rewards SkyMiles has been on a ventilator gasping for air. In many ways since EOS or Evolution of SkyMiles was started (some call it the End of SkyMiles) the program has been a version of the Monty Python skit about the “Ex-Parrot”. In fact, every time you hear “Norwegian Blue” in the clip replace it with the word “SkyMiles” below and you will see what I mean.
Medallion status has nothing to do with SkyMiles.
Is that clear enough? When Delta, years ago, announced the change to SkyMiles I posted (in 2014) that nothing will change when it comes to earning elite status points or as Delta calls them MQMs. And yet now, years later, whenever you read anything about elite status in the press they state it is revenue based. No, it is not. It is the same as it has been for years and years and years. It is based on DISTANCE flown and fare class. Period. So the death of SkyMiles has no impact here.
This is why many are perplexed with the fact that folks in this day and age still take mileage runs. They are confused because of what we just read above but it is also why I always call mileage runs ELITE mileage runs because that is what they are about – earning or maintaining your elite status. How many SkyMiles one earns when taking a mileage run is irrelevant (most times). Sure there are some unique exceptions, but most times the pittance of SkyMiles you earn on a run does not even enter into the equation of value, that is, the cost to amass the elite MQMs for your status. Again, the demise of SkyMiles has no impact.
Next we have Delta co-branded credit cards. I stated that earning SkyMiles via spend on these cards is not a wise choice. Really that has been the case for quite some time now as Delta has kept increasing the cost for awards with no notice whatsoever to book at the lower levels. But that is in regards to award travel and earning SkyMiles. This has nothing to do with elite status. Delta, if you want to maintain your status, requests two things. Either some MQD or Medallion Qualifying Dollars or NET spend levels with the company (ticket price minus taxes etc.) as well as a minimum number of MQMs or Medallion Qualifying Miles. These “miles” are the distance you fly or earn from other means. You can kill two birds with one stone if you have either the Platinum or Reserve card (personal or business) from Delta. The reason being if you can spend at least $25,000 on any of these you are exempt from the spend requirement for status for one year. If you can spend that much on the Platinum card you also get bonus MQMs that count the same as flying ($30,000 on the Reserve card). The point is, if you care about elite status the death of SkyMiles has no real impact on these two requirements for status.
Now the only side point with the card spend issue is with SkyMiles going lower in value you do have less positive side rewards from choosing to drive the spend to your Delta branded card vs putting this substantial spend on some other card that could reward you more for travel. But again, that is NOT the focus when you are talking about elite status and elite status points and qualifications.
Could all this change one day? Has it already?
The question now becomes is the Medallion program “infected” with the same terminal illness that SkyMiles died from. Has the selling of upgrades become so widespread that the value of keeping status no longer is worth it and we might as well begin planning for our final farewells for the Medallion program as well? Not yet, in my opinion. Here is why.
We hope we are now only days or weeks away from a massive positive change to the Medallion program, that is, allowing your +1 (on the same itinerary) to upgrade at your elite status. This is clearly a HUGE improvement to the program and shows some good things are happening.
The program itself still has huge rewards that make it worth going for from complimentary upgrades that can be had if you are willing to work for them. Choice Benefits for Diamond and Platinum’s as well as FREE Sky Club individual membership for Diamonds. So many waived fees and outstanding customer service for all elite levels. Real Skyteam perks for those who are Gold Medallion or higher. Then there are free or discounted security perks like CLEAR and early boarding and so much more. And when it comes to SkyMiles, almost total flexibility to change as you want award tickets when you are a Platinum or Diamond medallion.
The latter is why as long as I have any kind of a stash of SkyMiles I will want to be at least Platinum or higher. This way I can book what I want and have time to tinker. To maybe look at buying a ticket and using a Global Upgrade certificate instead of the award. Or, maybe going with another airlines points and simply re-depositing my SkyMiles. Using the continuously devaluing SkyMiles at a high level is a major reason to value elite status (for me).
So we will mourn SkyMiles. We will fondly think of a program that was once valuable and worth collecting points maybe for a lifetime. No more. Collect them when they are free from Delta. Enjoy them as a byproduct of your elite card spending. Take them for service issues when Delta gives them to you as an “I’m Sorry” gesture. That is, enjoy them and spend them carefully and wisely whenever they are not in any way impacting your ability to earn other much more valuable points than clearly SkyMiles have become. – René
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