Tim Winship makes a point about Delta’s new miles as money option for award tickets that I neglected to mention: that the tickets you ‘buy’ at one cent per point are treated as award, rather than paid, tickets. In other words, they don’t earn miles and they can’t be upgraded.
Still, Winship concludes
[T]he increased flexibility, transparency, and convenience provided by Pay with Miles will be welcomed by many SkyMiles members and sets a new industry standard for award availability.
Now, as I mentioned previously, United already offers Choices — a similar program for Mileage Plus members with a co-branded Visa credit card. So it’s hardly a new industry standard being pioneered by Delta. Of course, holders of the Delta American Express card can use all their miles in this program, rather than just the miles earned via the credit card (as United’s program limits members to doing). But United treats redemptions via their program as paid tickets which earn miles and can be upgraded. So here, United offers the better value proposition (although still not a good enough one to entice me to redeem any of my miles this way).
I agree that this development isn’t a bad thing but we shouldn’t pretend it’s a meaningfully good thing either.
It’s not even a ‘new standard for award availability’ as Winship claims, either, because up until recently with Delta you could redeem any seat on the aircraft for additional miles. Delta took away that options (though there are hints they may bring it back at a new extortionary level). Most other airlines still allow this.
So it doesn’t yield more availability. But it does allow you to get at availability for otherwise cheap tickets. It’s better to use 15,000 miles for a $150 ticket than to use 25,000 (or more) miles for that ticket. But that doesn’t change the fact that you shouldn’t be wasting your miles this way anyway!
Meanwhile, the program doesn’t help, really, with availability on expensive last minute fares. If a ticket would cost $1500, it’ll cost you 150,000 miles! Under the old ‘any seat for twice the price model’ you could expect to obtain last seat availability for 50,000 miles…
My real point is that this new program is a non-issue. And despite positive coverage elsewhere it does not move Delta to the head of the pack for award availability. They’re still behind the better players like American (and United, given availability with Star Alliance partners).