While countless other flyers and travel sites have written off Delta's frequent flyer program as worthless, we've regularly defended Delta SkyMiles. That ends today.
After years of steady cuts, award rates creeping up, skyrocketing business class rates, and even more recent troubling developments, it's time for a wake-up call: Flyers, readers, and Thrifty Traveler Premium members alike should stop focusing on earning SkyMiles or swiping their co-branded Delta Amex cards to earn miles.
This doesn't mean you should stop flying Delta – heck, we'll continue flying them ourselves. But unless something changes, earning SkyMiles isn't worth it anymore: You'll probably need far too many miles to book that big trip. It's tough to say it, but we owe that honesty to you, travelers.
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Sure, travel bloggers and other so-called experts have been saying this for years. That's largely due to exorbitant award rates of 200,000 SkyMiles or more to book a one-way business class seat overseas … but that's not the only thing everyday travelers care about. All the while, there were plenty of good ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles for great trips – often for fewer miles than you could find from any other airline.
But Delta has taken an unmistakable turn with its loyalty program over the last several months, all but eliminating any remaining sweet spots to get much value at all when redeeming SkyMiles. Consider this:
- A steady stream of international Delta SkyMiles flash sales like 32,000 SkyMiles to Europe have disappeared.
- Once-or-twice yearly deals to book Delta One business class to Europe or Asia at reasonable rates have vanished, too.
- On paper, the new TakeOff 15 benefit for Amex cardholders was great … but in practice, Delta seems to have simply raised award rates, negating that 15% discount while touting it to pump up card applications
- Delta is still the only major U.S. airline that sells basic economy award tickets when using miles, without free cancellation or seat selection – and now those pesky fares have spread to almost every route worldwide, meaning you’ll pay an extra 10,000 miles or more for “perks” that were once included.
- From economy to business class, using SkyMiles to fly partner airlines like Air France or Korean Air was a reliable bargain … but now those partner award rates match Delta's own constantly changing (and often exorbitant) flights
Now, there are still a few good ways to use the SkyMiles you've already got. Domestic flights under 10,000 SkyMiles roundtrip can be fairly easy to find. Flying partner WestJet from the U.S. to Canada and back for 25,000 SkyMiles can be a bright spot, as is using those miles to book flights that don't touch U.S. – like throughout Europe or Asia.
But when one of the best ways to redeem SkyMiles is buying a bottle of champagne in the Sky Club, there's a problem. The overall trend is crystal clear: SkyMiles have sunk to an insulting low. And a one-off sale to Chile or a Mexico-sized loophole to fly Delta One Suites isn't anywhere near enough to change that.
Again, none of this means you should stop flying Delta or cut up your Delta Amex card. SkyMiles aside, it's a good airline! But that's the point: The airline's reliability, solid in-flight experience, and stranglehold on many major hubs has allowed Delta to treat its loyalty program like an afterthought, knowing that travelers will continue to rack them up regardless.
And that's just what they've been doing.
How & Why SkyMiles Have Slid to Rock Bottom
While we feel they've hit a new low recently, SkyMiles' steady decline has been underway for nearly a decade.
Long before other major U.S. airlines, Delta did away with its award chart way back in 2015, removing a critical reference point for travelers to figure out how many SkyMiles it should cost to fly from point A to point B. It's been a steady march toward dynamic award pricing ever since, with award rates tied closer and closer to the cash price. The more expensive the flight, the more SkyMiles it'll generally take to book.
And those rates seem to keep climbing and climbing. While Delta is far from the only airline devaluing its mileage program, the Atlanta-based carrier has practically turned it into an art form.
For years, our mantra was: “Forget what you've heard, SkyMiles are not worthless.” But there's no question that flying business class abroad has taken the biggest hit. Delta One business class awards that were once bookable for roughly 60,000 miles each way have ballooned to 120,000 SkyMiles, then 200,000 SkyMiles, and now often 300,000 SkyMiles or more each way.
While competitors like United and American still charge 80,000 miles or less for a business class seat to Europe, this has become all too typical when trying to redeem Delta SkyMiles.
