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If nothing else, Delta’s loyalty program certainly is creative.
SkyMiles has been taking a lot of heat over the last few years as it transitions away from a distance-based program and towards one fueled by ticket revenue. Along the way, the program cut rewards for budget travelers, increased the cost of upgrades, removed their award chart and effectively minimized the value of each SkyMile, casting off legions of elites in stride.
On the other side of those changes though, Delta has tried to balance out their loyalty program with a broader range of available award tickets — including a raft of ultra cheap 10,000 mile round trip fares.
As to the proper value of those award seats, the jury is still out. Some argue that with Delta’s new revenue based system for pricing award seats it’s often more lucrative to buy a low-cost ticket and earn more miles rather than shell out the requisite 10,000 miles for an award seat.
But for others, perhaps those with only a few thousand miles in their accounts or with very little cash to spare, the 10,000 mile award seats are a lot better than nothing.
American and United, for their part, have also been unwilling to compete on these tickets, so a 10,000 mile ticket on Delta is going to be far better than a 25,000 mile ticket elsewhere.
Where these dynamically priced SkyMiles tickets really may shine is in how they lead the rest of the industry. So far, United airlines has closely followed each move that Delta made in transforming its own loyalty program. And if the rumors are true, American may be looking to spruce up AAdvantage in 2016. If low-cost mileage tickets turn into a viable business for Delta, the rest of the party may quickly follow suit. And for the vast majority of consumers who have a hard time saving more than 10,000 miles in two years, that means more rewards around the corner.