Via Delta Points, Delta has introduced 5000 mile one-way awards between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Before you get too excited, this doesn’t really provide superior value for your points, here’s what flights cost in cash:
Delta has been running economy award discounts of 10,000 miles each way. Those require 21 day advance purchase and are restricted to specific routes and specific dates.
Most Delta saver awards, of course, now require 21 day advance purchase (although not all do).
So the award discount appears to have a 21 day advance purchase unsurprisingly.
At least this cheap, short haul route doesn’t have 21 day advance to be able to book a 12,500 mile ‘level 1’ saver award. Although actually choosing to redeem 12,500 miles for a $78 or even $173 ticket seems silly to me.
When Delta declares the death of the 25,000 mile domestic coach award what I think they mean is this: tickets for flights that aren’t very valuable at all should cost fewer miles ($72 flights for 5000 miles that are capacity controlled and don’t earn miles) and tickets for flights that are more expensive should start out at a higher mileage cost.
While this is better than spending 12,500 miles for a $72 ticket (which you shouldn’t do anyway) it ultimately would imply the end of accruing outsized value with your points when redeeming for travel on Delta. Right now you can still occasionally get good value for a last minute ticket on an expensive route when redeeming points. That’s the traditional advice that miles are useful held back for emergencies. When you spend 25,000 miles for an $800 – $1200 domestic ticket you’ve done well.
In the world of SkyMiles of the future, it appears to be unlikely. Those pricey tickets will also be pricey in miles. And the not quite fair trade is that cheap tickets where it wasn’t worth spending miles anyway will cost fewer miles (and still not be worth spending miles).
In contrast, British Airways — even post-devaluation — offers 4500 mile one-way awards based on distance which means if saver award space is available you can book a ticket for that cost even when the price of a paid ticket is high. So I’ve had great luck redeeming British Airways points for the US Airways shuttle, New York LaGuardia – Washington – National, at 9000 miles roundtrip for a $600+ ticket and Washington National – Chicago O’Hare for instance when those were selling at over $600 roundtrip. That’s value.
Tying mileage cost to ticket price make follow a certain logic for Delta, but it means the end of outsized value — and that means that miles are no longer very valuable compared to other currencies. And that means there’s no real reason to accumulate them over another currency.