Meanwhile, Delta has also gutted business class award redemptions on partner airlines like Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic through several rounds of award rate hikes, eventually closing the last few workarounds to book at reasonable prices.
We acknowledged the pain for travelers hoping to fly up front, with lines like: “If flying business class is at the top of your list, earning Delta SkyMiles shouldn't be.” But it's not just business class anymore: Exorbitant award rates to fly economy have spread to most routes across the globe, too.
Travelers hoping to get to Rome (FCO) or Tokyo-Haneda (HND) are likely to see roundtrip flights for 100,000 SkyMiles or more unless they're extremely flexible. And now that basic economy awards have spread worldwide, you'll have to fork over even more.
This isn't a cherry-picked example: It has become the norm. And just as with booking business class, savings when using SkyMiles to fly economy with partner airlines have vanished, too.
Why has Delta done this? In short: Because it can.
From travelers held captive at major hubs like Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to diehard fans who simply refuse to fly other carriers, Delta is counting on its customers to keep racking up SkyMiles almost as an impulse. And between its operational reliability and generally better service, Delta has set itself apart enough from its competitors that it can make SkyMiles less valuable than American AAdvantage miles or United MileagePlus miles … because they know their loyal flyers will probably keep flying Delta anyway.
Delta's main tool to encourage loyalty isn't its loyalty program: It's the airline itself. Earning some SkyMiles is just a bonus – and increasingly, a less and less valuable bonus.
“We look at value … more holistically,” Delta's head of SkyMiles, Prashant Sharma, said during an interview last year when asked about the value of SkyMiles compared to other airline programs. “Mileage redemption is a big portion of it, but also just everything else that Delta can provide in terms of the experience and making them come back to us.”
So long as travelers keep flying Delta, joining the SkyMiles program (thanks to free Wi-Fi), and signing up for a co-branded American Express card, Delta's strategy won't change. Why offer outsized value for SkyMiles when people keep signing up and earning them regardless?
“Our focus here is to provide consistent and sustainable value where customers want to use their miles. We are not necessarily trying to play the game with customers or with bloggers,” Sharma said last year. “We listen to what customers want and we try to offer that.”
What We'll Do Now
We're telling you that Delta miles aren't worth what they once were. And we're ready to put our money where our mouth is.
Over the years, we've played a part in travelers' loading up with Delta SkyMiles by promoting the big bonuses of up to 100,000 SkyMiles that the airline and American Express roll out on their co-branded credit cards a few times each year. But with the current state of SkyMiles, those big bonuses should no longer move the needle for the average traveler … and our coverage will reflect that.
Just like many other travel sites out there, we get a cut when you apply for many travel credit cards through us – and that includes Delta Amex cards. But for us, our mission of doing right by readers is far more important. And if we're telling you that SkyMiles aren't worth earning, that's an easy tradeoff to make.
We'll continue to write about those cards going forward, but with an emphasis on the ongoing benefits that provide real value for travelers like free checked bags or Delta companion certificates for once-a-year BOGO flights – not on eye-popping bonuses.
We've sung the praises of Delta SkyMiles flash sales over the year, which had been a major bright spot by offering deeply discounted award rates on flights across the globe. But as the scale and frequency of those sales have dwindled, we're rethinking our coverage.
We'll continue searching for those great Delta deals for our Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members and readers who have SkyMiles to burn, as we always do. But as it stands, Delta's inflated pricing means there simply aren't nearly enough good deals out there to encourage travelers to stockpile SkyMiles for the next one.
We've got homework for you, too.
What You Should Do Now
Wondering what this means for you and your current stash of SkyMiles? We've got some advice:
- Stop swiping your Delta credit card everywhere you go! Too many travelers reflexively charge their Delta cards at restaurants, grocery stores, and the gas pump, thinking it's great to keep earning SkyMiles on every purchase. But until award rates start declining, those SkyMiles you're earning on everyday expenses aren't getting you nearly as far as they should.
- If you're a frequent Delta flyer, keep your Delta card in the drawer. From free bags to Sky Club access, the benefits from Delta's portfolio of credit cards remain solid. But you don't even need to pay with that card to get a free bag on your next Delta flight.
