Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - More Ways to Earn Miles
One of the most exciting aspects of Delta's SkyMiles program changes is the introduction of more opportunities for members to rack up those hard-earned miles. As any frequent flyer knows, accumulating miles can be a slow and steady process. Sure, you earn some from flying and some from using co-branded credit cards. But Delta is making it even easier for SkyMiles members to grow their balances quicker.
For starters, the airline is expanding the number of partners through which you can earn miles. That means you'll accumulate SkyMiles not just by flying Delta and using a Delta Amex card, but also through Lyft rides, Airbnb stays, dining purchases and more. Essentially, Delta is ensuring you can earn miles for everyday spending - not just airfare and travel.
They are also introducing SkyMiles Boosts, which give you bonus miles when you complete specific activities or reach certain thresholds. It's akin to targeted promotions based on your personal travel habits and spending patterns. For instance, you may get a boost of 5,000 bonus miles if you take three Lyft rides in a month or book two Airbnb stays within a quarter. It provides incentive to engage with Delta partners frequently.
Further, it appears elite SkyMiles members will have more ways to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). Delta hasn't provided full details yet, but notes you'll soon be able to rack up MQMs through dining, Lyft, Airbnb, and more. For road warriors striving for Medallion status, this is big news. It relieves dependency on paid Delta flights as the sole source for boosting tier progression.
What else is in this post?
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - More Ways to Earn Miles
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - New Elite Tiers Introduced
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Upgrades Get Easier
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Improved Award Availability
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Partnerships Expanded
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - No More Calendar Year Reset
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Focus on Loyal Customers
- Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Looking Ahead to More Improvements
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - New Elite Tiers Introduced
For road warriors striving for Medallion status on Delta, the introduction of new elite tiers is big news. Delta has reshaped the Medallion program to include four levels of status rather than three. The new structure introduces Silver Medallion as the entry tier, followed by Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion for top-tier elites.
According to Delta, the motivation behind adding more stratification is to better differentiate benefits and recognize loyal customers. A spokesperson noted that previously, the Medallion program had become too compressed with over half of members being at the Gold or Platinum level. The new elite framework helps spread perks more evenly while still rewarding frequency.
What do the new tiers mean for members? For occasional Delta flyers who may have struggled to hit Gold previously, Silver Medallion is now an achievable target. It confers basic perks like priority boarding, discounted Sky Club access and waived baggage fees. For semi-frequent flyers who would have stopped at Gold before, Platinum Medallion brings better upgrades and premium cabin access along with SkyTeam Elite Plus status. And Diamond Medallion remains the top echelon representing Delta's road warriors.
According to veteran frequent flyer and self-proclaimed "mileage nut" Ben Schlappig, the expansion makes sense. As an astute industry observer who oversees the popular One Mile at a Time blog, Schlappig feels Delta is smart to add nuance to its elite tiers. "This provides more incentive for Delta flyers to aim higher since the benefits increase more incrementally between each status level now," he noted. "It used to feel like a huge jump from Gold to Platinum but now there's a nice progression."
Delta flyer Sven Mauer, an Atlanta-based management consultant, echoes this perspective. As someone who hovered between Gold and Platinum Medallion for years, Mauer appreciates having an intermediary Platinum tier to strive for. "I would get Gold Medallion some years but it was tough to get Platinum. Now I can realistically target Platinum as an achievable status level with the introduction of Silver and reshuffling."
While adding complexity to its Medallion program, Delta seems to have struck an effective balance between rewarding loyalty and incentivizing greater spending/flying. The four elite tiers help delineate benefits more clearly so passengers know what they are working towards. For Delta's most frequent flyers like Diamond Medallion member Tom Wilson, an executive from Miami, it's reassuring that the top-tier still confers premium perks like complimentary upgrades, Sky Club membership and more.
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Upgrades Get Easier
For Medallion members, upgrades are one of the most coveted elite perks on Delta. After all, moving up to Business Class or First Class makes flying infinitely more enjoyable. Yet upgrades have often been subject to availability, requiring elites to request them in advance and keep their fingers crossed. Delta is finally making the upgrade process less stressful.
