q Topic of the Week: Delta’s New Award Chart is Out – Cranky Flier

Topic of the Week: Delta’s New Award Chart is Out


It looks like all the negative press surrounding Delta’s decision to only release the earning and not burning half of its new SkyMiles program got the airline to reverse course. We now have the full 2015 award chart clearly showing what’s changing. Frankly, the new award chart doesn’t look all that different except for the addition of two more tiers. We don’t know how availability will change at the low level, but now that we have a mostly clear picture, what do you think?

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15 comments on “Topic of the Week: Delta’s New Award Chart is Out

  1. I’m glad Delta reversed course on this. However, we still don’t have a total picture, and won’t until 2015. If the promised award calendar improvements materialize, and if all the availability is not available exclusively at the highest levels, then things might be OK. In the end, a lot of people are going to be earning fewer miles…. not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

  2. One way awards are great, and will make it easier to redeem at the low level. Otherwise not much difference. I’m guessing their improved availability will be mostly at level 2 and up, and that would be a bit of a bummer. Also, I’m looking forward to a functioning award booking website — I’ll believe it when I see it.

    The next step is close-in booking fees; I certainly hope they don’t go there.

  3. SkyMiles earned the nickname “SkyPesos” not because of the mileage amounts but because low-level “Saver” rewards are almost never available. The new chart is not bad news (mileage amounts didn’t go up), but it certainly isn’t good news. That will only be when we have an opportunity to search for availability and see if availability has improved.

    I suspect we still won’t see Level 1 availability in any meaningful way, but will *hopefully* see much more Level 2 availability (where we total would need mid or even upper level points), which would incrementally improve the program (along with one-way awards).

  4. i have not been able to redeem a low-level award to ANYWHERE in about 4 years, so without knowing the availability at each level it’s hard to tell if i am going to be spending more, less, or the same for a ticket.

    i do know this: i am a platinum on delta and by my math if my travel habits remain the same as they have the last couple of years i will earn only 60% of the spendable miles that i currently earn.

    so, same award levels + decreased earning probably equals bad news for me

  5. Not quite the full awards chart, Cranky.

    “This Award chart includes round-trip pricing for all routes originating in the continental U.S., Alaska
    and Canada for flights booked on or after January 1, 2015”

    Unless Delta plans to no longer allow partner awards on flights that don’t touch the US.

  6. My issue has never been the low-level (saver) award availability – but how the multiple tiers on their own interacted with partner redemptions. For example, if you wanted to fly from SFO to LAX on Delta and connect to China Eastern to PVG (and back), you had to have low (saver) award availability on the SFO-LAX segments for it to price as a single award. BUT, if you could only find mid-level (standard) award availability on one or both of the SFOLAX segments, you’d be charged for TWO awards: SFO-LAX-SFO at the domestic, mid/standard award, then the international award LAX-PVG-LAX on China Eastern. Ultimately, I just viewed this as a money-grab to get more miles for an award that should price at the low (saver) international award level because of the greater mileage requirement. What they *should* allow is combination of medium/high awards domestically onto low/saver awards internationally – but that would drive their Rev Mgmt people crazy and we know that the SkyMiles program is really at the mercy of RM. Which has been the problem from the very beginning…

  7. I still think we need to know more about how award availability will play out before assigning a final grade to all these changes. If, as DL conspiracy theorists predict, the majority of enhanced award availability is at the new “Level 2”, and that enhanced availability really is good and widespread across routes, then what we have is a 10-20% points discount compared to what you would pay now at the “Standard” level. Would that create enough value for elites, or even non-elites who have no choice but to fly last minute, to take that wheelbarrow full of shinplasters to buy-up to a higher fare category? I remain unconvinced, considering that even a Level 2 award with good availability is still 20-30% more expensive than a “Saver” award that would presumably remain elusive to obtain, and for that matter, more expensive that what other carriers offer in the “Saver” category with better availability (unless, of course, UA and AA follow suit with the changes). If improved availability extends down to Level 1, though, then that’s a different story.

