Delta: guesses validated, and more predictions

Delta’s 2015 award chart for travel from the Continental US, Alaska, and Canada was released today.  You can find the new chart here.  The predictions I made yesterday were very close to the chart they released.  So, I’ll take a moment to gloat:

Yesterday, I said “my guess is that the 2015 award chart will be essentially the same as the chart that is effective for travel beginning June 1, 2014, but with the addition of new levels in between the current Saver, Standard, and Peak levels.”  And, that is basically what the new chart shows.

I also said “I’m sure that there will be some changes to the award ranges, but I do think that most of the ranges will stay essentially intact.”  I was only partially correct here.  I was correct in that almost all of the Level 1 awards remain the same: 28 out of 31 stayed the same.  The three that changed became slightly cheaper.  On the other hand, many mid and top level awards changed: 21 out of 31 mid-tier awards became slightly cheaper.  None increased.  20 top level awards changed: 18 became slightly cheaper. 2 became slightly more expensive.  Aside from these small changes, though, I think its fair to say that my guess was very close to correct.

It’s interesting too, that the new chart calls the tiers “Level 1”, “Level 2”, etc.  In a prior post, I wrote “For simplicity, let’s simply call the levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.”  I nailed that guess without even trying!

What’s next?

We still don’t know much about future award availability or whether Delta will use the extra award levels to move closer to a revenue based redemption system.  However, since my award chart guesses were so good, let’s assume some of my other recent predictions were right as well.  If so:

  • Level 1 availability will decrease, but the combined availability of Level 1 and Level 2 will be almost double today’s Saver availability.  For most economy awards, that will be a net gain for those seeking to use miles.  On the other hand, some level 2 business class prices are pretty darn high, so getting a good deal on business class fares may be even harder in 2015 than it is today.
  • Delta will not tie award level availability to ticket pricing.  Award pricing will be based on how many seats in each fare class are expected to go unsold rather than on the total ticket price.  Please see my extended argument about this point in yesterday’s post.
  • Partner awards: Delta will charge Level 1 prices for partner travel booked with Delta miles (this is a new guess that I hadn’t previously published).  And, when trying to book Delta flights with partner miles, you’ll have to find Level 1 award space.  If I’m right about Level 1 award space going down, this will be a big problem for those who want to use partner miles on Delta!

 

General thoughts

Delta’s huge chart devaluation that takes full effect June 1, 2014 was a big blow to those of us with piles of SkyMiles ready to burn.  The announced changes for 2015, though, are mostly heading in the right direction:

  • By basing mile earnings on flight prices rather than flight distances, Delta is wisely rewarding people proportionally to the amount they spend with Delta.  The old system actually rewarded people for using up more of Delta’s resources even if they didn’t pay more (i.e. you would previously get more miles by flying out of your way on multiple legs than you would get from a direct flight).  For many people, this will mean earning fewer miles, so I understand why they hate the new approach, but I find it hard to argue with the business rationale.
  • Delta says that they will allow one-way awards for half the price of round-trip.  That’s huge.  It means that we can now use miles opportunistically based on which airline has saver level availability.  For example, use Delta miles to fly your outbound route, and use United or AA miles (or even Penny Points) for the return.  United and AA have long offered one-way awards, and now it will be great to have Delta as an option too when mixing and matching. 
  • Delta promises to fix their online award booking tool.  Finally!
  • For those without enough miles to book an award, Delta will now have the option to book with miles + cash.  It looks like this would be roughly equivalent to buying miles at 1.6 cents each.  While that’s more than I would pay prospectively to get Delta miles, it is very reasonable in some situations.  For example, if you can find a Level 1 business class award from the US to Australia, it would cost 160,000 miles round trip.  If you were to buy the miles needed for that trip at 1.6 cents each, the cost would be $2560, which is a steal for a business class round trip flight to Australia.

Now that you’ve seen Delta’s 2015 award chart, what do you think about their proposed changes?  Am I still crazy in being “mostly happy” about them?  Comment below.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. I think being mostly happy is mostly okay since it could have been a lot worse. Of course it’s still terrible but nothing anyone can do that will change it now.

  2. I think you have it correct, Miler. I it is nice to read a Delta post without the underlying nastiness toward them paid by other blogger.

    Looks like I am going to be sticking with Delta, even though I will get less miles from flying. The big question for me is will I continue to do a few mileage runs; still need to think about that as the return will not be as good….for the first time, I am wondering if I should try to do 60K on two different Reserve cards.

  3. While I will suffer from fewer miles earned from flying with Delta you are the first blogger who has picked up on the tremendous value I see from the changes…one way awards.

    It seems like it is harder to book a round trip award ticket in a premium cabin with any one airline [and it’s partners]. The opportunity now to book one ways with two different airlines [and their partners] has gone up tremendously as long as you have a diversified portfolio of miles/points. Award booking just got easier in 2015 which is a great thing!

  4. It seems like non flying earning is more lucrative now. And one way awards are definitely an improvement..I hope they improve availability..

  5. I think until we have in writing how delta plans to treat partner travel and round-the-world fares it is too early to be optimistic cautiously or otherwise.

  6. Giving them credit for things that are industry standard (functional IT, oneway awards) is a bit rich, these are things they already ought to be doing. Reminds me of that Chris Rock bit, “what do you want, a cookie”?

  7. If Delta doesn’t see negative backwash, I could very well see other airlines following suit in the coming years on how miles are earned on flight costs. I would prognosticate if you received a voucher for a delayed flight that, eventually, they’d treat that not as cash and only credit towards a flight, ergo not accruing mileage on that portion of spend. The trend seems to be geared towards ‘rewarding’ their top top tier elites. Which is a backhanded way of saying, they won’t be taking away the benefits from those fliers in that “elite” group, which were given freely to those of lower status only a scant few years ago.

    End of the days, FF status is beginning to mean less and less as years progress, yes even for the top tier. Soon the effective (in terms of meaningful benefits) between elites will be preferred, cattle, slaughter horse(glue).

    As Smisek said “I think you’ll like the changes you see” 🙂

  8. Due to your prognostication powers you may want to set up a booth at the next FTU to allow the other Delta hater Boarding Area bloggers the opportunity to come by and kiss your ring…………..

  9. This is horrible news for those that earn miles from flying. You don’t see it that way because you earn your miles from manufactured spend etc. and you see at least a glimmer of hope that you’ll be able to use fewer credit card points to get the flights you want. For people who fly to warn these points, it’s ‘game over’ for many and a big hit for most… Even what one would consider profitable business flyers.

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