If the Delta SkyPeso program had a theme in 2013, it would be named “the year of devaluation.” In July, I wrote an article about Delta’s D game and recapped some of my sub-par experiences with the airlines in 2013. It also described how the airline has devalued their Elite program and is stripping a number of perks from Elite Flyers which made it more difficult to earn elite miles with their partners. We have all moaned and groaned about the minimum spending requirements to reach elite status, the new award chart redemption rate and even the interim award chart redemption rate gouging customers even more, and do not get me started on Delta’s new same day travel change policies. If all this wasn’t enough, Delta has quietly announced that the SkyMiles Elite program will end January 31 instead of the last day of February starting in 2016. This means elite flyers will lose their previous year status a full year early in 2016.
Traditionally, individuals who achieve the minimum number of miles needed to reach an airline elite status are granted status through the remainder of that program year and the status continues through February the following program year. This means if someone was to fly 25,000 miles today on any of the major US carriers in 2013, they would have status for the remainder of 2014, all of 2015, and through Feb of 2016. If they were to fly less than 25,000 miles in 2015 then on March 1, 2016 their status would be dropped. Now Delta has announced that they are shortening the program year from 14 months to 13 months starting in 2016, resulting in status ending January 31–a full month earlier.
Delta’s reason for this: Technology has improved. Per Delta.com,
“The Medallion year traditionally begins March 1 each year to allow time for Medallion membership packages to be delivered. With the streamlined production of membership packages and the availability of digital SkyMiles and Medallion cards in the Fly Delta app, we are able to begin the Medallion year earlier. Starting in 2016, the Medallion year will begin February 1 and subsequently, the 2015 Medallion year will end on January 31, 2016.”
Shortening the program year is both good and bad for frequent flyers. For those of you who re-qualify at the same level or above during the program year will not be affected by this change. The only difference is that there will be fewer Elites in February clambering for the few available upgrades, and in this case “enhancing” the SkyMiles program. Yet for those of you who do not re-qualify for Elite status or drop down a level, the new program year coming early means more flights in coach, more expensive bag fees, and losing priority boarding, check in, and security processing—along with all other perks that are included. Why would Delta do this? In my opinion, to increase revenue. The sooner people who do not re-qualify for elite status are dropped, the sooner Delta can charge these individuals ancillary fees.
When will the Delta Devaluation game end? Hopefully in 2014, but I doubt it!