Just in from Delta Air Lines, a number of upcoming changes to the SkyMiles program, including a confirmed move to more aggressive dynamic award pricing. Let’s start with the bad news–
Dynamic Award Pricing Accelerates for Travel in June 2016
HEADS UP FOR SUMMER 2016
We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other dynamics. Most Award prices will remain unchanged. Miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.
So, we see again that Delta is not exactly moving to a pure revenue-based redemption model, but moving further in that direction. You can bet that when we are given a “heads up” it is because the changes will mean our miles are going to be worth less than before. Looking at June 2016 award pricing now, I see rampant use of the O&D issue I wrote about last week and discussed on Fox News, but not any further changes…yet. I anticipate those are coming.
As icing on the cake, mileage needed in order to upgrade will increase, but the upgradeable fare classes will expand. Depending on the specifics, that may be a positive change. Hopefully no co-pay like United and American.
> Read More: Special Report: Delta’s Secret Skymiles Devaluation
Earn Elite Status on Ancillary Purchases
MORE WAYS TO EARN
Starting July 21, 2015, you can now earn MQDs and miles when purchasing Preferred Seats, Delta Comfort+, and paid upgrades to the Premium cabin.
MQDs will be awarded on ancillary purchases, which should make sense. The one thing United beats Delta on is ancillary revenue and this change will make such upgrades more appealing and help Delta to narrow that gap.
Regional Upgrades Certs Now Valid on Transcon Routes
COAST TO COAST COMFORT
For Diamond and Platinum members we are introducing greater flexibility with your Medallion Choice Benefits. Effective July 21, 2015 you can use Regional Upgrade Certificates in addition to Global Upgrade Certificates for a Delta One™ seat on eligible transcontinental flights between New York – JFK and Los Angeles – LAX or San Francisco – SFO. Regional Certificates are part of the wide array of Choice Benefits Diamond and Platinum Medallion members are able to select upon status qualification.
Delta now has two confirmed upgrades types, like United,regional and global, which are given to Diamond and Platinum members. Premium transcon Delta One routes (with lie-flat seating) had been restricted to global upgrade certs only, but now regional certs will be permitted, making it easier to upgrade on these transcon routes. As United abandons JFK, competition for premium transon customers means Delta stands to gain a lot of business if it can woo UA’s JFK travelers who won’t fly into Newark.
> Read More: United Airlines Leaves JFK, Moves p.s. to Newark
Skymiles Awards as Low as 7,500 Miles Through February 2016 If You Book 21 Days in Advance
OUR LOWEST AWARDS
When we announced the SkyMiles 2015 program we committed to making more award seats available at the lowest prices and compared to last year, we’ve increased Award availability by more than double at the lowest prices to make it easier to use your miles. You’ll also find One-Way Awards starting at just 7,500 miles (plus taxes and fees) now through February 2016. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.
I have noted the trend of almost eliminating saver award space for close-in bookings on Delta flights, and here Delta confirms that its making low-priced awards available, but you must book them in advance. I am not going to condemn Delta for doing this — in some cases these awards can be a great advantage — but it is a small bone to throw out considering the pernicious effect of cumulative award pricing and the ominous hint above that redemption costs will rise.
Once again, we see that without an award chart there is no accountability and these award pricing changes can only be speculated upon at this point. How bad will it be? How much more will awards cost for travel in June 2016? Only time will tell and only the computer will tell us how much.