- Focus on earning transferrable credit card points instead. A stash of American Express Membership Rewards points from a card like the American Express® Gold Card beats a bunch of SkyMiles every time. You could transfer those points to Delta if a decent deal pops up … or, more likely, to another more valuable airline program.
- Explore other ways to book Delta award tickets without using SkyMiles. Booking Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic points can be much, much cheaper than what Delta itself charges for the exact same flight. Same goes for Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
- Feel free to keep slowly adding to your stash of Delta SkyMiles. Partnerships with Starbucks, Lyft, and others make that easy and automatic – as well as when you actually fly Delta, of course. But if it's a choice between earning SkyMiles through a shopping portal or dining program and another airline? Easy: Go with the other airline.
The Best Ways To Use the SkyMiles You've Got
The list of great ways to use your Delta SkyMiles has shrunk and shrunk … but it's not down to zero yet.
While they may not get you the most bang for your buck, here are some of the best ways to use SkyMiles today.
- Domestic flights might be the best bet. We regularly find roundtrip fares around 10,000 SkyMiles, sometimes even less. Whether you need to book positioning flights ahead of a bigger trip or just need a long weekend getaway, it's a surefire way to redeem SkyMiles these days.
- If you're outside the U.S. and need to get around, search with your SkyMiles. Delta award rates are much more reasonable so long as you're not touching U.S. soil.
- Whether you want to get to Calgary (YYC), Vancouver (YYC), or elsewhere in Canada, flying WestJet from the U.S. for 25,000 SkyMiles can be a deal.
- No, really: Buy some champagne at the Delta Sky Club. SkyMiles are worth 1.5 cents apiece at the Sky Club bar, so buy a nice bottle of champagne to kick off your trip for a few thousand miles.
- Upgrade your flights. Few airlines make it so easy to upgrade using miles. And while you're not getting much value out of your miles this way, sitting in Delta first class is always nice.
- Search with Delta's “Price Calendar” option. It's the best way to ensure you're getting the lowest rate … even if that rate is still incredibly high.
- Be sure you're booking roundtrip. Aside from domestic flights and other destinations closer to home, Delta often charges far more for one-way flights than 50% of the roundtrip rate.
Read more: 8 Tips to Use Delta SkyMiles for Maximum Value
We wish it hadn't come to this.
For years, we've focused on helping travelers use their SkyMiles wisely rather than bash them. But that has gotten harder and harder recently … and now it's hit a breaking point. SkyMiles still aren't worthless – but they're worth much less than many travelers believe.
Only you can decide what's right for you and your travels. But until the landscape with Delta SkyMiles changes, you're probably better off shifting your focus away from earning them.
You are so right. My AE stays in my desk now as Delta awards miles tickets are now out of reach. Once loved to save up for that special ‘up front’ trip. Now no longer possible as the miles needed outpace the mile earned,
I also agree. I cancelled my card. My wife has over 73000 points. We wanted to use some during a month long trip to Europe. Can’t, unless it is combined with a flight
They say to use the ‘vacation hotel+car — I already have a car!!!!!.
Will be cancelling wifes card beore anniversary.
Last year flew to Hawaii and back. Was on American because of travel timing. While going through security a couple of Delta pilots were going through also. They were ‘union’ and wearing their buttons. Don’t mind if you wear them but I qustion whether I woud want to fly on a plane they were piloting. UST SAYING. Picket, etc but not while your passengers re in line waiting to go through check-in!!!!!
This is the dumbest comment in this thread. They were wearing union buttons and you’d not fly on that plane? Your lack of brain cells is evident.
Every US airline pilot group is unionized. What a silly, ignorant comment.
Well said, and thank you for stating the cold, hard truth. As soon as I (somehow!) burn my remaining Skymiles, I won’t be earning or acquiring one Skymile more. I’ll credit any incidental flight miles on Skyteam airlines to Flying Blue instead, and will make sure to compare $ prices before I choose Delta for flying.
Re miles for champagne in Skyclubs, I read that Delta just jacks up the $ price to be able to charge more miles, even though the cents-per-mile rate may stay the same.
