Yay or nay to Delta program changes?

I would have to say yay… maybe. By now you have probably heard about Delta going to revenue-based award program starting in 2015. Basically, your earned mileage will be tied to the price of the tickets rather than the distance flown.

My award mileage redemptions don’t come from paid tickets. It would take forever for a regular family to collect the amount needed for 4 or more flights. My goal and the whole point of this blog is to find ways to fly as close to free as possible. Notice, I very rarely use the word “free”. The truth is, even if you use miles, there is opportunity cost involved. That is because with most airline programs, you can redeem miles for hotels and car rentals and in the case of Southwest, various gift cards, including Amazon.

If you mostly get award flights through credit card bonuses (and you should!), then latest Delta development is actually good news. Let me explain why. There were many details in the announcement, but let me quote the ones that pertain to my particular situation:

“SkyMiles members will gain even more redemption options with the introduction of up to a five-tier structure to give them a wider variety of Awards and improve overall availability at the lowest price points. The lowest level for SkyMiles Saver Awards will remain at 25,000 miles for an Economy Class Award ticket for travel within the U.S. and Canada excluding Hawaii. All of Delta’s worldwide redemption charts will be updated to reflect the new options in the last quarter of 2014 and will be effective for new Award bookings beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

In addition to offering multiple new redemption levels, the SkyMiles program will also introduce One-Way Award tickets starting as low as 12,500 miles within the U.S. and Canada excluding Hawaii and will offer customers the ability to redeem Miles + Cash to provide more Award booking options for tickets purchased at delta.com or through Delta reservations.”

What does it all mean? First and foremost, there will be one-way awards. My biggest gripe with Delta is the fact that you can only  redeem miles for a roundtrip ticket.  Second, they are saying there will be more availability. I’ll believe that one when I see it, but once again, a positive change. Also, required mileage level within USA (including Alaska) and Canada will not be changing. That means that other airlines will likely keep it at the same level.

Interestingly, they are not copying Southwest Rapid Rewards program in that all the seats will be available with a fixed value assigned to each mile. That’s good and bad. Let me explain. I mentioned before that I love Rapid Rewards because you are guaranteed to be able to use your points, a huge plus for family. However, I love AAdvantage program because of the ability to redeem the economy tickets from Europe to USA for only 36000 miles during off-peak (it’s actually 40000 miles, but you get a 10 percent rebate with AAdvantage Visa).

On top of it, you can add a free one-way from Hawaii or Caribbean to certain flights. If Delta changed their program to resemble Rapid Rewards, I’m afraid AAdvantage would copy it, and those options would go away. They may anyway at some point, but at least not in a short term.

So, should you hoard Delta miles till next year? It depends. If you can find availability at low level (unlikely), by all means redeem. If you need to fly somewhere on short notice and tickets are exorbitantly expensive, once again, use the miles. I’ve mentioned many times that hoarding miles is not advisable. Additionally, in a typical Delta fashion, they didn’t reveal all the details that pertain to the redemption side. That is never a good thing. Delta just might out-delta itself next January.

Bottom line: We don’t know yet how all of this will play out, but my value of a Sky mile may actually go up next year. Or not!

What do you think of Delta changes?

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