Elite Status Travel News

Sorry, Delta, I Like My Math Complicated

Written by Charlie

Yesterday, Delta sent out their e-mail to refresh everyone about the upcoming changes to the 2015 Delta Skymiles program. I am not sure if the timing had anything to do with it, but it was just a day after it was confirmed that Delta is doing away with open-jaws and stopovers on their award tickets.

The e-mail highlights the many things that will be changing and does it in a very positive manner. I’ve got to say – airlines and politicians both have a monopoly on being masters of spin. Both of them treat what they say as if it is good for the end-user even while they are really doing something good for their own interests. 🙂

Delta Skymiles

So, let’s have some fun and take a look at what Delta is saying and see what they are really trying to say to us!

Delta to Customers – These Changes Are Good For You!

The 2015 Skymiles Program Gives Your Miles Some BREATHING ROOM.

The 2015 Skymiles® program gives you all-new ways to use your miles, and there’ll be more Award Seats available for fewer miles. You’ll also earn miles in a new way: based on ticket price. Scroll down to see exactly how you’ll earn miles and how it’ll be easier to use them.

Just what my miles needed – breathing room. What that tells me is “you have too many miles in your account, so we will start taking more of them in your redemptions so that your miles left have breathing room.” In other words, we will clean out your account for you.

Use Your Miles In More Ways (Like One-Ways).

Two more Award levels. More Award Seats at the lowest levels. And, starting soon, One-Way Awards. They’re half the price of a round-trip ticket and, yes, you can get one to Hawaii.

When you have to specify the ways in which you are going to let me use my miles in more ways, that doesn’t sound too good to me. So, they will give us one-ways, but take away the stopovers and open-jaw options and that is letting us use our miles in more ways?

The two more award levels? That makes for a total of 5 award levels! And do not miss that all important “s” at the end of the phrase “at the lowest levels.” Award availability at the saver level (the new category 1) has been a problem for a long time anyway. So, now they will just release more seats from the mid-level (the infamous 40,000 mile roundtrip domestic price) into categories 1-3. Oh, category 3? That is the old mid-level which hogged most of the seats anyway! It is highly doubtful that we will find tremendous availability at the category 1 level (or else they would have said that – you know, good news and all).

Booking Award Travel Is Easier

You don’t have to wait until 2015 for this – the best Award Travel deals are now easier to find. An all-new shopping experience lets you easily search for the lowest-priced Award Ticket.

I have to give them this one – the new award calendar is definitely better than the old one. And, it certainly does show you the lowest available price on award tickets. So, thank you, Delta, the new calendar is great. Not so much with the availability, though.

Use Miles + Cash Together

Delta is the only U.S. global airline that lets you pay for a flight using a combination of miles and dollars – so you can spend less of both.

This is actually a throwback to what Northwest used to do, and it is nice to have more options. While it might not be the best choice for people who use their Delta miles for international redemptions, Delta’s Pay-With-Miles option is helpful for domestic travelers who cannot get a saver level award but they also don’t want to pay for the ticket out of pocket. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen tickets to Orlando at 40,000 miles (or even the low level of 25,000 miles) but the actual cost is under $200. No point using award miles for that! Instead, you can hack the price down by using 10,000 miles to chop $100 off the ticket. So, Delta does already offer the Miles + Cash option with their Pay-With-Miles program.

What I like is the qualifiers they use to make them sound like the exclusive airline with that option. They can’t say only airline because airlines like British Airways let you use a combo, so they have to put the U.S. part in there. But, they also can’t say only U.S. airline because Alaska Airlines also lets you mix-n-match cash and miles (Alaska also serves Mexico and Canada, but that would not be global). So, they throw the word global in there to qualify them against Alaska (besides, it is another dig at Alaska who Delta cannot really stand that much anyway, so why not!). So, in the end, we get only U.S. global airline. Great, that means you are on top of three airlines – United and American are the only other ones in your little argument. 🙂

Your Miles Don’t Expire

While the miles you earn can take you anywhere, you’ll be glad to know they’re going nowhere. Delta is the only major U.S. airline whose miles don’t expire – so use them on your timeline, not ours.

