Jeff Robertston, who runs the Delta Skymiles program, posted on Flyertalk that as part of integrating Northwest into Delta, Northwest Platinum elites will earn a 100% mileage bonus instead of a 125% bonus, and Silver elites will earn a 25% bonus instead of 50%.
Losing benefits is unfortunate. This one doesn’t surprise me. First, because it’s an area where Northwest remained generous compered to competitors (Continental made a similar move, but then allowed their elites to earn at the earlier more generous levels if they held Continental’s premium co-branded credit card>) and that just doesn’t fly under the new leadership, and second because my working model has been that where the features of the Skymiles and Worldperks programs were different, the default would be to opt for the less generous benefits. So far that assumption has proven out quite well, for example as Northwest’s award chart now requires more miles in many cases for awards.
Mr. Robertson also reported that Platinum elites would no longer have fee-free changes to awards (and free-free award cancellations/mileage redeposits).
He claimed that it wasn’t for the fee revenue, but rather as a deterrent to making reservations that Platinums will not use — which he claims accounts for 10% of the awards Platinums claim. In other words, taking away this benefit from Platinums would, in theory, make more awards available for everyone else.
Here’s the problem, though — awards with Delta can be very hard to book. Platinums have been able to grab awards that were available and make changes to improve their itienraries later when seats opened up. That was a huge benefit that offset some of the negatives about Skymiles (and in fact, Skyteam) redemption compared to competitor programs in oneworld or Star Alliance.
The difficulties in claiming awards or in improving awards were only exascerbated by Delta’s decision to shorten the hold time on awards reserved online to 24 hours, and to disallow any holds whatsoever on awards booked over the phone (and some awards can only be booked over the phone).
Now Delta’s (and Northwest’s) Platinums will have to book their awards right away without opportunity to continue to work with Delta’s agents to improve their trips — because in most cases grabbing the right award is not at all easy on the first attempt. This makes Delta’s award redemption completely uncompetitive.
First, Delta and Skyteam availability is on the whole inferior to award availability on oneworld or Star.
Second, competitor programs still allow much more generous award itinerary hold provisions prior to ticketing.
Third, competitor programs permit their top tier elites to fee-free changes to awards.
So the Delta is inferior on all three levels. They just keep making this program worse and worse.
If you’re hub-captive to Delta or Northwest, in many cases it makes sense to continue to fly them. Other than living in a Delta/Northwest hub, one really ought to at least consider another airline. But even those living in Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, etc. should only accrue Delta/Northwest miles when the offer is so generous that it dwarfs that available in competitor programs.
Now that the Delta co-branded American Express no longer gives “always double miles” on ‘everyday purchase’ categories, the only reason to put any spending at all on (or even carry a) Delta Amex is for those hub-captive flyers who need spending on the card in order to earn bonus elite qualifying miles.
Do I participate in Skymiles? Sure. When they’re giving out 10,000 miles for a cheap one-day Avis rental. Or when I can earn 20,000 miles for a Bosley hair-replacement consultation. But not for credit card spend, everyday hotel or car rental transactions, dining for miles, online shopping, or the myriad other things I do that earn a mileage return.