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Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Archive for the category “Delta SkyMiles”

30 SkyMiles Per Dollar at 1-Flowers.com!

For some the Holiday Season, can become Grumpy Season.  What’s the answer to make things more cherry, even though you know you’ll be spending time with weird Uncle Bob?  More miles!

Now through December 31, when you make a purchase through 1-800Flowers.com, use promo code 48DE, and you will be able to earn 30 Delta SkyMiles per dollar.

1-800 Flowers.com

The fact of the matter is that 30 mile per dollar shopping portal deals don’t tend to last long, so if you are unsure of what to get someone on your gift list, I would go to 1-800Flowers.com.

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Delta Makes More Unfortunate Changes

BACKSTORY
Back in March, I posted about the rumors of Delta overhauling their SkyMiles program into a revenue-based system.  I argued that Delta miles are already referred to as “SkyPesos” for a reason, and felt that this policy would be-humanizing because you passengers would become the rate they pay.  I was then humbled when I received kudos on FlyerTalk for this post.

In fact, it may be helpful to read the FlyerTalk thread my post, and Brian’s post to understand the major disadvantages of such a system.

DELTA’S CHANGE
Well, I am quite frankly afraid Delta may be taking another step down that road.  As of September 1, 2012, special or so-called “unpublished” fares will earn miles at a reduced rate, (see below) for both redeemable and Medallion Qualifying (elite) miles.  These fares are usually purchased through an agent, a third party, (i.e. Hotwire) or are part of a group rate.

Unpublished Mileage Earn Table

Examples of Fares Earning Reduced Miles:

  • Student fares
  • Consolidator fares
  • Flights included as part of a cruise package
  • Discounted tour packages
  • Group fares

Also, special and unpublished fare tickets will not be eligible for bonus miles or MQM promotions.

Fares Still Eligible for Full-Mileage Accrual Include:

  • Corporate/Government Fares
  • Sport/University Fares
  • Purchases made through Delta Vacations
  • “Unpublished” fares in the Asia Pacific Region

TERMS & CONDITIONS
Delta’s policy goes into effect September 1st, for travel booked on or after this date.  So if you booked unpublished travel now for September or later, you would still accrue mileage on these fares at the normal rate.

According to Johnny Jet, Delta will implement this policy as such:

“Unpublished fares, when ticketed, will be matched with an account’s ticket designator, resulting in the adjusted mileage accrual rate.”

The full Terms & Conditions of Delta’s new policy can be found here.

ANALYSIS
I making this move, Delta may be ultimately be taking a step in the wrong direction.

First, Delta is losing something quite unique about their program:  Unlike United and American Airlines, full mileage could be accrued on these special fares.  While Delta has been lambasted for their broken award booking engine, declining number of meaningful partners and cheap miles, it was a unique selling point for the program.  I guess all good things must come to an end.

Second, making earn rates dependent on the fare (and by extension cost) is the first step in implementing a revenue-based loyalty system is having.  Which is exactly what Delta is doing in this case!

Sure, unpublished fares form a small subset of Delta’s inventory, but who’s to say they would stop here?  All loyalty programs are starting to look for creative ways to get miles off of their books, and giving out less is a good way to start.

NOT JUST DELTA
And finally, I don’t think this is just a Delta problem.  The fact that Delta is not the first to adopt this policy is a bit concerning.

I have heard rumors that much of the airline industry may be headed to a more revenue-based system.

Airline loyalty programs started out in the 80s as a marketing strategy to fill planes. Since then, airlines de-regulations, mergers, the ease with which can earn award miles have pushed airline capacities to the max.  Naturally, award capacity controls had to be introduced to keep the airlines profitable.

But this still doesn’t change the capacity, and the economic downturn is driving airlines to squeeze out every penny possible.  Now I will admit I am no economist or business analyst, but it seems that one of the solutions to doing so would be to limit award tickets by making it harder to redeem.  In other words, there is a higher cost, because of greater demand.

Therefore, it seems fully plausible to expect three outcomes:  Devalued award charts, decreased earning potential—at least for flight activity, making long-haul award more expensive by pricing them based on how much the paid fare would be.

For example, a First Class award ticket valued at $15,000 that once could be redeemed for 100,000 frequent flyer miles might require 1,500,000 miles in a revenue-based model.

CONCULSION
The fact Delta and others have taken the first step toward a revenue-based system should cause some apprehension.  We are already seeing this full-blown revenue-based model from programs like Virgin Elevate and Southwest Rapid Rewards, and unfortunately many of the other airline programs may soon follow suit.

