Delta just started allowing passengers to use SkyMiles to upgrade to First Class or Comfort Plus seats. But the airline isn't done giving flyers some pretty poor ways of using their SkyMiles.
During a Thursday presentation for investors, Delta executives hinted at allowing customers to pay for baggage with SkyMiles in the next year or so. And in the future, they're apparently hoping to do the same for “all optional services.”
I didn't catch the presenter's comments while discussing these initiatives so I reached out to Delta for confirmation. A Delta spokeswoman responded simply: “We’ll let the slide speak for itself – it’s too soon to get into what else may be coming in 2021 and beyond.”
Delta portrays these new options as giving travelers the flexibility to use their SkyMiles the way they want. And it will no doubt be popular. Despite not making a formal announcement while rolling out the ability to upgrade with SkyMiles last week, Delta executives said on Thursday the option was a smash hit early.
“In the first three days, without telling anyone about it, we sold 6,000 tickets,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said.
Much to travelers' chagrin, airlines across the world have started charging separately for checked luggage. So the ability to use frequent flyer miles instead of paying cash will no doubt appeal to many of Delta's customers.
But in reality, these new ways of using SkyMiles are a good deal for Delta and generally a bad deal for customers. In the case of upgrading with SkyMiles, the amount of miles you'd need is tied directly to the cash price you'd pay. You're getting just 1 cent or so for every SkyMile you use.
If the upgrade costs $130, Delta would want 13,000 SkyMiles. That's what we've seen so far. And it's safe to say Delta will use the same approach if it eventually allows travelers to pay for baggage with SkyMiles.
These new options simply limit how much Delta is losing on SkyMiles redemptions. As more of these options to use SkyMiles come onboard, Delta is claiming more control over SkyMiles.
But this baggage option would be even worse because there's such an easy workaround. If you carry a co-branded Delta American Express credit card like the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, you get free checked luggage.
So be warned, travelers: Don't do this. You’d get much better bang for your buck by saving these SkyMiles for another trip. For example, take this recent deal to fly round trip to China for just 30,000 SkyMiles. These tickets typically cost $1,000 or more when paying cash, meaning you’d get three times as much value out of your SkyMiles.
But buying baggage with your SkyMiles won't be one of them.
Lead photo credit to CalypsoCrystal via Flickr