Rumored Delta Skymiles changes – What it means

The internet has been rife with speculation regarding an alleged leaked memo from Delta about changes…BIG changes…that are coming to SkyMiles in the next few months. If you want to read all the speculation, feel free to peruse the 117 (and counting) pages of posts on the FlyerTalk thread or the thread.

According to the memo, Delta will be moving to a rebate-like system akin to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, where members earn points based on the amount paid for the ticket. Members can then redeem those points toward flights, but the “cost” in terms of points is not fixed, but rather based on the normal price of the flight.

Who will benefit?

Flyers who do not fly enough miles to earn a free ticket (minimum 25,000) under the current system could benefit from a rebate program, especially if it offers redemption opportunities for cheaper flights. I’ve been on Southwest flights that cost as few as 6,000 points.

Business travelers and others who travel last-minute could benefit. Since last-minute fares are often more expensive, those purchasing last-minute fares will earn more points.

Who will suffer?

The most obvious people who will suffer are the “mileage runners”, who book tickets at a relatively low cost-per-mile in order to accumulate miles relatively cheaply. This will no longer be possible, since the points will be awarded based on the price of the ticket.

People who use miles to book tickets that are “cheap” when purchased with miles, but expensive when purchased with money. Many of the travel bloggers say that the best value for using miles is on international business-class tickets. Personally, I have found that spending 25,000 miles on round-trips between Detroit and Des Moines (flights which can cost $500 – $700, even well in advance) is the best use of miles in my case. Under a rebate-like system, the number of points would be linked to the price of a ticket. This means no more cheap flights home for me, and no more cheap international business class tickets.

What about…?

There are still a lot of outstanding questions: What will be the details of the program? What will happen to elite status? How will current miles be grandfathered (or converted)? Nobody outside of Delta knows the answers to these questions right now. As details emerge, I will update this blog.

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