Delta SkyMiles Changes 2023 Series: Table of Uses for SkyMiles Versus Everyone Else

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Big changes to Delta SkyMiles are expected to be announced on September 14, 2023. The so-called Project Orion has not leaked beyond reports of significant training of Delta front-line agents on handling queries. Given how little Delta communicates to members on SkyMiles, that Delta feels the need to proactively communicate rather than stealth further suggests the changes will be noticeable to even casual members.

Consensus expectations are that Delta will ape elements of Loyalty Points, introduced last year by American Airlines’ AAdvantage, with a heavy emphasis on Delta’s Amex co-brand credit cards, and a further de-emphasis of flying, as elements of elite program qualification.

A decade ago Delta SkyMiles implemented revenue-based elite qualification. What comes next?

As a Diamond Medallion, 2-million miler, this series of quick posts explores the state of SkyMiles and airline loyalty programs.

Posts in this series:

Delta Million Miler welcome letter

Delta SkyMiles has waged a war on award redemption value. While purporting to still be a global airline with global partnerships, Delta has pushed father and farther to the model of budget airlines that do not have redemption partners, such as Southwest.

Delta award defenders talk of routinely getting 1.2-1.5 cents per point for advance domestic flight awards and that that domestic economy class trips are the bulk of awards for all U.S. airlines. That breaks down for close-in travel, the 21-day and 7-day advance booking penalties effectively leave no room for reasonable last-minute awards (or partner awards at all ). American and United retain more vestiges of traditional award charts, such as that make reasonable last-minute awards sometimes available even when cash fares are high.

Regardless, it is not as if Delta cannot have domestics awards based on cents per point and still have quality international and partner awards. Instead, it actively works to eliminate any such values that still exist.

Delta has determinedly inverted the traditional value proposition of airline awards. In the past you slogged it our on paid airfares in the hope of one day redeeming for a luxury vacation in first class. Now swipe you credit card at the grocery store and dream of a 5,000-mile Los Angeles to San Francisco award. Rather than use international partner travel to excite members, Delta throws up too many barriers, hidden restrictions, and excessive pricing to partner bookings to list here (separate post forthcoming).

Here’s a look at where Delta stacks up for reasonable uses:

Reasonable UsesDelta SkyMilesEveryone Else
Domestic economy (22+days advance)YY
Domestic economy (8-21 days advance)XY
Domestic economy (0-7 days advance)XY
Domestic first classRarelyY
Delta international economyOccasionallyY
Delta international business classRarelyY
Delta international first classDoes not existY
Partner international
to/from US (all cabins)
Partner international not US (all cabins, first excluded)YY
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9 months ago

How is domestic first class rarely a good value? You still get the same 1.2-1.4 cpm as economy