Okay, when a frequent flyer program announces “updates” in this day and age it’s almost uniformly negative. And that’s especially true for Delta SkyMiles, which is quite possibly the biggest “innovator” when it comes to airline loyalty program.
Anyway, Delta announced some updates to the 2015 SkyMiles program. The updates are minor, and in many cases they’re not even “updates” since they’re just rehashing what has already been done. That being said, they are worth covering, in my opinion.
Here they are, in no particular order:
Delta has increased award availability
Or so they claim:
When we announced the SkyMiles 2015 program we committed to making more award seats available at the lowest prices and since the start of 2015 we have expanded award availability at the lowest prices by greater than 50%. We are seeing a double digit increase in award redemptions since January and other customer-positive award redemption trends in terms of the average number of miles redeemed, partner awards, and one-way award usage.
My guess is that the “double digit award increase” has to do with people booking one-ways rather than roundtrips, as opposed to there actually being a lot more saver award availability. But I suppose that’s not quite as fun of an explanation. 😉
One-way awards for as little as 10,000 miles
This is good news, I suppose:
In 2015 we will be offering One Way Award tickets beginning as low as 10,000 miles (plus taxes and fees) in select markets in the contiguous 48 United States and between the 48 contiguous United States and select Mexico/Caribbean destinations. Travel will be valid through December 31, 2015 with a 21 day advance purchase.
Some short-haul awards on the website are pricing at the 10,000 mile level:
I would ask whether they’ll eventually update their award chart to reflect which routes are eligible for the 10,000 mile pricing, but then I remembered that Delta SkyMiles no longer has an award chart, so… 😉
Award shopping calendar additions
Not only has Delta greatly improved their online award calendar, but they’ve also added several new SkyMiles award partners online:
We are pleased to confirm that we have added four new airline partners to our award shopping engine over the past few weeks following a quiet soft launch. You can now book awards online with China Airlines, China Southern, China Eastern and Gol. We will be adding more partners in the coming weeks and even more by summer of 2015.
Earn MQDs on most partner-ticketed flights, exception fares
Delta was the first US legacy to introduce Medallion Qualifying Dollars as a requirement of qualifying for status, so it’s really interesting to see them backtracking a bit on how they count those numbers:
New for 2015 when you travel on flights ticketed by most of our airline partners you will now earn MQDs, which will help you qualify for Medallion status faster. This change will be retroactive to January 1, 2015 to include your travel from this Medallion year. Flights marketed and ticketed by partners may earn MQDs based on a percentage of distance flown as determined by the fare class paid. You can visit www.delta.com/partnerairlines for details by carrier. It’s going to take us a little bit of time to process retroactive credit for past flight activity, but they should post to your accounts between now and March 20. You can also earn MQDs on most exception fares, such as bulk, consolidator and group tickets. Learn more by visiting www.delta.com/exceptionfares. In addition to the MQD changes we’ve also made minor changes to the way you earn Medallion status on Alaska Airlines flights, effective April 1.
As you can see, MQDs won’t be calculated based on actual spend (as is the case for travel on Delta), but rather based on a percentage of distance flown based on fare class. My gosh, the airlines are making these programs so darn complicated.
Diamond Medallions now board first
Recently Delta started letting Diamond Medallions board with first class (interestingly American changed the policy in exactly the opposite way recently, no longer letting Executive Platinum members board with first class):
Many of you have caught on to this already, but as part of our branded products experience that launched on March 1, we are pleased to confirm that Diamond Medallion members are now invited to board the aircraft with customers in Delta One or First Class as part of our Premium boarding zone.
These are positive changes, so kudos to Delta on that. I mean, the SkyMiles program is still leading the race to the bottom, but it’s at least nice to see them “giving” without “taking.” Though perhaps the “taking” is on the way soon. 😉
What do you make of these Delta SkyMiles updates?