I do like that I never have to worry about my Delta miles expire (remember, they will have breathing room soon!). Other airlines require some activity every 18 or 24 months to keep them alive, but not Delta. But, again, we get Delta’s qualifying description. They say the “only major U.S. airline” because JetBlue also does not let their miles (or points) expire. Well, they can’t say global again because JetBlue actually services many international destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central American, and South America. So, they go with the word major to be able to use the word only again. See what they did there? 🙂

No Blackout Dates

You’ll be able to redeem Award Tickets for any Delta Air Lines flight* – with no blackout dates. So pick a day, any day.

The only problem is that you will be paying the absolute highest level on some of those dates. But, if that is the day you pick, at least you can get a ticket!

Status Multiplies Your Miles

The higher your status, the more miles you earn toward Award Travel.

And this is the now infamous revenue based award calculations. Diamond Medallion members earn 11 miles per dollar, Platinum earns 9 miles per dollar, Gold earns 8 miles per dollar, Silver earns 7 miles per dollar, and general members earn 5 miles per dollar. But, it is not just that easy. The multiplication happens agains the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges only, which means that the miles are not counted for government taxes and fees. So, it will not just be simple math, you have to deduct those taxes and fees to get the real amount.

There has already been a lot written about this, but it is no surprise that Delta does not even try to spin this one that much anymore. The only traveler this new system is good for is the traveler who is traveling on very expensive tickets. For that customer, this will work great – and I am happy for you that you will be earning more for what you spend with Delta! I just wish it didn’t gut the program for the majority of passengers who are flying on the cheap to mid-priced tickets.

Your Card Still Earns You More

Miles add up faster with your Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card. You will continue to earn an additional 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases made with your Card and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. (Hooray, easy math.)

And this is what brings me to the part that set me off a bit – easy math. Sorry, Delta, easy math is good for you but not for us. When the system is more complicated, it works better for the mileage earner. So, if you find a ticket for $400 to Japan (like I flew a couple of years ago), you can pick up a ton of miles at a cheap price. Nice math! But, when they go to a system that makes it a multiplier based on cost instead of miles flown, the math becomes easy but that goes in the favor of Delta. Complicated mile math is better for the earner as it allows the customer to earn more miles based on flying – not on spending. After all, it is called a frequenter flyer program.

As for using the Delta SkyMiles credit card for your purchases, they are pretty much locking you in to using it if you are a frequent Delta flyer. Spending $25,000 in a year is the only way to waive the qualifying dollars amount for earning elite status. Also, since it was announced that Delta is restricting points from American Express Membership Rewards to a cap of 250,000 miles per year, if you want to earn more than that on credit card spending and bonuses, it is going to have to be with the Delta credit cards. 2 miles per dollar on Delta? No thanks, I can earn 3 points per dollar using a Premier Rewards Gold (from Amex) or 2 points per dollar using my Chase Sapphire Preferred – both cards and their points are much more valuable because of the partners they transfer to.


While it will be nice to have one-way award tickets with Delta, they are giving them to us in exchange for additional ways that we an use our miles. Delta’s SkyMiles program for 2015 (and onward) is the new norm if you are a Delta flyer. We don’t have to like it, but we sure do need to get used to it. To me, it is just amazing that Delta can still try to put such spin on a program that is leaving their average consumers in the cold. Thanks so much, Delta, but I prefer my miles and math complicated like before – it was better for me.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Mine read differently, and I got it today. Subject line: “Not Everyone Is Getting This Email.”

    Going on to “Customers who spend more with us will earn more. FYI, that’s you.” It goes on to tell me how I’ll be better off under 2015 (which after doing the math isn’t necessarily the case, though it is close.

  • Any idea what level will be available to partners? Will it only be tier 1? If so, it may be harder to book a partner award on delta metal too..