Yeah, that’s true for using SkyMiles to book champagne. Then again, that’s also true for … pretty much anywhere in the airport.
Jack, do you frequently fly out of Amsterdam? If so, can you easily Fly Blue?
I’ve only just started using Flying Blue. I’ll be transiting through AMS several months from now on KLM.
Thanks I just had the same realization too. For those of us stuck at Delta hubs, where would you recommend we credit our Delta flights to to occasional use for business class award flights abroad? Flying Blue vs Virgin Atlantic?
I would personally lean toward Flying Blue. Though you can occasionally get lower rates via Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue is a much more stable program overall.
Most domestic airlines are going that way and Marriot has done the same thing.
Every company (after covid lockdowns ) is sticking it to their Customers!
loyalty no longer seems to be an important factor which is a terrible turn of events!
I left SkyMiles in 2015 when the award charts were eliminated At the time DAL issued a statement to te effect that after many surveys Skymile collection was not important to their customers They obviously didn’t consult me I immediately switched to AA & have been Executive Platinum ever since Never heard a word when I walked away from Elite Status & Delta Air
This article is spot on. When sent various surveys by Delta, and the couple of times that I’ve needed to complain via their website, I’ve bemoaned that the seeming loyalty scheme offered by Delta is a one-way track. We use our AmEx branded cards and exclusively fly Delta, only to have perks reduced and taken away. As a platinum medallion member I can’t even take my spouse into a sky miles club when traveling overseas, and yet Air France or Korean don’t have a problem offering that benefit to my wife travelling with me. So Delta’s Sky team policies are incongruent with its partner airlines. I’m personally disgusted at the lack of loyalty from Delta and have stopped using my Amex Card as others have mentioned. My last communicate with them intimated that I would be looking at other alternatives. I believe they’ve got two big for their boots and think they are too big to fail. I hope tens of thousands of other members stop using their loyalty branded cards to send a loud message that they need to treat their most loyal customers properly.
I switched to AA Executive Platinum when the charts were eliminated Never looked back DAL behavior will never change until they’re forced to compete Am sure it’ll happen someday but soon In meantime they lose my $
I have lifetime Gold status on Delta for hitting 2 million miles. I still have several hundred thousand miles to redeem.Will use them domestically since I can snag seats in the exit row without an upcharge, the food and service in domestic first class is nothing special on Delta, AA or United. Deltas reliability is slightly better but nothing to brag about. United is catching up quickly and is much stronger in Asia, equal in Europe. American has JAL which makes it strong in Asia. For Delta Asia is very weak especially in Japan. Also notice Deltas stock has not been a stellar performer. Jet Blue is really the best value and has reasonable fares to London. It’s terrible the way Delta, American and United have strangleholds on their hub cities. Charlotte has some of the most outrageous fares in the country. Hopefully, Breeze gets their act together, they are a good value right now.
Skypesos have been devalued consistently over the years. United has become the new best domestic airline all around.
I agree this stinks, especially to us that are loyal to Delta. I’m a DM, on my 73 segment of the year so far. They constantly downgrade awards and benefits (no more individual club membership as a DM choice benefit). I get 1-2 international flights a year, so getting upgraded to FC on the majority of my domestic flights (120 a year on average) makes it harder to credit my flying to Flying Blue.
Delta has shown that they stopped caring about us very frequently flyers last year. Disappointing to say the least.
Delta is the most overrated company in America. I have had so many issues over the years, I gave up long ago.
Are the others better? Depends. But not overrated.
Sky Miles, WIFI and TV on the plane? All fluff. What Delta should concern themselves with is not changing your entire interary every month before your trip
Asheville to International Falls is nowa17 hour trip costing $1700. I can go to England quicker and cheaper. Come on Ed Bastian, just make scheduling right.
Agree with this article and all the comments. Well said, Kyle, and kudos to you for speaking the truth in this day when media seemingly can’t be trusted to do that simple thing. Delta does have a superior onboard experience and the lounges are excellent (particularly in LAX) so it would be a hard switch but certainly something worth looking at now. The ticket costs (cash) are consistently higher than other airlines as well.
