Why Delta SkyMiles is Lagging as a Loyalty Program for Non-Elites

American, Delta, Frequent Flier Programs, United

Many of our Cranky Concierge clients come to us looking for help using frequent flier miles. Though we don’t provide nearly the comprehensive service that Gary Leff provides on that front, we can certainly help and have had great success. One thing I’ve found consistently, however, is that Delta SkyMiles are really not easy to burn and when you do, they end up costing a lot more than on other airlines in terms of miles and dollars. As a loyalty program, SkyMiles Trade SkyMiles for Anythingis hard for me to love as a non-elite. Here’s why.

Mileage Amounts
Delta likes to say that the three-tiered low, medium, and high levels for redemption offer “more flexibility and options.” While that may be true, it actually just means you use more miles for more tickets. Most airlines have a flat structure of 25,000 miles roundtrip domestically for saver awards and 50,000 for standard awards. Delta now has tiers of 25,000; 40,000; and 60,000.

What it looks like from my perspective is that they’ve moved a ton of their inventory into the middle bucket, so you’ll have a very hard time finding the cheap redemptions when compared to other frequent flier programs. You may have more opportunities to pay 40,000 miles instead of 50,000 on other airlines, but on the low end, I’ve had a lot more trouble finding availability.

I’ve worked recently with clients going to Ohio that couldn’t find cheap seats despite other airlines having availability. Another client was traveling on off peak days from Boise to San Francisco and couldn’t find a cheap seat despite ample availability on United. Another client was looking to head over to Tokyo and there was nothing to be found for days, yet other airlines had room to spare.

Could Delta simply be more full? Sure, but it seems to be fairly consistent when I look for different clients.

Both United and American now offer one way awards, but Delta still requires you to use a full roundtrip amount in order to redeem. If availability wasn’t so tight, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but it is so it makes it even harder to use your miles. In addition, United’s new miles plus points option offers the flexibility that Delta only gives to holders of its American Express cards. That’s not helpful for the rest of us.

And what if you need to make a change? Delta charges you $100 to make any change to an award ticket. American and United will both allow you to change dates without a fee as long as the cities don’t change.

Extra International Fees
This is a particularly disturbing fee that someone recently brought to my attention. If you’re trying to come in to the US from outside, then you’re going to have a fee for not being an American. They call it an “International Originating Surcharge” and the fee varies. The one that was brought to my attention was on a trip from Amsterdam to San Francisco. Delta actually had low level availability for 60,000 miles, but there is a whopping $309 in fees on top. United was only charging $65 in taxes and fees for the same trip.

As you can see, Delta has made it harder to love their program for the non-elite flier. Elites have a whole different set of issues, but most of us aren’t elite. Most of us just want to use our miles and not have to pay a lot of money to do it. That’s proven to be more difficult with Delta in my recent experience.

[Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73416633@N00/ / CC BY 2.0]

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95 comments on “Why Delta SkyMiles is Lagging as a Loyalty Program for Non-Elites

  1. I’m a Diamond level Elite with Delta and the availability is horrible for me too at the bottom booking level. This is further compounded by the fact that Skyteam doesn’t have a convenient means to search for flights on its partners (alhthough if you have AirFrance points they have an ok search enginge). I can almost always find flights when booking with Star Alliance or One World.

    1. DELTA JUST SUCK, Try to book a International business or first class using your miles, GOOD LUCK, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, NEVER, You will not have Problem with other airline rewards, There’re more, If You are AMEX card holders, Trying to use the Companion ticket?, GOOD LUCK on that also, I tried to redeem the companion ticket 3 months out, 8 months out , NO LUCK, DELTA JUST SUCK. The reason to use the AMEX because they have 5% discount with Fedex (I ship a lot)

  2. I think the appeal of Delta is in that they are better at upgrading their elites than any other airline (domestically…worse internationally).

    1. Maybe at lower elite levels, but AA EXP folks seem like they do just as well as DL’s top-tier elites at domestic upgrades, plus their system-wide upgrades can be used on any fare, unlike DL’s, where upgradable international fares end up costing nearly as much as just buying a business class seat in the first place.

  3. It has been obvious to me for a long time that DELTA needs to wake up and smell the coffee. They have a lousy FF program and still try to fleece members. That program is in trouble.

  4. Cranky,

    Delta kept giving out this marketing junk about being “best in class” or taking the best practices from both carriers before and during the merger. It’s turned out to be a load of crap.

    As a former Northwest elite (two years as a silver, two years as a plat), Delta now gets evaluated just like any other carrier when I book a trip. My credit card spend goes to my Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx card, and my flights, well… the carrier with the best price/schedule combination gets my business.

    1. I totally agree with Dan. Wise consumers vote with their $. If enough FF do this Delta will wake up if they intend to have a serious and viable FF program. Bottom line to Delta: ACTION TALKS, BS WALKS!

    2. Count me in as a former NW frequent flyer that has switched 100% of my business flying to AA ~ although not all of that was due to awards program changes with the merger. Today I only fly Delta when schedule absolutely requires. That being said, I recently booked a R/T at only 25,000 miles and fees. That cleans out my balance to where I have almost zero ties to the “new” Delta.


  6. Cranky – very useful post. I am Diamond Elite as well and was able to use upgrade certificates for my son, flying with me, to be upgraded from coach to biz on a complex set of flights from Bremen, Germany via Amsterdam to JFK, and returning from Newark via Amsterdam to Leeds/Bradford. The Diamond helpdesk could not have been more friendly and helpful.