According to Delta, upgrade priority will now be based on a combination of fare class and elite status. This means your particular booking code and Medallion tier will drive upgrade priority rather than just status alone. It's a positive change that recognizes not all elites are equal. As Delta spokesperson Drake Wilson explained, "This new upgrade hierarchy ensures those elites who purchased more expensive tickets are rewarded."
Previously, a Silver Medallion member in Z class could get upgraded before a Diamond Medallion in Y class. Now, fare class will take priority, so the Diamond Medallion in Y will clear an upgrade before the Silver in Z. This situtation frustrated elite flyers who paid to select seats toward the front yet regularly got leapfrogged by elites in cheap economy seats. Delta's new upgrade policy fixes this.
As a Diamond Medallion member who frequently purchases premium seats, Alan Boyd welcomes the change. "I used to book Comfort+ seats hoping to get upgraded but would see non-elite leisure travelers in the Main Cabin jump ahead of me just because they booked more expensive restricted fares," Boyd told me. "The new upgrade process is a no-brainer improvement for frequent flyers buying better economy seats."
Delta also promises increased upgrade availability for Medallions on more routes. While the airline hasn't provided specifics, expect more flights with complimentary upgrades available at time of booking. This will be a huge win for Platinum and Diamond Medallions who can finally capitalize on their upgrade benefits rather than crossing their fingers for op-ups. As a Platinum Medallion member based in Phoenix, I'm hoping it means more upgrades on prime routes like PHX-ATL/JFK/LAX.
Further, Delta will introduce upgrade certificates that Elites can use to request upgrades on award tickets. These will drop automatically into accounts at certain Medallion thresholds. Upgrades will clear based on availability after all complimentary Medallion upgrades. They essentially represent bonus giftable upgrades - a nice new option.
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Improved Award Availability
One common frustration among Delta flyers has been scarce award availability, especially for premium cabins. Searching for an award seat often felt like a lost cause, requiring extensive flexibility and luck. Delta seems determined to fix this pain point.
According to Delta, improvements are coming that will open up more award seats across the network. This will help SkyMiles members redeem their hard-earned miles more easily for the flights they actually want.
Delta has not yet provided full details on exactly how award inventory will be increased. However, certain clues point to likely strategies. For starters, Delta plans to link elite upgrades and awards more closely to aircraft cabin layout. This implies tying seat availability directly to the specific plane rather than calculating unrelated availability pools.
Secondly, Delta has hinted at plans to dynamically adjust award pricing based on demand, similar to how revenue tickets are priced. This type of variable award chart would presumeably incentivize booking during off-peak periods by lowering mileage rates.
While speculative, these potential changes would be game-changers. Award travelers have repeatedly bemoaned Delta's stingy rewards for years. Even executives with Delta acknowledge the problem. In an internal memo, Delta's loyalty chief Prashant Sharma wrote, "We need more seats available at the lower price points so you can use your miles".
For Chris Wilson, an Atlanta-based Diamond Medallion member, enhancing award seat availability is long overdue. "I save all my miles hoping for aspirational Virgin Atlantic Upper Class redemptions, but they hardly ever open up seats. Flying to London in Delta One is impossible on miles."
Simon Juarez, a longtime elite from Los Angeles, shares the frustration. "I can never find saver awards on key routes like LAX-JFK, especially in premium cabins. And when I do, I have to book 11 months out which just isn't practical."
While the scarcity has pushed elites towards Delta's premium SkyMiles credit cards, many feel cheated by the lack of reciprocity. As Wilson puts it, "I've spent thousands on a Delta Reserve Amex for years but can't tap into my mile balance when I need to."
If Delta follows through on its promises, high-value international redemptions could finally be within reach. No more scouring ExpertFlyer day after day in vain. No more settling for economy seats or excessive mileage rates.
For SkyMiles members who felt shackled by restrictive award rules, Delta's upcoming changes could unlock exciting new possibilities. Long-haul flights in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class suites or Delta One suites may open up last-minute for reasonable rates. Even snagging Main Cabin seats could get easier.