I have felt the same of late, I fly Delta for business every week, and to be honest, even as a Diamond Medallion I am beginning to feel their service erode in that program and their Skymiles rewards program is just pitiful. I have the Platinum AE but like others it’s kept in the drawer.
I rack up about 15k of their Skymiles a month through travel so I can’t get rid of them, and now use them to book pleasure Domestic flights or upgrades, for overseas, to and from the US I go elsewhere. I just booked a trip back from the UK, and $350k for one one way ticket on business class, who are they bloody kidding there?? I looked at VA and got two Upper Class seats using their rewards calendar for 100k. With the 30% transfer bonus from Capital One, it was a bargain.
It’s a shame that they’re penalizing their frequent fliers so heavily. If American or United was as reliable as Delta I would have jumped a long time ago.
Just yesterday I called to drop my Delta Platinum American Express card before my annual $250 fee came up. Part of the reason is I can earn greater cash back rewards with other cards, but the main reason was maybe 18 to 24 months ago, in my judgment, it appeared that Delta was grossly limiting the flights in which my annual companion ticket could be used. If I was paying by cash, numerous options would be available, but not if I wanted to use a companion ticket. Earlier this month I had to drive over 3 hours to board a flight in ATL instead of my home airport because that was the only way I could use my companion ticket before it expired. There were no companion ticket available flights out of my home airport. Enough is enough.
This has happened to me every year. It’s not a benefit if you can’t use it.
In the old saying that your sky pesos, I mean miles, are worth more today than it will ever be in the future is 100% true now. Burn them at every opportunity you have. Saving sky miles for the future is fools gold.
We have stopped using our Delta Amex when we realized that they were making it impossible to redeem sky miles. We were unable to combine gift card redemption with sky miles on a recent trip…and, I beg to differ, the service on Delta is consistently going downhill. We were in Comfort+ and after having flown First Class so many times, I was puzzled why two attendants were designated to the front while the rest if us had one attendant and therefore had no beverage service whatsoever. My husband was a PanAm captain, so when they tried to play the turbulence card, we knew something was amiss. We were in second row of Comfort+ and there was no turbulence. They somehow were able to do full service just 6 feet away. The flight attendant got nasty when she realized we weren’t buying the turbulence bs. Interestingly, the entire flight crew was nowhere to be found when we were all deplaning. Everyone was talking about their lack of service at the luggage carousel…and they all noticed the unnecessary TWO flight attendants at the front of the plane. They also offer a free upgrade for Elite status…what a joke…two empty first class seats but no one on upgrade list was upgraded. We love Virgin Atlantic…and if price is even more…they win my business. Bye, bye Delta
I personally disagree. 75k miles to akl in Mc anyone? I personally will keep using my delta reserve card and absolutely love DLs international product. I can still find some sweet spots with skymiles, and Delta is obviously amazing in all other aspects. Def better than Untied or American
I agree. I had about 400k miles, and have been using them for decent deals non domestic flights. Booked a trip to Maui for 36K miles, Hawaii is expensive so that was a great deal. Went to Mexico in January for 17K. I just hate other airlines lol. And having platinum status has been nice.
Which card would you suggest instead of the AX DL? We already have AX platinum.
That’s true, but United Airlines is doing the same. They double the international flights miles. It is ridiculous what they are doing
In todays world flying any airline is horrible, whether you earn sky miles or not. The prices are so exorbitant, inflation on the rise and tickets cost well over $1,000 and that’s in coach! Sky miles and all these other programs are not worth it anymore, flying is a hassle, especially if you’re flying international and have to make 2 stops. The flight is over 20 hours. I’m over it!
I was a loyal Delta flyer and the prices have been so high I have been using United, Jet Blue and American which have been significantly LOWER. But what really has me cutting my Delta card is that I have not been able to use 1 not 1! of my companion tickets EVER I am DONE. Looking for a new loyalty card. A benefit is NO BENEFIT if you cannot USE it. There are no flights no matter where I try to use it. Done, Done and Done
Kyle, your article is right on. A worthless program. I am Platinum, a Reserve card holder, and fly 1-2 times a month. Still #30 on the first class upgrade list. Sky Clubs are packed with queue lines out front.