    Having said that, I, too, have noticed the “inflation” of miles needed as well as limits to availability. In your post, you mention …”Elites have a whole different set of issues…”. It would be great if you could perhaps do a follow-up post on that. I think most of your readers are not novices, and will have at least some level in a few programs so would be interested in your POV.

    I am Diamond on Delta, Lifetime Platinum Elite on Flying Blue and a new Platinum on AA (and have so far preferred Delta and it’s Skyteam partners for offering a better product in in the air).

    Having already secured my next Diamond year, I am wondering if it pays to start racking the miles up on AA. I do actively use my miles and vouchers for leisure travel.


    1. Maarten, I think it would be foolish not using AA more often. In my opinion they have the best customer friendly FF program out there. Use Delta only as a last resort. Perhaps – someday – they will improve their FF program, but until then, be a wise consumer………….

      1. …but Delta’s on-board service, especially Business Elite, is so much better then AA. On AA International no flat beds, no “regular” plug access for electricity, on many flights not even “semi-flat” seats…

        As far as the miles are concerned, I understand from comments here that AA have a product with easier access (I have never redeemed on AA to date). They fly to Manchester, UK non-stop from JFK (Manchester or Leeds are a very frequent destination for me as my son lives in Leeds).

        However, when I checked for end of June reward tickets on AA they came out to 120,000 miles, the same as on Delta. Problem is, Delta have just discontinued their daily flight from JFK to MAN. They now only service MAN from ATL.

        1. I have two comments for you:
          1) What good is what you think is better service on Delta if you cannot use your FF miles? Delta availability has long been a mirage.

          2) Connecting in Atlanta can be a nightmare in winter/summer storms. One can easily miss a connection using Atlanta. If your delayed on Delta in Atlanta be prepare to be trated like something you stepped on outside by Delta personnel. They are merciless. Probably because it happens sooo often. My advice is stay away from Atlanta if you can.

          AA or a partner to AA is your best bet flying international. Availability is better then most if you can plan ahead.

          1. I lived in Atlanta for 3.5 years and so am well aware of the storm delays (moved from ATL to CT last October). Winter storms are a new phenomenon to Atlanta, but are now “real” as well. Snow in the big ATL… who would have thunk it…

            The issue with my Delta miles is I CAN use them. And from my sample size = 1 test, Delta and AA charge the same number of miles for the same trip (JFK – MAN). So… benefit?

            I have not had many bad experiences flying Delta (but don’t get me started on BA). They have mostly been friendly and accomodating (status may have something to do with that). I am not going to beat them up if snow, ice or thunder is causing delays. Twenty+ years of international travel has perhaps mellowed me…

        2. You are truly blessed if you have been fortunate to obtain FF seating when you want to fly. However, I believe you are in the minority. After years of being a Delta FF program member I finally gave up. It was almost totally useless and EXTREMELY time consuming finding a seat any where near the time I wanted to fly. AND, and am talking about several months out – sometimes a year! Miles were almost worthless.

          I understand that you now say that Delta service to Man from JFK has ended. If so, using Delta on a direct flt is a moot point.

          I have flown international for almost 50 years and miss TWA very much. AA is good, but I try and fly over the water on a foreign carrier as some (not all) still give you those “extra” free perks that make long flights more enjoyable/tolerable. American carriers tend to charge you for just about everything under the sun.

      2. Maarten – AA now has flat beds on most international biz class flights, though the power outlets are still a problem. The big advantage to AA, in my experience, is that as long as you’re booking an award on AA itself, you usually get pretty good availability even at the Saver level. I’ve even been able to score the El Cheapo tier on the ORD-DEL run, which is a popular route these days. And they treat their elites pretty well when it comes to upgrades. I usually get my domestic ones about 2/3 of the time, and my international requests have always cleared, though I’ve had to waitlist a couple of times.

        The big negative – you can’t do a partner award search online, and partner award availability in general is pretty putrid. I’ve only been able to get an award seat on a partner airline once, and that for a domestic trip within Australia.

    2. I absolutely understand your situation, Maarten. I’m one of those rare people who considers himself miles agnostic. I have only earned elite status on my own once, and it provided me with two upgrades between LA and both Phoenix and Vegas. Big deal. So I go with the better product and that’s it. Yes, I earn miles when I fly, but I don’t care who I earn them with.

      When it comes to Delta elite, I’ll look at doing more research on a more detailed post, but that link in the post above has a lot of complaints. Of course, FlyerTalk.com is a huge resource as well.

  7. I’ve noticed this recently too: I still have 60K or so leftover NWA miles on Delta, and Silver status, thanks to a ton of flying I did on in 2008 and early 2009. I never found finding redemptions on NWA all that difficult, but with Delta it’s noticeably harder. I’d love to use those miles to fly my girlfriend and I to one of our regular destinations, but end up *buying* tickets on Frontier or United instead because availability is non-existent, or only available at the mid- and high-tier levels, even months ahead of time — We’re planning a trip to Canada right now for August and Delta shows no frequent flyer availability at any miles level, while United is more than happy to give me free seats.

    I wish United would partner with Points.com; I’d swap my Delta miles for UA miles in a heartbeat!

  8. I don’t get the thing about the 3 tiers offering “more flexibility and options”: it’s not like the higher-priced awards are in any way better than the lower priced ones. This would be an interesting thing to try — say, offer a nonrefundable cheap award and flexible expensive award, and see if people burn more miles on the expensive awards; I don’t know of any airline that has done this. As it now stands, there’s never a reason to book an expensive award when a cheap one is available, so the 3 tiers mean more flexibility and options for the airline rather than the customer.

