I know today isn’t a normal posting day, but this news was important enough for me to move up the posting schedule by 24 hours. Delta is making some big changes to SkyMiles.
Really, it was only a matter of time. Once Delta announced it was removing award charts so people wouldn’t know how many miles would be needed to redeem flights, I figured it wouldn’t be long before the program became even more opaque. That day has arrived. Delta says it will no longer tell people how many miles they’ve earned in the SkyMiles program.
This seems incredibly short-sighted. After all, if you don’t know how many miles you have, then how are you supposed to know how much more you need to earn to reach your goal (whatever that may be)? Apparently that’s the point, and there is some method to this madness.
By hiding your mileage balance, Delta is simplifying its business tremendously. While it does have to calculate the number of miles awarded behind-the-scenes, it no longer has to publish the methodology or waste time on programming a system to actually show the miles earned on every flight. Gone are the complex multi-tier partner earning charts and alphabet soup acronyms of MQDs, MQMs, and MQSs. It’s going to make it very easy for the traveler to understand.
Now, when travelers log in to Delta.com, they will be greeted with a simple line showing the level of status they have achieved. The tracker showing how many points have been earned can finally be eliminated, cleaning up the user interface.
For those who are concerned about how many miles are needed to attain the next level of elite status, you can stop worrying about it. Delta will use internal metrics to determine if you should qualify. The benefit here is that Delta can now actively manage the elite program to meet the target number of members. That means it can make sure the experience is good for people at every level. If the internal metrics show too many people are going to qualify, Delta can just change those rules on the fly. Since they aren’t published, it’s a simple fix.
If you’re looking to redeem miles for awards, this now gets much easier as well. You have two options. First, you can go to Delta.com and search. The results will now show only itineraries for which you have enough miles to redeem. If you see no results, it just means there’s nothing available with the number of miles Delta has allocated to you on the back-end. This can change often, so you should keep checking back to see if something becomes available.
Second, you can call Delta. Once you tell them who their partners are, these highly-skilled and well-trained agents be able to tell you which options are available. Again, it’s a binary response since you don’t have to track your miles anymore.
People have been complaining about the ever-increasing complexity of Delta’s loyalty program, so the airline has finally responded. This is much simpler. But the real reason Delta is doing this is because it wants to shift the meaning of a loyalty program. Delta doesn’t want you to try to game the system and alter your behavior just get a reward. It wants to reward you for being blindly loyal without expectation of anything in return.
As I write this, I fear it’s a little too close to reality, so to be clear… Happy April Fools Day to all. Today’s post takes the place of tomorrow’s. I’ll be back again Friday with the Topic of the Week.