Sitting at the gate has become a better experience. Unfortunately, I have over 1 million SkyMiles to try to spend on a rapidly-declining program.
I’m a DM, and when I see silver members going in the club because they have the credit card, that’s a bit annoying. Seeing kids in the lounge (like 3-4 kids with a family) while I’m waiting in line is insulting. I have a son, so I’m not a “I hate kids” person. Lounges used to be for business travelers (I already have 73 segments this year), so having to wait because kids are running around isn’t right. End of March I was in LGA, there was a 7-9 year old girl doing cartwheels in there, right by where I was sitting working on my laptop. There should be certain lounges with Delta that do not allow kids in.
Facts! I’ve been a heavy user of Delta and especially the American Express co-branded card. The bang isn’t worth the buck anymore and it’s time to make a change! Great article and I couldn’t agree more!
I live in Minneapolis, MN but I am originally from London, UK. I met my wife in 2006 and I used to travel to see her almost every month when it was still NWA and the prices were only $350 Rtn. When Delta took over the prices doubled over night. I then started earning and using SkyMiles more often after I moved to US in 2017, as cash prices were too high, but Delta had SkyMiles flash sales acouple times a year. Unfortunately I have not seen a flash sale for a long time now. I currently have over 75k miles but for a flight going back home it is now 147k!! And that’s with a 15% discount for having an AMEX gold card.
It really is not worth trying to earn miles anymore as it won’t get you anywhere you want to go.
I wish Delta would recognize that they are really hurting their loyal customers by not having flights that are affordable and within reach.
Sky Miles, WIFI and TV on the plane? All fluff. What Delta should concern themselves with is not changing your entire interary every month before your trip
Asheville to International Falls is nowa17 hour trip costing $1700. I can go to England quicker and cheaper. Come on Ed Bastian, just make scheduling right.
I have also noticed that when I am actually able to find a flight where I can use my companion ticket, the fare ends up being nearly as much as buying two tickets for cash. Whoopee, thanks for the fake 2fer. BS.
Thanks for posting this. I don’t even want to vacation with my kids anymore where a flight is involved because they want to choose our vacation based on where Delta flies. I have been telling them for a couple years, Americans frequent flyer program is pretty good, although I haven’t paid much attention recently to how American compares to other airlines anymore. I really wish everyone would pick a week or even a few days and boycott Delta and other airlines that are Nickle and diming us.
Well..Delta staying True to their Slogan…”Keep Climbing”…LOL
The article is very timely for me and my wife. The companion ticket and free bags make it worth keeping the card as Madison WI is extremely expensive to fly in and out of. However the miles are worth very little. We will be keeping the card but probably adding Amex Gold to use on a regular basis.
You are on target with this statement:
“Delta’s main tool to encourage loyalty isn’t its loyalty program: It’s the airline itself. Earning some SkyMiles is just a bonus – and increasingly, a less and less valuable bonus.”
Could there be a better compliment to an airline?
Having had to travel other airlines over the last year, Delta far exceeds them in just about every aspect of the flight experience. And, that is what it should do. Some airlines are just not worth the hassles to fly them, and they don’t care if you get stranded no matter how many miles you have with them.
Your article sounds like you have some sort of offense. So, its SkyMiles program is not as valuable as it once was. Well, no airline’s rewards are as valuable as they once were. And most other programs expire their points. If you fly for rewards and perks, then you can play the rewards and perks game. I fly for efficient and hassle-free travel, comfort, good schedules and routes, cost effectiveness, and getting to my destination without being worn out or stressed out. Delta offers that far more than any other airline in the USA.
So, you are right that its loyal flyers will continue to fly Delta. They exceed expectations with what you pay for. And if my miles that never expire are worth less than they once were, I don’t care. I don’t fly to earn miles. I fly for the main point of flying. And Delta does that better. Delta gets me there ready to go, rested, refreshed, and not stressed from travel. And, btw, I can work and stay connected for free because I am a SkyMiles member. And the Delta app is far easier to use than the other airlines. There just isn’t any reason to not fly Delta. So, no, I will not be boycotting the ways to accumulate miles as you advocate in your out of balance article. And if you have encouraged a large number of people to not use Delta, then that is just fewer people to work around in Skylounges and at the gate for me. But, Delta does such a great job, overcrowding is their biggest issue, not lack of fliers, and you have absolutely no influence on reducing the crowd wanting to fly Delta, (unfortunately for the rest of us who would like fewer people). 🙂
You said exactly what I’ve been trying to write myself Jeff all week!! You are spot on.