    One annoying thing with Delta is that they no longer publish a worldwide award chart (perhaps they never published one, but Northwest certainly did). And unlike the other alliances, SkyTeam doesn’t have a comprehensive award chart, but just sends you back to the individual airlines. So there’s no way to find out how much, say, an award between Eurpoe and South America would cost.

    The award search tool is also lacking. For example, a search for CDG–GRU (Paris–São Paulo) only shows results on Delta via the United States, despote the existence of direct flights on Air France. The tool does show direct Paris–London flights, so the capability for searching partner awards is there, they just appear to be omitted when Delta thinks they can offer something on their own metal. Once again, the Northwest search tool was much better.

    1. The lack of worldwide award chart bugs me a lot as well. I’ve had to call Delta more often than any other airline just because I have simple questions related to clients. It’s very frustrating. And yes, there isn’t a great award travel search either.

    1. ALASKA has a very good FF program. It is also connected to many other good airlines which makes it very efficient and easy to use your hard earned miles. Good consumer choice.

    1. PT Barnum had a saying about people like that (Delta): “There’s a fool born everyday!”. Sooner or later bad business practices catch up with companies like Delta. Sometimes they learn too late. Remember – VOTE WITH YOUR MONEY (business).

  9. DL may or may not be the worst in this matter.

    We all have a “can you top this” experience when it comes to redeeming FF miles. But surely, when any industry spends as much time as the airline industry does talking about “inventory” and “buckets,” whether in relation to fares or FF seats, nothing much follows other than “complexity” and “obfuscation” and the dear customer getting screwed!

    Industry…luv you, but…!

  10. I agree that Delta is very difficult to book a FF ticket on. I am trying to book a flight to Europe and have miles with both Delta and US Air. I can get a ticket on US Air for significantly less mileage than on Delta. I can actually get a First Class ticket on US Air for less than a regular ticket on Delta. I am not crazy about US Air but since I live in one of their major hubs I don’t usually have that many choices.

    1. I am not very enthusiastic about US (aka Useless) Air myself. However, if they fit the need, or you get more “Bang for the Buck” that is a no brainer. I’d bite the bullet and patronize US Air and their partner airlines. You would be way ahead of the game.

      1. I ended up booking on USAir. Business class to Europe and Coach on the way back. 75K miles for a ticket booked 3 weeks in advance. Delta would have been 200K for the same ticket.

  11. I have to agree with Cranky. Im not a major flyer at all I usually fly 3-4 times a year. Being out of Milwaukee we used Northwest Airlines the most since at one point they had a mojor presence in the Milwaukee Area. We redeemed miles before on Northwest for flights to Sarasota and Las Vegas, no problems always the lowest possible mileage fare. My wife and I would do what ever we could to get Northwest Worldperk miles. We signed up at US Bank, use the Worldperks Mall and other promotions. We did this so we could use our miles for a free trip to Hawaii. I had enough but was waiting for my wife to get up there. Once they merged accounts they raised the minimum form 35,000 to 40,000. Then booking well in advance about 10 months there was nothing out of Milwaukee or Chicago in the low range. The closest was in the middle range with multiple connections with Alaska Airlines. So after digging I found an available low mileage plan leaving out of Madison with a stop Minneapolis. It took a while to find and almost had me say screw it because it was so fustrating trying to play with dates and airports!!!

  12. Re Extra International Fees – for non-US Skymiles redemption it’s even worse. Delta doesn’t even publicly publish an award chart for flying between non-North American regions (!!). They won’t even TELL YOU how many points to anticipate spending.

  13. Playing with DL award tickets search engine, there is basically never any lower tier ticket available several months in advance. However there is generally a good availability for departures within a few days or weeks. Of course for non plat members (i am only GM), ticketing fees kick in, up to 150$/ticket. Sigh.

  14. I had a decently positive experience with DL booking with miles. I “bought” a trip for my sister BOS-DEN-MSP-BOS for 32.5k. Availability wasn’t great, but I was looking the week before xmas for the DEN-MSP and MSP-BOS legs. She didn’t get on the best schedules, but overall she did fine. Now, their website does stink, and with NW you used to be able to buy half a ticket and pay for the other half, but I can’t say I’ve had a really bad experience. Yet.

  15. AA has angled lie flat beds, not to be confused with the fully flat beds that United, Continental, and Delta are installing.

  16. I’m fairly new to the SkyMiles program (since 2007) but managed to make Silver last year and Gold this year. Unlike so many others, I’ve had good luck getting reward flights when I want them, but I’m starting to think my luck is running out. I managed to get low-price biz flights for a trip in September by booking 330 days in advance. Now it looks like I’ll have to cancel that trip, and I can’t find an alternative this year for less than 100% more miles than I paid in October—plus the $100 change fee. And yes, SkyTeam partners are curiously missing on some reward routes. Try flying JFK-AMS and see all the creative one-stop alternatives to the three daily SkyTeam direct flights that come up. Layover in Copenhagen or Manchester? Really, Delta? On the other hand, it’s now possible to redeem SkyMiles for hotel stays, car rentals, and merchandise, which is a great way to lower the overall cost of a trip.

  17. Skymiles has become such a bad program that it’s obvious to just about everyone. Look at the various Flyertalker threads: the condemnation is virtually unanimous and this knowledge will spread to more casual flyers (who won’t be successful in redeeming their ff mileage).

    It’s a pity because Delta “the airline” is above average, especially for an American carrier. But who wants to fly an airline that seems determined to “cheat” their frequent flyers? Not me. I’ll happily fly Star and Oneworld airlines where I can earn miles that I can actually redeem at standard reward levels.

