A Proud Tradition: SkyMiles Again Named Second Best Frequent Flyer Program. Congratulations, Delta?

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A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 with the registration N808NW takes off from Amsterdam Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands on April 21, 2015. Delta is one of the three major American legacy carriers with its headquarters in Atlanta. (Photo: ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now)

U.S. News & World Report crowned Delta SkyMiles the first runner-up in the Best Airlines Rewards Programs survey — for the third consecutive year.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan took top honors in the seventh annual edition of the publication’s Best Travel Rewards Program awards. On the hotel side, Marriott Bonvoy was named the Best Hotel Rewards Program. Yes. That Bonvoy.

“Understanding and delivering on our SkyMiles members’ wants and needs is key – and that’s our focus as we continue to elevate SkyMiles to be a loyalty program that consistently exceeds member expectations. Over the past several years, Delta has strengthened the SkyMiles Program to make it even more rewarding for customers. This is just another example of Delta putting customers first. Loyalty goes both ways and as a leading consumer brand, we are proud to create value and provide the best experience for our customers.”

— Sandeep Dube, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Customer Engagement and Loyalty, and CEO – Delta Vacations

Is SkyMiles Second-Best or First Loser?

I sometimes feel like the SkyMiles suits have a little too much time on their hands. Or can’t help but tinker endlessly with some things that work — only to break them.

Take, for example, the removal of awards charts. Redemptions costing as high as 1.1 million miles. Ending stopovers.

To be fair, they regularly offer good — at least, I think so — flash sales using SkyMiles. But that assumes availability works with your schedule.

And maybe it’s just my luck but I’ve found it’s darn hard to find good redemptions for award flights one would actually like to take. (Yeah, yeah, #FirstWorldProblems, I know.)

Delta loves touting that SkyMiles “don’t expire” — which isn’t 100% true. Your miles die when you do. Sure, you can transfer them to another account — at a rate of a cent each. And a $30 fee. (With those fees, no wonder Delta is pals with Ticketmaster! 😉 )

SkyMiles — or SkyPennies or SkyRubles or SkyPesos or SkyInsertYourFavoriteSlangTermHere — can be used to pay for a bunch of Delta products and services. You can redeem SkyMiles for premium drinks in Sky Clubs. You can buy upgrades to first class. Delta Amex cardholders can Pay with Miles — and earn MQMs for those flights.

Delta Air Lines first class seats.

And credit where it’s due (in my opinion). Delta rollover MQMs are a great perk (I’m terrified they’ll “enhance” those). The Choice Benefits for Diamonds and Platinums can be very valuable — especially the GUCs for Diamonds.

Like most things, SkyMiles has its good and its bad. Redeeming SkyMiles for award travel (what a novel concept) can be very frustrating — and I think that’s what riles a bunch of us. On the other token, I certainly appreciate some of the program’s other qualities (Choice Benefits, rollovers, etc).

What do you think? Is Delta SkyMiles the second-best airline program (or — if you want to make the argument — first?) Or first loser?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

—Chris

7 comments

  1. @Chris – Just checked for a pal to fly from midwest to Australia in Delta One. Price in SkyPennies…

    A tiny 930,000 RT! < -AAGGGGGGGGGGGGGG (to be fair, with flexible dates, it drops all the way down to 610,000)! 🙁

  2. I am very surprised that anyone who “hides award charts” can qualify for the list. It makes me wonder beyond the obviously better Southwest program how bad are the others? I don’t use every competitor but they must be even worse. It is hard to believe they make the top ten under any circumstances. It is very hard to find reasonable redemption rates and access to seats with Delta.

  3. The Delta Flash sales are useless to me as well as to anyone else who has a normal job. They know this…

  4. I’ve used the flash sales several times and I think they are an awesome value. One example of use was 90k miles round trip to CDG this spring. I’m always excited when I get those flash sale emails. Keep them coming Delta?

    Never burn them for regular flights since the value is awful. I have used a few times for upgrades but not often.

  5. I used a flash sale to go round trip to London in Delta One on the exact dates that I was already planning to go. It was great. The award charts are not hidden, there are no charts any more. It is annoying but they are still the best airline in the USA and so is their program.

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