-Kyle I respect your work and time, but this whole article seemed like a circular reference to me.
I am Delta loyal because of everything but Skymiles, they just happen to be the currency associated here. I will continue to use my DL Amex as I have on the categories I get the most value, and my Chase and Aeroplan cards elsewhere.
Happy to further the discussion.
Thanks for the kind words and feedback, Brian. I’ll repeat some of what I responded to Jeff. You, Jeff and I have all made the conscious choice to fly Delta understanding that its mileage program is weaker compared to many other competitors. We understand we are making that tradeoff – and I am with you, too: While I clearly wish SkyMiles were better, it’s a tradeoff I am happy to make.
But the point is that many of our readers do not understand that. They earn SkyMiles as a default – not just a small bonus for the airline choice they were going to make anyway – believing them to be the key to booking a trip that is increasingly further and further away.
I agree with everything you’ve said here, Jeff. The difference is that you and I understand that we are making a choice to forego earning more valuable miles because we enjoy flying Delta above other carriers. We understand we are making that tradeoff. Many of our readers, however, do not.
That’s the point of the post. Not any of my own personal grievances (in fact, I have none – I 100% understand why Delta does what it does here!) but underscoring that reality for everyday travelers: Those who aren’t just flying Delta because they like Delta but also focus on earning SkyMiles above all else because they assume they are valuable. Informed travelers can make their own choices about matters most to them, just as you and I have!
As a Diamond medallion holder I agree. It’s just not worth it and even the flight attendants are getting so rude. My trip from Milan two days ago was horrible a flight attendant by the name of Franklyn was so rude that I’m considering another program
Honestly half the reason I use my Delta Amex for most things is that providing all the same information they gave me a credit limit 4 times higher than my closest card. I not only pay off my credit cards every statement but try to keep them paid below 10% usage even between statements, but as they all have periods closing at different times, and it can take days for a payment to register one large expense like rent could on the wrong card take it up to 25-30% usage while I know it’s always going to be below 10% usage on my skymiles card. I’m not sure if this higher limit was an individual mistake, if I need to ask for increased limits on other cards, or if this is part of delta/amex’s strategy.
Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve noticed it as I priced various flights the last couple of years, and always ended up using United miles from my husband’s United card. I’m going to downgrade my AE Delta Platinum card to the lowest free AE card and use it sparingly, and sign up for a United credit card now.
If I want to fly Delta, I would just pay with points using my Amex Biz Platinum. I can’t say that it always costs less points, but every time I want to book, I would end up paying less points when I book this way. Take the DTW to CDG example above, I looked up a random July flight, Delta wanted 570k miles + $148. Amex Travel? Cash price is $5838, after the 35% points bonus, I only need to pay out 379k points, and no cash.
The level of entitlement in these articles and posts is astounding. Thus is a rewards program for customers. It is not just more free stuff. It costs a company money to do this and it is unfortunate when customers complain that they aren’t getting as much free stuff anymore. This is not the end of the world. It means someone made a business decision to not give as much stuff away. Oh, the horrors!
I was so pleased having 400k miles in the hopes I could use it to fly my husband and I Delta One to Italy for our honeymoon. Delta wanted 650k miles for one ticket and over $6k to pay cash. We flew AA for half that. It’s ridiculous.
I used all my miles up in 2014 for anniversary trip to Paris . That was also a goodbye trip with Delta . Cut up husbands Delta Amex at beginning of Covid and now only use a Costco card. Received enough $ last year from Costco card to buy a one way business to Europe on another airline . Would not have earned that on Delta with miles in a year!
You must spend A LOT on that card…or you use it for business purposes.