  18. I haven’t had the same issues in finding good award availability lately. My problem with finding award availability is that most of the time that I look, the pricing of the seats that are available are a much better value for money than using miles, even if the round trip costs just 25,000 miles.

    I think a lot of the problem with mile devaluation doesn’t have nearly as much to do with award inflation as it does with price deflation. By and large, flights cost the same or less than it did 10 or 20 years ago. It makes using miles in general less valuable.

    However, I do think Delta has a couple things going for it that make the airline my primary airline. 1. I think the service is fantastic. By and large, I have never had a poor in flight service from flight attendant staff. 2. In lieu of full awards, they do offer a pay by miles program for Delta AMEX card holders. In many cases, you can get a round trip ticket for fewer miles than using the standard award calendar by using this feature.

    Although SkyMiles has its problems, I think by and large, its one of the better programs out there, both in earning potential and through the product that comes with it.

    1. Your must have been born under a “Lucky Star” as your comments are soo positive it almost sounds like a commercial.

      I wish I could agree with you. However my experiences over the years, working with their FF program, have left me with a totally opposite opinion. It sounds as if we are speaking about two different airlines.

      Yes, in the air service is nice, whereas on ground service can be rude and brutal at times. I occasionally find a good fare on Delta, but that is not the rule. We never count on actually using FF miles for a trip. As has been stated above, it is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE most of the time.

      I too have made comments and complained to DELTA about the FF program over the years. Did they listen? NO. Have I used them less to fly? HELL YES!!


      1. I think I’m just realistic with my expectations. I like the airline’s service. I like the atmosphere on board, and I think that the service is very good for a US carrier, and I think they have excellent alliance partners for European travel. Is Award availabilty always there? No, but it rarely is for any airline.

        I don’t earn elite status, but I do take about 15 segments a year by flight. Last year, that was 90% Delta, and I expect it to stay the same in 2010.

  19. As a mid-teir elite, I’ve had very few problems finding award seats using my Delta miles. I found 2 business class seats to SE Asia for the summer coming back over Labor Day weekend almost exactly on the dates that I wanted. I just called up, was flexible, and had done some research on potential award flights and was able to make it work. Admittedly, I was helped because there was no fee for booking by phone since I’m a Gold Medallion.

    All that said, I do find the online booking system terrible and have commented to Delta multiple times how they need to make it better.

    1. Not sure how you pulled that off. I’m a Delta plat and was looking for tickets to China this summer. I was on the phone for nearly an hour looking at every possible option (weird connections, partners, etc.). Nothing at standard levels.
      I then used my CO miles on Star with no problem whatsoever. I had plenty of choices, including the fastest routing.

  20. Cranky you’re wrong! It’s not just non-elites. I’m a Diamond level Elite with Delta and the availability is horrible for me too at the bottom booking level. This is further compounded by the fact that their search engine sucks. When I was a NW customer we had a great search engine, pay with part cash/part miles, even ability to search for multi-segment partner awards online. Delta has none of that. Surely there are not THAT many fools to put up with this? Sales must be down?

    1. Lets hope you are correct and they get the message. When sales go down any airline will get more customer friendly. MONEY TALKS, BS WALKS!


    2. Nealio: Delta as a business actually did not too bad, relatively speaking. Yes, sales are down over 2009 but that is clearly an industry issue given the global recession. So people are “voting” positively for Delta… http://news.delta.com/index.php?s=43&item=872

      As far as buying miles, you can do that, and Delta even gives you a 50% bonus. So if you have only half, a third or almost all miles you need for your ticket you can buy the remainder and at the moment would have to buy only half of what you need: http://dn.delta.com/skymiles/purchasemiles/buy/landing?region=us&lang=en

      PS I do not work for Delta, or even the airline industry, but I am a heavy user and a bit of a geek (like Cranky…).

  21. Without going into the sorry details Delta screwed me royally and lost me forever. That is not an empty threat. I would take a bus domestically, a freighter internationally if the only air available was Delta.

    I suspect that all FF programs are doomed, but Delta has made a serious mistake in trying to ameliorate losses from their program.

    I am still a Continental customer, but don’t really bother with FF programs anymore. The last 2 long flights I have taken were with low cost fares on Singapore, and in exchange for the low cost, they did not allow any FF mileage. Fair and decent offer I can’t refuse.

    1. James, in my opinion the AA FF program is alive and well. I believe it is the best out there, at this time. Reasonable availibility and in Asia one of their partners is JAL.

      That said, if you can get a smoking good price on an airline that gives good service – GO FOR IT! Great to see someone checking all options and doing well.

  22. The change in Delta’s SkyMiles program really socks it to those of us living in underpopulated areas. In my hometown, we only have two flights in and two flights out each day – all on a Delta connection puddle jumper to and from Salt Lake. Our tickets cost more than tickets out of larger cities so we pay more per SkyMile earned. Then when we try to use those SkyMiles, because the miles we have to spend to get an award ticket is now based on the cost of the ticket, we pay more miles. Double whammy! From my home to Porland, OR costs $465. NYC to Portland, OR is only $400. Go figure!

  23. If you think Delta’s program is bad, Frontier’s is even worse. The website actually tells you that you’ll have a better chance of finding an available seat if you fly from the given list of cities. I never fly to or from any of the cities on their list and my ticket is expiring soon.

  24. Cranky,

    A very good post. I think this issue needs more coverage. I like Delta the airline just fine, but Sky Miles leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to award availability.

