Delta “enhances” SkyMiles again and signals more changes

Another day, another email from Delta telling us about changes to the SkyMiles program. And, as usual, there are some ups and downs, but the downs outnumber the ups. These changes take place on June 1, 2016, but it’s good to be aware. There are three that matter, so let’s go through them, shall we?

  • Regional upgrade certificates (RUCs) can now be used for upgrades on transcon flights. Huh? Here’s what it means: The top two elite tiers at Delta get “Choice Benefits,” or special gifts that they get to pick out. For platinum members, one of the options is four RUCs, which used to be good for intra-region flights not including many transcontinental flights in the US. Now, those certificates can be used for these flights. It’s a nice perk upgrade, but only applies to a handful of customers. I rate it one πŸ™‚ out of five.
  • Award pricing is changing. Delta remains the one major airline that does not allow you to upgrade solely to miles with any fare in a standard fare bucket. That will change, however, in June 2016, when Delta will change to let you upgrade from any bucket, even the fares coded L/U/T, which are the cheapest standard fare (You can look at the ticket or the website to determine your fare class.). The bad news is that some of the fares that used to cost 15,000 miles to upgrade now cost 20,000. The cheapest fares will be 30,000 miles to upgrade. Internationally, the “middle bucket” of fares, those in categories S/H/Q/K, will now be upgradeable, whereas they hadn’t been previously. Downside: It’s going to cost you 80,000 miles to upgrade internationally if you are in one of the bottom buckets. Higher cost but more options. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
  • Uh oh, the start of dynamic pricing (pricing that can change at any moment, similar to tickets you purchase with cash). In particular:

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 7.54.58 PMYeah, there it is. It’s those first three sentences. “Most” awards will remain unchanged. But if you want that economy class ticket the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the one-way might go from 25,000 to, well, whatever Delta feels like charging for it. Truthfully, it makes sense: that ticket should cost more than a “normal” high-demand ticket, since it’s such an expensive ticket to pay for out of pocket. But it hurts and, combined with the fact that Delta removed award charts from its website earlier this year, serves as a signal that, eventually, all mileage prices will be based on the underlying cost of the ticket (as Southwest and JetBlue do), not on an arbitrary number that used to be in an award chart. On the day that happens, the value of your miles will drop precipitously. And that earns five 😯 😯 😯 😯 😯 .

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