My recent Sky Miles trip to Asia was a trip from Hell. The trip was for several months from Detroit to Thialand and return. I was forced to use miles at the terminal in Detroit to leave thiland befor my visa expired. Then another trip to Tipay and to Vietnam. This is BS
I told Delta I’m no longer flying them. Much easier to fly American since they count all my miles.
Now I know I’ll sign up for the AA program and stop using Delta which I’ve noticed the trend you refer to . Have almost 300,000 miles . Good by Delta.
Please continue to report out on Delta SkyMiles deals and flash sales! Although it has been disheartening to see the everyday redemptions and flash sales decrease in both value and frequency I have still gotten alot of value out of them and the optimist in me wants to believe that this devaluation has to be cyclical. Demand is high right now and Delta doesn’t need to promote as much but the moment Supply and Demand falls out of whack I have to think they will turn the promotional spigot back on. Until then, your advice on focusing on transferrable point programs like AMEX MR and Chase UR is a good one. The other tip I have is that I seem to have decent luck with SkyMiles redemptions booked 6mo+ out. If the value of each SkyMile compared to paying with dollars exceeds 1.4 cents per mile for the flight I’ll book using SkyMiles, if it is below that I’ll pay using dollars. As a Minneapolis based traveler for work and fun and a Platinum Medallion, sadly there’s no way around me continuing to rack up SkyMiles (in addition to my AMEX MR, Chase UR and other balances thanks to smart spending) so all I can do is spend my points and miles wisely and try and get the most out of them, thanks to Thrifty Traveler I know that I can!
I have had miles with all five major US programs (AA, UA, DL, AS, WN) as well as Avios, Virgin Atlantic, AF, and SIN. I always try to optimize my miles and points i.e. get the best bang for the buck. The hardest to use are actually Alaska on AS metal. If you take out the redemption possibilities on JAL and SIN, AS miles are worst value than DL. At least with DL, I have been able to redeem here and there. With AS, I have not had one redemption on AS metal in eight years because I can’t even get 1.25 cents per point.
I completely agree with the tone of the article. I’m based an an airport which has roughly equivalent types of service by UA, AA, DL and WN. I only fly Delta if my destination is Atlanta or MSP, precisely because of the lousy loyalty program. It would be interesting to do or see research on what types of partner redemptions are worthwhile. I recently got a 65k business award (available for 35k in coach) from Tunis to Dhaka, which seemed reasonable to me. I understand that not everyone is interested in business class on Saudia, but maybe that’s why the seats are available.
I agree, my bucket list trip was 2 Delta one tickets to Australia but even with 792000 miles it is not possible. I am 61000 miles away from million miler and I am thinking of using a match offer to transfer the equivalent of my diamond status. Sad.
I have both the Delta AMEX Platinum AND Gold cards.
And, for years have usually flown Delta, even though American also serves my home airport and
the destinations I fly to most.
I’ve consigned the Delta cards to my sock-drawer and just received the American Airlines AMEX Platinum.
After seeing the continued devaluations you mentioned I already canceled my Delta Reserve card last week. Oddly, it was the first time an agent didn’t try to persuade me to keep it active!!! I guess it’s good to be Delta these days.
I really like Delta. But I have also been somewhat frustrated with them, especially as the last 2 years, they were weak where I needed to internationally, and places where they are strong – like Central and South America, they have been flat expensive. When I started seeing them asking almost as much for Main Cabin as 1st with American, I really took a step back, to have a good look. I did send them note too. They need to hear it. I simply said – no, I am going to choose American for 1300 F, over your 1k for main Cabin. You aren’t that good. Sorry.
As far as Skymiles, one thing I will say is that they are the only airline that lets you earn MDM status using miles. No one else does. And frankly, they should, given that they charge like dollars on them. but they do it. It does mean I use the miles I earn, as well as cash flights, for all my flying, knowing I am earning status.
However, as much as I prefer Delta for a US carrier, if they don’t improve on their flights to places like Asia, and Africa, I might find that I switch to another carrier like United while I still have Platinum status. The tickets are less, I don’t mind paying for 1st when it is not that much higher than a Delta lower class ticket, and I prefer to stick with my carriers exclusively.