Delta changes points system

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you’ve probably heard about Delta changing the Skymiles program starting in January 2015. At that time they will stop awarding miles based on how many actual miles you fly, but instead base it on how much your ticket costs. There will still be bonuses for status and using the Skymiles credit card.

Delta points change

There are plenty of issues with this. Gary Leff has done some calculations, and in some cases even a ticket bought by someone with the highest elite status on the credit card will not likely get as many miles as it would with the current system. Mileage runs will become basically worthless. And while it’s likely business travelers, who tend to spend more on tickets, will get more points than a budget traveler, it will be much more difficult to earn miles. Combine this with the recent point devaluations, and it almost seems like Delta doesn’t want its customers to be loyal.

Admittedly, I am not a points expert, and I don’t write about points nearly as much as some of my fellow Boarding Area bloggers. When Southwest switched to this model a few years ago, I quickly realized the positive implications for business travelers. The difference is that they went from “one trip equals one credit” to the new system. It may not be as good for budget travelers, but now sometimes I will earn almost enough for a one way ticket, just on one trip. I have long thought that Southwest was the best loyalty program for people who want to travel domestically, as inexpensively as possible. I’ve found award tickets for as low as 3200 points one way. At that rate, we earn enough through credit card spend for a round trip ticket almost every month!

However, if you travel internationally or care about upgrades, you need a different program. My fear is that once the other airlines see how this new model works they will change to it as well. We have a little time on that, but it sure does make me want to spend my miles now!

Readers, what do you think about the change? Is everyone unanimous in hating it, or do any of you think it might work out okay?


  1. I am fine with it. I don’t earn my miles by flying – I earn them through credit card bonuses / spending. So this won’t really affect me.

    The one group that really stands to benefit is business travelers that frequently buy close-in tickets on someone else’s dime (especially to shorter destinations). Their earned miles will go up for sure.

    The one interesting thing I thought about was that those people now have opposite incentives than their employers (the ones paying for the ticket. Cheap flight is good for company but bad for traveler (fewer miles). More expensive flight is worse for the company but better for the traveler (more points). Interesting dilemma…

  2. United switched to a combination approach – your status is determined by both spend and miles flown. Given how much I fly internationally, it wasn’t difficult to accrue the $10,000 spend and 100,000 miles flown to maintain my 1K status – particularly since it’s tied to all Star Alliance flights, and not just United. I think that’s the best approach for airlines to take, versus an all miles/all money spent program. United also has Global Services to reward its highest spending clients. I’m a fan of their awards program, all the way.

  3. As I’ve noted before, since I live in a place served by all and hubbed by none (and I often take Amtrak instead of flying) I rarely achieve “status” on any airline. But I do think that those who pay a lot should get some kind of preference over budget fliers, whether it is in terms of miles or boarding order or something else. So in principle I think it’s a fair move, and I particularly like what I read above about United, which seems to be a combo of miles and dollars.

  4. I am for it. The flight I booked today would earn me 3 times the amount of points. You talked about upgrades this change has zero effect on miles for status, upgrades etc.

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