  25. Delta Skymiles is the worst program in the industry. I could never get any seats using my miles I have accumulated miles over 10 years with AMEX Delta Skymiles with annual membership ($95). I could never find anyseat with Skymiles Award program. What a waste and rip off !

  26. Part of this problem was inherited from NWA, as they offered annual promos of 10,000 bonus miles for non-flight activities back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Half of my WorldPerks account was earned this way plus their “secret” JCB Card. Delta got in bed with Amex back in the 90s and gave 2x miles on everyday spending categories like gas stations, groceries, post office, home improvement stores, etc. How many kitchen remodels turned into Delta airline tickets? AFAIK, to this day, no other airline credit card gave away 2X miles on non-airline purchases. Fast forward to today, your bloated Delta account is merged with a NWA bloated account and 40K is the new 25K. At least NWA’s 25K domestic award required a Saturday night stay, keeping the business travelers away from these awards.

  27. I was with NWA for many year and yes it was tough to find a weekend where you could use their miles at 25,000 but they always had options avaiable. I have yet to find a Skymiles flight at 25,000 that leaves Friday returning Sunday…I guess they have us figured out – we like to travel weekends! But I’ve found a new airline AA! They are looking into purchasing United to compete with the Delta giant! Hopefully they don’t drop off like Delta. Oh, and a restaurant at ORD wouldn’t accept vouchers from Delta b/c they said they’re horrible about paying for them…just amazes me.

  28. Delta is horrible Airlines in compare to others. I made a mistake to have American Express to collect those sky miles.At the same time I have continental Airlines miles. Let me compare.
    Flight from Little Rock, AR to Mumbai ( BOMBAY) India Continental Airlines 80,000 Miles Round Trip.
    Flight from Little Rock, AR to Mumbai ( BOMBAY) India Delta Airlines 180,000 to 200,000 miles with layover of 23 hours somewhere.
    What a great bargain from Delta to their Loyal customers?

    1. I agree with you. I have both. Delta now requires so many thousands of miles for any ticket, it it not worth trying to use miles. Continental mileage requirements are very low compared to Delta. One ff ticket on Delta can actually wipeout hundreds of thousands of miles in your account.Delta is losing many loyal customers because of their ridiculous ff program.

  29. Delta Skymiles suck. I was platinum elite on NW and I used to be able to fly to Asia business class using 120,000 points and around $3,000, PLUS I would get mileage credit for the flights (around 60,000 points would go back into my account). Now with Delta that is all gone. What a rip off this company is.

  30. Let me tell you folks if you think that delta Platinum Elite isn’t what it used to be you should see what they have done to Silver Elite. No more priority security line, no more priority bagage handling, no more entering the plane with zone 1 now now you wait for zone 2, and on my last flight there were 1st class seats available and I was not even offered one. So you see Delta Silver Elite is the new plug-nickel elite, I can’t wait to see how they demonish it next. Up to this year I was quite pleased with Delta silver and with Nothwest silver before the merger. I don’t fly on business so I have to be completely loyal to 1 airline to be able to qualify for even Silver Elite but I think perhaps Delta has decided they chase the lower elite away and to do so they have created the new Diamond elite to take the place of platinum, platinum in name is now the old gold in status, the gold is now the silver in status and would Silver elite just please go away and leave them alone in status. I am willing to comply and I am now serching for an airline which might appreciate my loyalty a little more.

  31. I live in the Cincinnati region (a Delta hub) and fly out of that airport regularly. I completely agree that the SkyMiles program has gone completely down the toilet. I used all my reward miles with that program and have switched to the Star Alliance. I try my hardest to avoid Delta in any way possible, even if it is $20-$30 cheaper and if I must fly Delta, I have my miles credited to the Alaska Airlines program. They did not carry over any of the NWA WorldPerks best features. Thanks, Delta!

  32. Trying to redeem Delta Skymiles for what they are supposed to be worth is impossible.

    I have 72,000 Skymiles remaining. It costs 60,000 Skymiles for a roundtrip ticket from the U.S. to southeast Asia.

    I am trying to book a flight leaving in April 2011, and there are no flights costing 60,000 Skymiles – only 120,000 Skymiles.

    That means I would have pay about $1500 to get a flight WHILE GIVING UP MY 72,000 Skymiles.

    I can book the same flight today via Orbitz and Korean Air for less than $1200 including all added fees. THAT’S JUST BOOKING IT AS A NOBODY !!!!

    Delata deserves to go bust. They are screwing their formerly loyal customers.

  33. i was a plat elite with NWA, and now a diamond madallion with this ‘new(worse)’ delta. for almost a year, i had so many issues with their customer service. those people in customer service, even in medallion desk are usually rude, impolite, and treat elite fliers like nothing. one time i couldn’t help to complain that your service is much worse than the NWA, the rep teased me with ‘well, there just isn’t Norhthwest anymore’. i am thinking switching my loyalty, any suggestions? i fly heavily on asian routes. hope there will be an airline will honor FF better than delta’s.

  34. Thanks for the info. I am a loyal Midwest (now Frontier, but hopefully not much changes) customer. They have switched date and times with no reticketing fee, offer great customer service …. and cookies!
    I had been thinking of applying for a Delta Skymiles card and likely would have if their card was Visa of MC. Changed my mind.

    1. @Elaine <>

      Delta offers only American Express. If you must have a Visa or MasterCard, you’ll need to wait for Diners Club to allow new applications. However, the Delta Amex offers the first checked bag free.

      I loved Frontier EarlyReturns when the award ticket cost was only 15K, but then it creeped up to 20K and now 25K just like everyone else. Plus in my experience the awards availability seemed to get stricter.

