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Delta Will Move To a Revenue-Based Earnings Program in 2015

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Delta will move to a hotel-like (or Southwest-like) revenue-based frequent flyer program in 2015. Inside Flyer has a great rundown on the changes that I don’t need to fully reproduce here. The highlights (such as they are):

- Those with no Elite status earn 5 miles per dollar spent or 7 miles if you use a Delta credit card.
- Those with Diamond earn 11 miles per dollar, 13 if they use a Delta credit card.
- Tickets on other airlines will earn a percentage of miles flown based on the fare purchased.
- Redemption rates stay the same, though you can now book one-way tickets.

This is absolutely awful news for everyone EXCEPT those who fly internationally on business class tickets. I look at it this way: a roundtrip ticket to LA from New York is usually around $400 – I’d earn a paltry 2,000 miles. If I book a business class ticket to Amsterdam, it’s around $7,000 – I would earn 35,000 miles with no status or a whopping 91,000 miles if I’m a Diamond using their credit card. It’s easy to see who they’re going after.

While this is a disaster for mileage runners, sadly enough I earn most of my miles these days via credit card spend (and I suspect you do, too). We’ve seen devaluations for years, and I’d guess United will match this at some point in the next 2 years. Even if United moved to this program, I suspect I’d still fly them to hit mid-level Elite status to guarantee myself Economy Plus seat access. Flying has been the most difficult way to earn miles for a while now – it’s just gotten more difficult.

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  1. If you’re an Amex CC spender who earns mostly that way to get to an award ticket and rarely flies otherwise, it seems like an overall net win. Assuming the awards aren’t actually harder to afford.

    • We’re going to read A LOT about how awful this is. But they’re not changing how you earn Elite status, and most of us (especially most of us who play this as a game) will benefit from being able to redeem for one-way awards.

      And if you actually buy international business class tickets you are in for a windfall – That 1 ticket to Amsterdam that a Medallion member buys earns 91,000 miles – almost enough for another business class ticket.

      I buy coach tickets to Amsterdam for work – that $2200 ticket would earn 25,000 miles, enough for a domestic coach ticket.

      This will be a lucrative change for some people. It really seems like Mileage Runners are the most hurt by this – there are a ton of ways to earn miles far more easily than BIS.

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