Delta (again) Brags About Second Place in US News “Best” Travel Rewards Program. Really?

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Yeah – We are #2 – AGAIN!

There is so much spin in the news today that what is real and what is fake can be a real challenge to sift through. The above is one example that just turns my stomach each time I see it on a sticker as I enter a Delta jet or use a Delta napkin in a Sky Club. Today let me help you see the facts from the twisted Delta PR bits.

First off, and importantly when looking at the end results, the methodology that US News uses to say who is “best”. They say:

“The frequent flyer program rankings are based on a scoring algorithm, which computes an Overall Score based on the following components: Ease of Earning Free Round-Trip Flight (45 percent weight), Additional Benefits (25 percent weight), Network Coverage (10 percent weight), Award Flight Availability (10 percent weight), Number of Daily Flights (5 percent weight), Airline Quality Rating (5 percent weight).”

An interesting methodology choice but not necessary one that truly matters to you and me, the end user. Most folks I feel have a rather different list vs. the above and this is borne out by the fact that for YEARS now Delta has not won a user voted on “best” award program that matters like the “Freddie Awards” (looser now 6 years in a row)! My methodology to choose the “best” travel rewards program would be something like:

1) Published award charts (with advanced notice of changes)
2) Ability to find international Level 1 or 2 award tickets (including partner flights)
3) A working and simple award booking page (vs a “trip planning tool“)!
4) Allowing stopovers on awards
5) Elite Upgrades to business class (C+ does not count)
6) Elite perks (and ability to use them – think GU and RU certs)
7) Non-targeted promotions all can register for and enjoy

That, to me, would be a list to really brag about and end users would also scream that YES this is not just a #2 award winning program but THE best one in the air (do keep in mind last year and this year Alaska won the top spot – it is easy to see why as they fill much of my list above).

I also really dislike much of the PR gibberish that the Delta SkyMiles VP pours out like the following:

“Loyalty isn’t just about a benefit or program element – it’s about connecting with customers,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s Vice President – Customer Engagement and Loyalty.

Mr. Dube, if you look at my list above, it is EXACTLY about a benefit and program element. Connecting with us matters very little to me! And there is more as he says:

“… new ways to easily redeem miles on everything from attending once-in-a-lifetime events through SkyMiles Experiences to enjoying a premium drink at Delta Sky Club.”

While SkyMiles Experiences can be unique, for most they are not a good value when spending our hard earned SkyMiles (since you now earn not based on distance like the winner Alaska does) and flushing your miles down the drain in the Sky Club is simply ridiculous. These ways of burning points may benefit the $DAL stock bottom line but not our wallets!

I still collect and burn my SkyMiles but only in ways that benefit me. I search out ONLY Delta SkyMiles “sales” (whatever that means since they hide the award charts that they do use) as well as Level 1 and 2 awards (need help? – reach out to Adam please). As an elite I use the free redeposit rule on almost every trip as I tweak when I want to fly and in what cabin and at what price. I book flights that give me the best shot at an upgrade and use all my tools to get up front most of the time I fly. I only spend on my Delta Amex cards when the return yields real value (think MQMs and bonus SkyMiles) vs. blindly always putting spend on these co-branded cards.

You tell me. Are you impressed with Delta (not) winning “a” US News award two years running? Does the marketing spin Delta pours out bother you as much as it does me? – René




  1. It bugs me that Delta can be ranked so highly as an airline travel rewards program when SkyMiles cannot be used to book international first class awards.

    The only way to get to try a first-class seat on a wide-body aircraft using SkyMiles is in the rare situation in which those aircraft are flown by a SkyTeam partner on a flight entirely within one country. In that situation, a business-class award books into the highest class of service on the flight. FYI

  2. Delta’s use of “alternate facts'” is sad to see. What a marketing spin this is for them. If they are number two why are more of us moving to other airline programs. I have gone from 90/10 Delta and Southwest to 60/40 this past year. Too many downgrades on their programs, offers etc. Finally a hidden rewards chart should remove you from any awards program at all. It is so easy and fair to redeem on Southwest vs Delta.

  3. Does anyone actually think that a frequent flyer program is for the consumer?

    Even when they offered all the “generous” perks they once did, it was still a business transaction primarily benefiting Delta.

    Otherwise, they would not continue to offer the SkyPesos program.

  4. well put together, your list is exactly what we liked. It’s a joke they kept blowing their own horn – only the non-informed can fall for it.

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