    If you’re a frequent low-dollar traveler, though (i.e. someone with long distance family obligations, small businesses that have to watch costs, corporate travelers with strict travel policies, etc.), then this still looks like a raw deal. Your elite status doesn’t change, but you’re collecting fewer miles, and if all of those extra awards open up in Level 2, your chances of being able to actually get one of those awards isn’t all that much better than it was before when you were chasing a Standard Award. Again, could be a different story if DL extends enhanced availability down to Level 1. But I’m skeptical that’s what will actually happen.

    1. i’m the “frequent low-dollar traveler”. i pile up flights on L, U, T, X type fares. at those prices i’ll get 40% less miles next year, even with buying 2 or 3 flights a week. if i buy up to a fare like K, then i’ll either be at the same earning rate or slightly more.

      but that’s the whole point, right? delta wants my K money, not my X money. the fact that i’m even tempted to see if i can get away with a little more spend at my clients’ expense means that their scheme is working.

      and i think you make a great point about availability or award travel. i think you’ll see increased level 2 and 4 awards and decreased 1 and 3 awards. why would delta introduce those tiers and keep the lower award rates flush with seats? when you introduce a mid-level price point it makes the value of that item see greater when compared to the tier just above it. marketing 101.

  8. Why add only two more tiers? Think big. A hundred tiers!?

    All this time I’m complained, well, sort of, about UA having even two tiers, saver and standard. Seems perfectly acceptable now that I look at this. Of course, I’ll wait to see how UA decides to “tweak” its program.

    What with hundreds of possible fares travelers can choose from and now with all those levels travelers can play around with to schedule a free trip, why not apply all of this to levels of onboard “service,” a smile, assistance, a beverage, a blanket/pillow?

    “At our blessed Service Level 3, we like to call it “Fully Successful,” we will give you our Standard Service. (“Standard” is defined in paragraph 465.) But, for a discount, Level 1, we’ll give you nothing, basically making your trip miserable. We have trained for that. But, for a premium, Level 5, we’ll give you the world. We still have a few attendants who remember what that was about.”

    People. Its options, baby, options!

  9. I’ve never had much problems flying flights at the mid or low tiers.

    This doesn’t change my travel habits much other than making me consider a few mileage runs while they are still viable on DL for RDM.

    1. i can totally see people doing insane MRs the latter half of this year to stock up on miles before delta finally kills the mileage run forever

  10. It looks like I’ll be earning about 40% fewer spendable miles in 2015, assuming I bother to renew Silver for the third time. I actually booked a SWA ticket last week for the first time in over a year – in part because I’m not really happy about Delta’s decision on the earning side.

    As everyone says, the question is on the redemption availability. That said, I’ve gotten two 25K domestic r/t tickets with DL (saving a combined $1,200 vs published fare) and, waaaay back in the day, I got a 25K NWA r/t award MSP-PDX just days before departure. That one saved me more than a grand (OK, it didn’t – I just wouldn’t have flown, so in effect it made that trip possible).

    My one more “classic” redemption was a work trip at my nonprofit: a donor found me an NWA r/t to Ft Lauderdale with outbound long connection in Indianapolis, and return on Midwest via MKE. Hey, it was only 32,500 of his miles, and a connecting itinerary to an otherwise nonstop-available destination, so what?! (I am grateful to the donor – saved my org many hundreds vs cash fare…).

    1. but you earn SWA rapid rewards points the exact same way that you’ll earn miles on delta in 2015. exactly the same way, except the multiplier is a little different.

      i have no idea how easy it is to redeem on SWA. i have never flown them. living in NYC i find their flights not at all cheap and they tend to not go to places i travel to.

      1. Redemptions on Southwest are really easy. If you have the requisite number of points, you can “purchase” any available fare to any destination with those points, at any time. The trick is that redemptions, like earnings, are based on a multiplier of the fare. A Wanna Get Away fare can be redeemed for roughly 50x the fare, or ~12,500 points for a $250 fare. Every now and then, we’ll get some ridiculous fare sales like $250 roundtrip from DAL to SAN, in which case, you get a real good deal for a redemption. If you want to use points for a last-minute Business Select fare from MDW to DET, though? Not so much.

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