Delta Announces Switch to Revenue Based Mileage Earning Program

Early this morning Delta announced the switch-over to a revenue based earning program for frequent flyers. This is a huge departure from the tradition miles earned for miles flown formula that most airlines currently follow.

the 2015 skymiles program


Delta is actually giving us a huge early notice as the overhaul of the program actually doesn’t take effect until January 1st, 2015. Starting next year miles earned for Delta flights will no longer be earned based on distance flown but rather they will be based on ticket price (base fare + carrier imposed surcharges). Miles earned per dollar spent will be determined based on your status as shown below. Keep in mind this only applies to redeemable miles and NOT Medallion Qualifying Miles.

  • General members earn 5 miles/$1 spent
  • Silver Medallions earn 7 miles/$1 spent
  • Gold Medallions earn 8 miles/$1 spent
  • Platinum Medallions earn 9 miles/$1 spent
  • Diamond Medallions earn 11 miles/$1 spent

This will have a huge impact on those of us you plan ahead and purchase fares early and cheap. However, for some business travelers, especially those purchasing last-minute fares, this could actually be a great deal. On the example below you can see a flight I recently took from Minneapolis to Orlando on a pretty good fare. Under the new earning model I would have earned less than half as many miles.

trip to orlando comparison with 2015 program changes

However, as you can see below some will come out ahead on the earning scheme. This next example is based on a last-minute MSP to LAX flight for next Monday, March 3rd returning Friday, March 7th. The fare, not including taxes and fees, is $1,041.87. In this example I would actually earn over 35% more miles! Unfortunately I no longer fly for work and therefore will not be taking anymore last-minute flights.

trip to lax comparison with 2015 program changes

Again, just to clarify, Delta is not changing how you earn Medallion status. This change is to redeemable miles. So potentially you could earn more miles for last-minute economy class fares than you would for a booked in advance business class fare as you will no longer earn a class of service bonus as earning will strictly be based on miles/$ spent.

Now that we have gotten through what most, myself included, will see as a huge negative change… Believe it or not Delta is actually including some very positive changes to your ability to redeem miles!

One-way awards

The new changes will include the ability to finally redeem Delta SkyMiles for one-way awards for half the cost of a round trip redemption. This has been a long-time coming and is actually going to make SkyMiles a little more valuable in my book.

Being able to redeem miles for one-way awards makes piecing together trips easier as you can use one mileage program going one direction and another for the return. Sometimes there is only saver level award space in one direction, now you can book the one-way and find saver level award space with a different program for return segments.

Miles + Cash

sample award booking showing miles  plus cash

Delta will is also introducing the ability to use a combination of miles and cash for an award flight. If you find yourself a little short on miles this could allow you to book your flight anyway covering a portion with cash. Until we see the actual rates I can’t actually say with confidence that this will be a good option.

More low-level award space and no blackout dates

Delta also claims there will be more low-level award seats available and more overall redemption levels as well. These options coupled with the ability to redeem for a seat on any flight with no blackout dates could be huge. Currently the biggest complain I hear about SkyMiles is the lack of saver level award seats.

The new award ticket search calendar Delta is rolling out is supposed to be a major enhancement as well featuring an improved search capability and actually displaying the lowest redemption options for your dates searched.

As of right now Delta has not released the new award charts but will release them later in 2014. I expect the rates to increase overall but I guess we will have to wait and see.

So what are your thoughts on the new Delta SkyMiles program? Will you benefit from it or will you be finding a new program? As for me, I will continue to earn the majority of my miles through spending on my Delta Platinum SkyMiles card and likely be flying American Airlines a little more.

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One Response to Delta Announces Switch to Revenue Based Mileage Earning Program

  1. Erin says:

    We’re in the same boat where we mostly travel for personal reasons on relatively cheap fares. Being so close to Detroit, we’re pretty locked in to flying Delta. But we already earned the vast majority of our miles with the credit card – I’ve frequently used the “pay with miles” option to lower the cost of tickets, which means we don’t earn miles on those fares, anyway.

Let me know what you are thinking!