  35. I am Delta Diamond and will be again next year. Before that, I was NWA Platinum for as long as that program existed (really). When NWA was acquired, I looked hard for something good in the deal. It certainly was not the increased miles needed for awards or the reduced availability of award seats or the reduced domestic upgrade availability. It certainly was not the horrible congestion that now exists in the SkyClubs because of the vastly increased number of users (I had lifetime WorldClubs membership). So, did I find anything positive? Yes, I did. Delta provides Diamond and Platinum elite members with a few system wide upgrades each year. True, they can only be used for international fares at the “M” level or above but I can live with that. Here is what I cannot live with–it is almost impossible to actually use those systemwide upgrades for decent international routing even if booking several months in advance. In particular, it appears that Delta has extremely constrained the availability of upgrades on any of their international flights that use their new flat bed seats. Maybe I should be thinking more seriously about AA.

    1. What Delta advertises/offers and what you can actually obtain have nothing in common. They are masters of “Bait and Switch”. My recommendation; Don’t think about AA, RUN TO AA!

      P.S. My daughter returned to LAX from a Delta Flt from Columbus last Thur. The Flt was suppose to depart at 6:20PM. It departed (after a few misleading false time announcements) after 9PM. They used the usual Delta excuse of weather related. Actually, they couldn’t find a crew in Atlanta where the flt originated. I read today of a Delta flt kept on the tarmac in Phoenix for 2 1/2 hours with the cabin over 100 degrees. The passengers were not even offered water! There were health emergencies on the plane (surprise!) due to the conditions on board. Delta treats it’s passengers worse then cattle. Customer Care does not exist on board or on the ground. I don’t know how they get away with it. They are the closest domestic airline to RYAN AIR we have regarding passenger treatment and basic comfort. Very sad.

  36. I am fortunate enough to be a Delta Diamond Elite and it is true that they take good care of their super elite’s. I am also Platinum on AA, and here is why I think they are less good. This is just my personal opinion, based on my own experience. Others may view this differently.

    AA’s benefits can be compared here: https://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/programDetails/eliteStatus/eliteBenefitsChart.jsp.
    And Delta’s benefits can be compared here: https://www.delta.com/skymiles/about_skymiles/benefits_at_glance/index.jsp

    If I compare the two programs, here is what comes out:

    AA Plat DL Plat AA Exec Pl DL Diamond
    Qual Miles 50000 75000 100000 125000
    Segments 60 100 100 140
    Unlimited comp upgrades NONE YES YES YES
    Comp upgr on full fare YES YES YES YES
    Upgrade window 72 hrs 120 100 hrs 120 (#1 prio)
    Medaillon mileage bonus NO 100% NO 125%
    100% elite mile bonus YES NO YES NO
    50% elite mile bonus NO YES NO YES
    Premium fare coach bonus NO 50% NO 50%
    Unlimited roll-over of miles NO YES NO YES
    Club membership DISC. DISC. DISCOUNT COMPLIM.
    Waived baggage fee YES YES YES YES
    Bonus miles on renewal NO 20000 NO 25000
    Gifting status on renewal NO Silver NO Gold
    Club 1 day pass (for gifting) NO 4 NO 6
    Status on partner/alliance ELITE ELITE+ ELITE ELITE PLUS

    I hope this table is readable… it looked a whole lot better in Excel :-).

    So my verdict is that Delta just throws in some more extra’s at both levels… and makes it harder to obtain. Which means more exclusivity and less competition at the gate/when checking in.

    But to me the main issue is the actual flying product. Delta is making serious headway with their all flat beds. They are not as good as perhaps Singapore but easily rival British Airways. They fly them to London, and a number of long distance destinations. For a flat bed on AA you have to book First Class, not Biz.

    The in-seat entertainment on Delta is perhaps not the most sophisticated in look and feel… but it works far better then AA’s which is not easy to navigate or operate. The in-seat power plugs on Delta are standard so any plug from any country (except Australia) will simply plug in. On AA you need to buy a $ 125 contraption to connect your laptop, MP3, etc.

    The inflight food from Delta is tastier to me, but that is a matter of personal taste. I also think the DL FA’s are of a “sunnier disposition” then their AA counterparts (both are in the same age range though, meaning I often feel I should be taking care of them, rather then them taking care of me…).

    Most of Delta’s domestic fleet is now wifi equiped. AA is not.

    Delta’s website is clean in design and easy to navigate. I find AA’s website bewildering and messy. Plus on AA I need to allow the computer to remember my AA number for every subsequent session, whereas on Delta I can simply click “remember on this computer” and then all I need to fill in is my pin. Both offer mobile versions which are decent (I checked in on DL’s mobile site and it worked perfectly).

    And the DL Skyclub lounge is so much more enjoyable with free wifi (not in the Admirals Club) and free drinks/snacks (only water is free in the Admirals Club).

    Finally, and most importantly, getting those coveted mileage tickets or uprades. I have had very decent experiences with both AA and DL. I can usually get what I need. I tend to call rather then use the online system. I wanted and got a Biz upgrade for my wife for an overnight flight to London, and booked it 4 weeks before departure (leaving next week). Last week, I booked my parents upgrades in Biz on DL from Amsterdam to NY and back for September and got the exact dates I wanted. I see in this post many grumbles about not being able to convert miles but I simply do not recognize these stories as they contradict with my personal experience.

    I am sure I will have forgotten something in this comparison, and that some of you may not agree. But all I attempted was to create a relatively fair comparison.