Tip of the hat to JohnnyJet and ThePointsGuy.

Delta Changes “Have One On Us” Voucher Policy

In an age of increasing airline expenses, it is getting harder and harder to get a quality snack or libation for free on board a plane.  Heck, Allegiant Air charges for water.

VOUCHER INTRODUCTION
One of the benefits of having Delta Medallion status (at least Gold and higher) is receiving “Have One On Us Coupons” as part of my elite membership packet.  I have only used half of mine this year, so I suppose I should make it a point to use them before they expire!

Delta Have One On Us Coupon, From Elite Member Packet

American Airlines provides similar recognition for the elite members.  While excluded from Gold and Platinum members, Executive Platinum members are entitled (using the flight manifest) to receive a free snack and beverage on board when schlepping it in coach.

THE ONLINE CHECK-IN…
For some time, Delta has been in the practice of including additional “Have One On Us” vouchers to elites checking in online, who have not yet been upgraded on at least one of their flight segments.

Typical Have One On Us Coupon From Online Check-in,
Courtesy of Points, Miles & Martinis

There is some variation in how the system works, (this is Delta, afterall) but in order to receive the voucher, you may need to check-in using their phone app first, before checking in again online.  Anyway, in the unfortunate event I had not been upgraded at all, I never had a problem getting it to show up on my boarding pass when printing it out online.  I almost, expected it would become a standard benefit.

THE CHANGE-UP
However, there are new reports out that it is not working every time now.  I searched but I could find nothing directly from Delta that could confirm this, but it seems the online check-in system did not operate as they intended, and receipt of these vouchers will be much more random now.

Judging from one comment on the thread, and from my own observations, Delta may be cracking down on abuse of this in order to save themselves some money.  The Terms and Conditions have been updated to now state “Duplicated or altered coupons will not be accepted. This coupon cannot be sold, bartered, transferred, redeemed for cash or exchanged for any items other than the listed items.”  The word “transferred” has recently been added, implying this practice occurred far too often that Delta would have liked.

HAVE PASSENGERS TAKEN THIS TOO FAR?
Back in June, (when a delay caused me to get an instant upgrade on a later flight) I was sitting at the gate area before my first flight, and overheard a mother of 2 gripe about purchasing food.  Realizing my posh surroundings in First Class would render my voucher unnecessary; I decided to do them a favor by offering them my voucher, suggesting they use it for snacks.  I guess that makes me a felon in the eyes of Delta.

While these vouchers—whether as part of Delta’s elite member packet, or for online check-in, do specifically state they are for non-perishable items only. While not all flight attendants are willing to make this exception, I have found some flight attendants may quite be willing to allow these vouchers be exchanged for perishable items on their EATS menu.

On one occasion, I received initial push back from a flight attendant about doing so.  I kindly asked if she could make an exception, and she responded “I really don’t care.”

ALTERNATIVES
So, if you find yourself at a loss of free snack/drink coupons, you are in luck because there are some alternatives.  Obviously, you can apply the $200 annual credit from the American Express Platinum card to receive free drinks/snackboxes, etc.  In addition, as Money and Map points out, it is possible to receive “Have One On Us” vouchers using SkyBonus points.

The SkyBonus program is the corporate version of the Delta SkyMiles program, and even if you don’t have your own company per se, you can still sign up.  And if you use the promo code SB2012NEW, you can receive 25,000 Bonus Points, 10,000 of which you can redeem for 10 beverage coupons.

So even if you are not currently frazzled by Delta’s lack of coupons for online check-ins, this is still relevant to navigating the path to better air travel.

Be Nice: Delta May Prevent the Rules From Over-Ruling Common Sense

A while back I wrote about Delta’s new TV ad, despite frequent criticism about their loyalty program.  I especially liked the tagline “Predict the unpredictable, anticipate the unexpected, and never let the rules overrule common sense,” because from my experience with them, they do a fantastic job of living up to this creed.  And the other day was no exception.

I had received a mileage award, but felt that Delta hadn’t really honored their side of the deal in exchange for my hard-earned SkyPesos, and what I was getting was screwed.

So I called about an award re-deposit as I felt like Delta was slightly to blame, and the Delta agent simply told me there may be a change fee, before putting me on hold for a minute or two.  She then came back and asked about my credit card.

Now, if push came to shove I would have paid the $150 (as a Gold Medallion–maybe next year I should go for Platinum) in order to get my miles back at a very favorable rate.  But I figured I would at least plead my case and ask for a fee waiver.  I summarized that I wasn’t getting what I thought I would be, and was turned over to a supervisor.  I explained to him my full situation, and despite stating Delta’s award redeposit policy and a little bit of its rationale (being able to sell those seats), he granted a one-time exception.

