When Delta SkyMiles recently announced changes to their program effective Jan. 1, 2015, they stated that new award charts would be coming in the fourth quarter of 2014, with information on new redemption tiers raising the current three-tier award chart up to five tiers.
Either Delta is bent on exceeding expectations for their members, or they realized that the message of the change to SkyMiles needed substance–and if there is one thing that members of any travel loyalty program fully love to analyze it is award charts–whether for airlines or hotels. (Witness the social media reception of United’s recent award changes.)
So, what’s a program to do? Get it out and get it out early. The new award charts have been released and you can see them below.
The headline reads: New Award Charts keep lowest price points the same, 95 percent of pricing changes are decreasing.
That’s the headline. The real impact will be seen in the actual redemption, from statistics and from member feedback in the popular court of public opinion. In the most recent year (2013) the award redemption for United MileagePlus was 7.9 percent in revenue passenger miles, Delta trailed at 7.3 percent in revenue passenger miles and both were well back of the industry leader in award redemption, Southwest Rapid Rewards, at 9.5 percent in revenue passenger miles. In actual redemption statistics, Southwest Rapid Rewards awarded 5.4 million flight awards in 2013 while United handed out 5.0 million flight awards and Delta was in the range of 4.7 million flight awards. We’ll use this benchmark in 2016 when we will be able to measure the effect that the new award chart had on SkyMiles award redemptions.
We do know we were incorrect in trying to guess where the new award chart would be going. We predicted European mid-level coach awards would be 70,000 and 100,000 (the two new “filler” levels) but a quick look sees awards to Europe in coach at 60,000 – 75,000 – 95,000 – 110,000 – 130,000. We were off by 5,000 miles in our guess–and that means a lot to anyone collecting and earning SkyMiles.
Interesting take: In prior comments, we made mention of the change being like “putting wings on a hotel program.” Further proof of this is in how Delta is rebranding their award tiers. Long has been the domination of “Saver” and “Peak” with the eerie wasteland of Standard awards included, Delta again appears to take a page right out of the hotel guide to award redemption by renaming their award tiers “Levels”. Familiar terminology and we hope, familiar results, as we rarely see anyone complain about award availability from hotel programs. We guess we’ll all be saying, “What level R U on for that award?”
Final thoughts: With just two of approximately 90 different award levels changing with the new award charts, there’s hope–a lot of hope. But charts don’t make happy members, redemption success stories do. Delta, your clock has just started, albeit seven months early.
To see the award charts, go here: http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?11224