    1. You really were born under a Lucky Star. I too have called into Delta and used the website with the same results: NO AVAILABILITY FOR FF SEATS. I cosider Delta FF awards as valuable as 3 dollar bills. Even with total flexibility and almost a years in advance, same story: NO AVAILABILITY. I don’t understand your luck, except to think it may be that your destinations may be the reason. For me, the Delta FF program is worthless, except if you want to trade them for magazine subscriptions!

      AA has worked for me every time for availability, no matter the destination. I am working on my 2nd million miles with them. I vote with my dollars. AA makes it an easy choice with their AADVANTAGE Program. The choice between AA and Delta is a no brainer. If you plan on using your FF miles to travel Delta should not even be a realistic consideration. That is my opinion from many years of travel. Regarding food, on domestic flights (no matter the airline) I usually eat great, ’cause I bring my own!

      1. Sorry to hear that and I would agree with the Lucky Star rating if this was a one off. But I have had, on the whole, good luck with both DL and AA. In my post I forgot to mention that the overnight, outbound flight to London is on AA.

        My location is NY (well, CT, but flying out of NY/NJ). And my destinations tend to be overseas, not domestic.

        I think one reason you are leaning towards AA is that you are almost a 2 million miler. So that means you are AA Executive Platinum, which comes with better perks/service then my AA Platinum.

        My situation is the exact reverse from yours: Diamond Elite on DL and a regular Platinum on AA.

        I do have to say though that Delta has AA beat on perks. If you look at the (mangled) table that I posted showing the differences between DL and AA Platinum and DL Diamond and AA Plat Elite it is clear Delta asks more, but gives a whole lot more.

        Anyway… personal taste in the end plays a huge role as well. As does convenience…

        I hope the magazines are at least worth reading :-)

        1. My destinations [using FF miles] are normally overseas. Starting point is LAX and sourounding area, this for better chance of availability, dates, destinations. I have frequently used London – as required – to reach another European destination. Perhaps departing from the Eastern Front helps with availability to overseas points. Many airlines from Europe, Africa and the ME do not service California directly.

          Well, glad someone exists out there that can take advantage od the Delta FF program. Perhaps it is tailored for that area or that is one of the few areas they gauge their program on. You can see by the other [numerous] comments that I am not alone in my opinion and past experiences with Delta.

          Personnally, I don’t see how they can say their program is good for FF members. They are really stretching the truth. That is my honest opinion.

          P.S. Delta Consumer Relations personnel are generally merciless and indifferent to the consistent problems on delays, cancellations, missed connections, etc. I put them on the same level as RYAN AIR. That’s pretty bad!

  37. For now, CMH-LAX non-stops are only offered by DL, so you may have little choice other than the one-stop with WN. Since your daughter flew last thursday (assuming on July 22nd) is the real reason for the delay that crews are running into their maximum allowed hours? This happened to me a few years ago in June around the 20th or so on Delta too.

  38. I maintain both the new AMEX SkyMiles and the old Visa WorldPerks (now FlexPerks). On EVERY occassion that I have searched for award travel Delta/SkyMiles wants 40k miles and FlexPerks wants 20K for the exact same Delta flights. Plus FlexPerks offers far more flights from Delta plus flights from other airlines. You also get credit (SkyMiles) when you complete a Delta flight booked via FlexPerks. If you acquire most of your miles via credit cards FlexPerks is the way to go. Booking award travel directly through Delta is a rip off!

  39. So I ask you… you have Delta miles.. you can use them as long as you have a Delta American Express Charge Card for the remaining price of your trip which you don’t use the miles for……you travel… accumulate miles.. have friends transfer miles to you for a fee…. and then find out you can’t use them.. because you don’t have a Delta American Express Charge Card…. well what if I don’t need or want a new American Express Card.. for a fee of $95/yr…Ok… so what happens to my miles… what’s the purpose of me traveling… accumulating miles.. and then not being able to use them……..??????????????? and for g-ds sake.. why can’t I use another charge card for the balance?????

  40. I got suckered into Delta with their 25,000 mile roundtrip tickets. What a joke. I started flying Southwest. I know, it’s like riding Greyhound, but they have no baggage fees, no change fees, and their rewards program is extremely straightforward.

    So long Delta.

  41. The skymiles program is rotten. Elite flyers are defined first class seats by anybody who buys a full fare ticket. New ‘policy’ in 2011. The effect is punish loyal flyers, figuring they’re unlikely to abandon their inventory of miles. The reason is to incentivize lower status flyers to wait until late to buy tickets, in return for the reward of an upgrade, luring them to fly or on Delta in the hope of more upgrades. The upgrades are the only reason to fly any carrier…I can fly economy on any carrier. By the way, I’m platinum elite, 1.5M miles, 70K so far this year alone. Lousy, insulting policy.

  42. Delta has the most redicules and harrable customer service reps ever , and when i asked them to let me take a servey twice they hangup on me today

  43. Delta’s slogan and adds about loyalty are a joke. YOu can’t redeem miles. Fares are jacked up based upon time of departure and not discounted for loyal customers.

  44. I don’t know so much about Delta but I can tell you that AA is no better. I was looking to use my AA points for two tickets to Manchester England from Denver. They had nothing in the low class and when I looked at the points for round trip they wanted 240k round trip for each of us. I ended up buying tickets on Delta.This is booking over two months ahead. I felt like they were screwing me, what’s more they have lousy service from Denver. Early on this year I had tried to use my points from there to Kauai, and found that they only had about three flights a day to LAX. I could not make any connections to Kauai, What an outfit. I think they will go out of business

    1. Your comment really surprises me as getting to the UK with AA has always been no problem for us, given that you book your FF ticket in time. Mid summer with little lead time may have been difficult, I’ll grant you that. I wonder if you tried flying into anoth city then connect with another flight or take a train??

