SkyMiles announced the next phase of its journey towards a fully revenue-based loyalty program earlier today. I covered that news here. In summary, the following things are changing, and they aren’t all bad.

Better transcontinental upgrades for Diamond and Platinum members – Effective July 21, 2015 you can use Regional Upgrade Certificates (RUCs) in addition to Global Upgrade Certificates for Delta One seats on eligible transcontinental flights between JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco. (Note: Not so sure this is good news for Diamonds who were eligible for “phantom” upgrades day of departure.)

One-way and lower-priced awards – One-way at just 7,500 miles (plus taxes and fees) now through February 2016. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight. More information here.

Dynamic award pricing coming in June 2016 – In the bad news, for travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other dynamics.  Most Award prices will remain unchanged according to Delta. Further, miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares. For domestic travel, instead of the old K fare and up requirement (M and up for international), you can now upgrade in advance from fares booked in Y, B, M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, or T class (emphasis mine). For international trips, the applicable fare buckets have been expanded as well to include Y, B, M, S, H, Q, or K class. That’s a good thing on the surface, but we do not know how much Delta will charge for the privilege of using your miles to upgrade. One could fully expect that the price in miles will vary based on “destination, demand and other dynamics” as well. (Note: check out the FT Wiki with some potential upgrade prices – the news is not good.)

Logo image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Logo image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

MJ’s Take

I think we all knew dynamic pricing was coming to SkyMiles. However, I did not anticipate that they would finally open up lower fare buckets for mileage upgrades. I am glad to see the premium transcon markets from JFK opened up to RUCs. In some ways June 2016 seems far away, but it really isn’t. Award travel opens for booking at 330 days out, so we are getting a first taste of these changes already. Don’t expect to come away from your booking session grinning like a cheshire cat. The next step in a total remake of SkyMiles has been taken.

Rampant speculation – Does anyone out there believe that we aren’t headed towards a day when elite status is awarded based on dollars spent? It’s just a matter of time. And no way would I bet more than a cup of cheap coffee that running for the hills of AAdvantage will keep you safe for long.

-MJ, July 14, 2015