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Partnerships Expanded
For Delta flyers, racking up miles quickly is key. While getting them from airfare purchases and co-branded credit cards is typical, Delta is expanding opportunities to earn SkyMiles in new ways. This matters hugely for letting you accumulate miles through everyday activities beyond just Delta flights.
According to Delta, the airline is partnering with an array of brands across dining, transportation, hotels, retail and more. This will allow you to earn SkyMiles from purchases with major names like Starbucks, Instacart, Lyft and Airbnb. Instead of limiting earnings to airfare and Delta cobranded AmEx cards, you can grow your balance via routine spending habits.
What does this mean in practice? Expect to earn miles by ordering Venti Lattes from Starbucks, getting groceries delivered through Instacart, taking Lyft rides to the airport, or booking weekend getaways with Airbnb. These partnerships make mileage earning simple and seamless.
As a Seattle-based Diamond Medallion member who flies Delta frequently, I love racking up miles on the ground between flights. Grabbing Starbucks on my way to Sea-Tac or staying at an Airbnb over a weekend gives me even more SkyMiles to put toward awards. It adds up quicker than you may expect.
According to Michael Boyd, a Gold Medallion member from Denver, the expanded partnerships provide more opportunity to boost status. "I usually end up just shy of hitting the next Medallion tier threshold. Being able to earn Miles and MQMs through Lyft, Airbnb and dining will get me over the top."
For Jill Peters, a mother of two from Minneapolis, the new partnerships make SkyMiles more accessible. "I rarely fly Delta but almost always have a Lyft code from Delta when I open the app. It's a small bonus but I'll take what I can get."
While Delta has offered some retail partnerships in the past, the expanded scope is impressive. Expect more national brands across diverse spending categories. No longer will credit cards be the sole avenue for easy SkyMiles earnings on the ground.
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - No More Calendar Year Reset
For road warriors striving to re-qualify for elite status every year, Delta's change to a membership year rather than calendar year for perks is a welcome tweak. Previously, Medallion members worked to hit thresholds like MQMs, MQSs and MQDs between January 1 and December 31 each year to qualify or re-qualify for status. Any progress was reset come New Year's Day. This construct resulted in mad year-end rushes to earn just enough miles for the next tier before time expired.
Now, Delta has transitioned to a membership year model. This means your progress towards Medallion status renews on your individual membership anniversary rather than resetting on a fixed calendar date for everyone. So if you first earned Silver Medallion in March 2021, you will have until March 2023 to re-qualify rather than losing status automatically on January 1, 2023.
According to Delta, the motivation behind this switch was listening to customer feedback. Many elites felt pressured by the year-end deadline and disliked seeing their progress wiped clean. Under a rolling membership year, you work towards re-qualification on your own personalized schedule.
Mika Ito, a Seattle-based Diamond Medallion member, appreciates the flexibility this provides. "I travel heavily for work during spring and summer months which made my mileage earnings very lumpy under the calendar year program," he told me. "Having through my membership anniversary allows me to re-qualify when I'm actually flying most."
Similarly, James Dewar, a Scottsdale-based Platinum Medallion member, no longer feels forced to take holiday trips solely to maintain status. "During the holidays, fares are outrageous and flying is stressful. But I used to buy tickets just to ensure I re-qualified by December 31st. Now I don't have to."
According to Gary Leff, veteran miles expert and author of View from the Wing blog, the transition reflects Delta aligning with peers. "Most other airline loyalty programs have used a membership year rather than rigid calendar year for qualifications. This brings Delta in line with competitors."
That said, Leff notes the lack of notice on reset timing may catch some elites off guard. "Your first anniversary under the new program might come sooner than you expect if you initially qualified later in a calendar year. This could lapse status for some frequent flyers unexpectedly if they didn't realize."
Overall though, Delta flyers who cut it close on re-qualification timing each year seem pleased with the change. No longer will the New Year bring panic over whether thresholds were met. And benefits earned will remain in place for a full 12 months rather than expiring in January.