      I stand by my opinion that AA is the best loyalty program out there where you can actually book FF seats!

  45. I have to agree with most people on this blog that the SKY Miles program pretty much sucks. I had 36,000 miles that they took away from me and claimed that I had no activity. I did not fly for 2 years due to the economy, but I still had small amounts of miles accumulating since I had secondary points from hotels added to my account to keep it active.

    I found out too late that I could have bought back my OWN miles for $95.00. How convenient. I never got an email that I was about to lose my miles for inactivity, but Delta was kind enough to send me monthly advertising emails to spend money on travel with them.

    It gets better. I am on the phone with a Delta customer service agent trying to book a free ticket with the miles I thought I had — she tells me they no longer exist — so would I like to book a ticket anyway and pay for it!

    I am not sure what part of NO she didn’t get, but I will definitely avoid Delta at all costs after being treated this way.

    I have started another job where I will be traveling extensively again. I know those miles didn’t mean much to this company, but for me it is a missed vacation.

    Shame on you DELTA!

    Thank you,

    Another frustrated airline customer

  46. I think Delta has the worst FF program of any airline. I have looked into booking tickets with miles months in advance. It’s interesting that the only domestic seats available (I’m traveling less that 400 miles) cost me more miles that going business on American Airlines to Europe.

    1. You are absolutely correct. DELTA Skymiles are about as worthless as a $3 bill. That is, unless you like to trade them for magazine subscritions. The program refuses to allow enough seats available for Skymiles. Always has been this way. The old “Bait N’ Switch” trick. Promise everything – give nothing.

      1. completely concur with the previous comments about delta skymiles: it’s one of the worst in industry…it’s virtually impossible to redeem your miles on the lowest possible scale, even if you try book your award ticket many moths in advance… the company is simply quite dishonest in that regard…

        i wonder if their upper management ever reads the angry comments of delta customers…

        1. Please see the Business section of the current issue ( 5 March ) of USA TODAY and there is a big write-up on the major dissatisfaction with the DELTA SKYMILES program. Delta may be losing business due to their poor and deceptive Frequent Flyer program. I cannot remember the last time I flew Delta or the Star Alliance because of their phoney FF program.

    2. I have pretty much given up on Delta. I plan to use [ if I can ] my current skymiles and then I’m going to find another airline. Delta does not appreciate customer loyalty.

  47. This is going to backfire on delta as “cheap elites” who round out flights filling empty seats jump ship putting price and schedule before airline loyalty. Too bad, after Delta sees the unintended consequences and has to cut flight and crew hours, starting a downward spiral in overall business, it will be too late to lure their previously loyal elites back. The numbers crunchers often do not understand the human element involved in their statistical analysis.

  48. There is a quiet problem with Delta MQM system that is still there DO YOU KNOW MQMs can only be earned 10 Months a year Jan and Feb don’t EVER COUNT. as Per DELTA TODAY! so now in a year I lost the last 150 Miles to make my mediallion this year so I get “early boarding in zone one” and i still get to Pay for bags and lose my 2X miles all because they DO NOT make public that a delta year is 10 months! Spread this around. Year = 10 Months in the Delta dictionary.

    1. Delta never ceases to amaze me how many ways they can think of to devalue their miles, cheapen the Sky Miles program and upset the remaining die hard members of their “Loyalty” program. Delta has developed a habit of using the program to work against the members, not for/with them.

      It amazes me why people still think that program is still viable and fair. What was it PT Barnum once said about people born like that……

  49. I am a Diamond Medallion on DELTA. Their new miles based on dollars spent will cause me to cease flying them all together. The program for me was the main reason to fly them. It was a fair price to earn status so I could routinely get upgraded, earn good miles for my Delta international flights, and enjoy getting treated like a human at the airport (being a Diamond). They have removed every ounce of reason as to why I would continue flying them. In a nutshell, they have raised their price over 400% just to earn the same perks as I get today with them. Sorry…. I’ll pay 10 bucks for a hamburger but not 40 bucks. They will be successful in rewarding the high paying customers, but at what cost? What right minded person would go out of their way to spend thousands more just to earn the same perk ? They have chased me away along with thousands others I am most certain. It was nice helping them build a giant airline, but now it’s time to move on and spend my money elsewhere. Thanks Delta…. I guess loyalty really isn’t a two way street with you…….

  50. Well, this is partially my fault for not reading and re-reading the fine print of my ff contract. My wife and I had accumulated a decent amount of NW miles back in the day, and had used them here and there to purchase hotel rooms, which had seemed more than satisfactory and we seemed to frequently get upgrades as well. I was a bit disappointed that we could not use miles to partially offset the cost of flights, as the cost was always increased so much if we tried to use the points that we would lose the ff miles and still manage to pay more. Over time, I used all of my miles.

    The thing that recently set me off was a couple of weeks ago when we were planning a vacation in Mexico, and to use my wife’s 49,000 miles for a hotel room. After a lot of time waiting on hold and talking to several clueless reps, I finally reached someone who explained that, since I am the primary card holder, that I would have to transfer my wife’s miles for a total of $60, to which I (stupidly) agreed. What I never remember being mentioned was that I would also be charged one cent per skymile for my own spouse’s balance! In short, we spent $550 for a room that should have cost about $400 on Orbitz. And, we gave up 49,000 skymiles as well! Needless to say, I immediately cut up my skymiles card and threw everything pertaining to it in the trash!

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