Rocky had a great post about the bonuses currently offered by business incentive programs from Delta (Skybonus) and American (Business Extra). I have been a member of these programs for years, and I have been preparing a post about them since the bonuses have thrust them into the limelight.
Intro to airline business programs
This is in addition to regular airline miles and can only add value to the purchase. Delta’s Skybonus program (and those like them) incentivize the people who book travel on behalf of businesses. Think of an office administrator who books travel for many people in the business and has the discretion to make choices like carrier, hotel brand, rental car company, etc. Delta (and others) give a revenue-based incentive in the form of (program) points for this person who actually makes the transaction to choose their airline over the competition. This does not take away from the miles a flyer would receive from a trip, but rather this is a nice “cherry on top” for the person that is doing all the work of booking travel arrangements. I personally make choices based on this all the time. American’s Business Extra is preferable for me, their award chart is better (different from personal mileage programs) but their service is not as good, but that program will be broken down later. Today it’s all about Skybonus.
Now, let’s do some math
Let me give you an idea of how these programs work. Joseph (office administrator) books a ticket for Denise (traveling employee) on Delta for $568 + $10 in taxes. Skybonus will award points based solely on the revenue from the fare and not the taxes. The points adhere to a different method of calculation for points earned as opposed to miles. For example, if the departure is from a non-hub city to a non-hub city (Example: Omaha, NE – Pittsburgh, PA) in coach, points are calculated at a rate of 6 points per dollar. In this case it would be 568 x 6 = 3,408 points. If it was in business or first class the rate would be 568 x 30 = 17,040 points. The awarded points vary in hub cities for both business and coach, but not all programs do. Here it is in chart form.
But what do your Skybonus points get you?
The award charts for business incentive programs are different than your standard award charts. For clarity, standard award charts grant miles based on distance flown (except for Delta starting in 2015), business incentive program award charts give you points based on revenue spent. There are bonuses from time to time in both programs for certain routes, or classes of service. These two programs (Skybonus and Skymiles) are run distinctly independent of each other. There is no true relationship between the two.
Skybonus from Delta awards a bazillion points (by contrast to other programs), but… you guessed it, their awards also cost a bazillion points. Here is the base award.
While 85,000 looks like a ton of Skybonus points, using our previous example (Denise’s trip) it could be as many as 25 trips before she gets an award – that’s rough. Or if Denise is a first class flyer, it could be as little as 5 trips. Assuming she is a first class flyer, and found a very cheap rate of $568 revenue dollars she would earn a free Skybonus ticket after 5 trips along with her regular Skymiles. Using ATL as a connection with the class of service bonus for first, she would net 4,042 miles, a total of 20,210 Skymiles and a free ticket on Skybonus. For business/first class tickets with Delta you can see that Skybonus from non-hub cities can actually be more significant for earning than regular Skypesos depending on distance. These tickets (in my experience) are also easier to redeem than regular Skymiles at the lowest level.
Here are some sweet spots on the award chart in my opinion:
Coach to Asia/Australia – 175k Skybonus points
Coach to Europe – 175k Skybonus points (not as good, but still something to aim for)
Sky Club passes (5) for 60k, or Silver Status for 19 months for 160k Skybonus points.
I personally, think that the greatest value is in coach awards for Asia or Australia, here is why:
- A coach ticket in the US ranges from $200-500 so I would value it at a maximum of $500 or $.005/Skybonus point.
- A coach ticket to Australia has an average price of $1200 giving you a value of $.006/Skybonus point.
- A coach ticket to Europe has an average price of $800 giving you a value of $.0045/Skybonus point.
- A coach ticket to SE Asia has an average price of $1400 in my experience giving you a value of $.008/Skybonus point.
The key is that you need to be able to find space for the destination ON DELTA METAL and you can only do so by calling in (read: $25 phone service fee). But the good news for Asian flights is that Delta has a ton of lift to Tokyo from all over the country and you should be able to find a trans-pacific flight that works for approximate dates you might need.
But, wait, I am not a business travel manager, how do I qualify?
That’s easy, here is the deal. If you have a business – whether it is an eBay business, or photography business, or research for a travel book you are writing – you are eligible and so are the employees of your business. If your spouse is editing your travel book, their travel is also eligible for these points. I personally have accounts set up with American, Delta, United, and Lufthansa and have balances in all accounts, some of which are quite significant. Leaving these points on the table is much like leaving frequent flyer miles up for grabs. They can be yours if you just bother to input the information.
Contrary to regular Skymiles which never expire, Skybonus points do expire two years from when they are earned (at the end of the year), so you either use them or lose them.
The best part about Skybonus?
The ease of adding tickets. Sometimes I book through Expedia, or Orbitz stacking bonuses along the way, but there is, of course, no spot for a Skybonus number when booking a flight on Orbitz. So, how do you add your Skybonus number if not booking on Delta.com? After you have completed a purchase elsewhere, just log in to your account (skybonus.delta.com), click Your Skybonus>Add Tickets. Then just enter the ticket number (006 for Delta, though Air France, Alitalia, KLM are also eligible), and the first five letters of the passenger’s last name.
Have you had a positive experience with Delta Skybonus? How about with other carriers?