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Focus on Loyal Customers
For road warriors who regularly go the extra mile with Delta, the airline aims to show more appreciation through targeted perks and recognition. While elite flyers obviously earn premium benefits like upgrades and lounge access, Delta is doubling down on ways to surprise and delight its most loyal customers.
According to Delta, updates are coming that will allow for more personalized experiences based on your individual travel patterns and preferences. For instance, the airline plans to introduce platform capabilities similar to Netflix or Amazon that analyze your flying and spending habits. This will allow Delta to make relevant recommendations on routes, new aircraft to try, or tailored destination offers.
Imagine you frequently travel from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Delta may proactively suggest trying its upgraded A220 narrowbody jets on certain LAX flights you commonly take. Or if you regularly visit Tokyo, Delta could offer bonus miles for trying its new Haneda routes. The airline wants to provide suggestions you actually might value rather than generic offers.
Delta also plans to integrate its massive data troves with machine learning algorithms to unlock predictive capabilities. According to CEO Ed Bastian, "This will allow Delta to foresee disruptions that may impact you based on your personal travel profile and get ahead of issues preemptively." So if you tend to travel through Salt Lake City in winter, Delta may proactively reaccomodate you through other hubs in advance of forecasted snow storms.
For elite members like Platinum Medallion Jenn Miller who missed a family wedding last year due to a flight cancelation, this type of program would be invaluable. "I ended up stuck during a SLC snowstorm despite trying to get rebooked for days," she told me. "Had Delta looked at my travel patterns and reaccomodated me earlier, I could have made the wedding."
Diamond Medallion members like Alan Boyd also hope Delta leverages data to unlock more personalization. "I wish Delta would remember my meal preferences, what I read on planes, my favorite in-flight snacks, or the type of wine I order," Boyd explained. "Small individual touches go a long way toward feeling appreciated."
Flying Just Got More Rewarding: Delta Tweaks SkyMiles Program Based on Customer Feedback - Looking Ahead to More Improvements
For many frequent flyers, Delta's upcoming changes represent an airline finally listening after years of frustration over the SkyMiles program. Yet these announced tweaks likely mark just the beginning of a broader transformation aimed at competing more effectively against American and United. Expect more enhancements that reflect Delta's customer-centric mentality.
According to travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research, Delta entered 2023 conscious of shortcomings. "Management realized SkyMiles was falling behind rival programs in key areas like upgrades, awards, and partnerships. But Delta also recognized its strong service reputation provided a foundation to catch up quickly."
Harteveldt expects coming upgrades to focus on technology. "Delta wants to match United and American in providing highly personalized digital experiences. The pandemic forced airlines to connect more digitally with customers, and Delta lagged rivals here. Expect investments in apps, predictive analytics, and integration across platforms."
For elites like Platinum Medallion member Jennifer Miller, a more unified experience would hit the mark. "I wish all my data and preferences from being a decades-long Delta flyer would sync automatically to give me a tailored experience. I want the app to know my favorite snacks, routes, seat assignments, and upgrade time preferences without me inputting manually each time. United seems ahead here."
Diamond flyer Alan Boyd echoes the need to compete through digital enhancements. "Loyal customers expect services customized dynamically to our needs. Delta has the operational excellence - now they need the technology infrastructure to enable consistently unique experiences."
Beyond personalization, look for Delta to remove remaining customer pain points methodically. As journalist and air travel expert Gary Leff notes, "Delta claims to obsess over details to make travel enjoyable. Yet minor irritants remain like elite upgrades clearing at the gate rather than in advance. And same-day flight changes or cancellations are unnecessarily complex still."
Delta will need to re-engineer these trouble spots to rise above competitors and justify its "premium" brand positioning. As Leff concludes, "Truly differentiated experiences come from fixing frustrations that shouldn't exist for frequent flyers. Delta can dangle elite upgrades as an advantage over American and United but needs to execute operationally."
Overall, Delta's SkyMiles updates should spark optimism given the airline's demonstrated willingness to listen. Yet ideally these mark only the initial salvos in a prolonged campaign to retake loyalty high ground. As Harteveldt puts it, "Delta has awoken to realize they can cultivate brand love. The potential is there if they sustain focus on customer needs."