Why do I share this tale of near-missed ticket changes?  I think the thing that helped most was just being nice and polite.

I’m a firm believer in the old adage that “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”  So I was very courteous and polite in explaining the situation and my side, despite the fact that I felt like Delta wasn’t living up to it’s side of the bargain.

I mean if you are a corporation or supervisor, who are you more likely to grant exceptions to:  Customers who are reasonable and polite, or someone who lambasts them with vile words and foul language?  I know some people that fall into the latter category, and it usually doesn’t work in their favor.  And so I think if I had tried a much “harder” approach and yelled and screamed, he wouldn’t have been all that motivated to help me out, let alone even desire to cut me a break or help me out.

So while it never hurts to ask, may you please do so ever politely-

http://fieldofburch.com/2012/03/07/a-tale-of-two-delta-videos/

Delta’s Possible & Unfortunate Changes

Delta is rumored to be considering making quite drastic and horrific changes to its mileage program, per this FlyerTalk post.  The changes would start within the next month or two, and take full effect by the end of the year.

The proposed roll-out would work as follows:

Announcement

The Loyalty Program is comprised of two projects that seek to increase revenue and customer loyalty along with
decreasing liability related to unused award miles. Coordinated communication to the general public regarding the
intentions of these changes is paramount to acceptance.Revenue Based Mileage Accrual (RBMA) project shifts the basis for awarding miles to a revenue based accrual approach
Release 0: Support the communication/announcement of upcoming SkyMiles program changes (targeted 1Q12).
Will no longer display distance flown miles for departures after new miles accrual effective date (targeted for 3Q12)
Release 0.5: Provide Mileage Calculator to calculate approximate revenue based mileage accrual based on travel
after launch ((targeted 2Q12)
Release 1: Convert SkyMiles System from flown miles to revenue based mileage accrual (3Q12)
Release 2: Reward SkyMiles members with miles for all non-air purchases (i.e. SkyClub, Seats) (currently On Hold)Fare Based Award Ticket Redemption (FBATR) project
Fast Track Release – Provides limited base functionality to align with the Polaris Chicago release timing

Phase I at Launch introduces Fare Based Award Redemption Model, Single Shopping Experience for Customer, New Award Inventory Controls, Cash + Miles Award Redemption Product, Award Redemption for OA, Modifications to the automated Award Refund, Redeposit, and Reissue and Exchange Process

Phase II – After Launch includes Bid for Price Award Redemption Product, Buy It Now Award Redemption Product, Volume Discount Award Redemption Product, Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates.

My Thoughts

So essentially mileage earnings from flying would be a largely distance-based formula, to more of a revenue-based format.  And to some extent, Delta already has this in place with paid first and premium fares(specifically M, Q, H, and K fare codes) earning a 50% mileage bonus over regular fares.

Where I think this hits the hardest is you as a passenger, and by extension your elite status, become defined by the fare that you pay.  So flying around on cheap T and E fares would be much less advantageous for earning status, in addition to the lack of advanced seating on said fare bases, according to Ben.

Plus, this devalues the use of miles for aspirational travel.  The amount of mileage required for award redemptions would be based on the cost, and thus would be come an inapropriatee and (cheap) replacement for replacement for money.

Conclusion

Overall, I think these changes would reflect poorly on Delta, especially given the inability to redeem for international first class, award booking difficulty–both of which have given them the name “SkyPesos.”

Hat tip to The Points Guy.

Where does the Delta term “FO” Come From?

For those of you who may not know, Delta uses the designation “FO” to refer to their Silver Medallion Members, or those who fly 25,000-49,999 miles per year.  But have you ever wondered where the term comes from?  I mean there is absolutely no F or O in “Silver.”

While perusing FlyerTalk today, I came across this post, which seems to have the definitive a few posts down:

FO does indeed stand for “Flys Often” and was the designator for the original Medallion member (back before there were multiple Medallion levels). To this date, it remains the designator for Silver Medallion. The original qualification requirements for Medallion level were much the same as they are today for Silver Medallion.

Funny how an airline really used to value people who flew 25,000 miles a year on the carrier (and at that time there were no MQMs and each flight earned a minimum of 1000 miles), which was the qualification requirement for Medallion level. Now, fly 25,000 miles and you mean very little to the carrier.

I find it funny that one who flew 25k miles a year was thought to fly a ton.. O how the times are a changin…

 

 

 

 

O those good ol’ flying days….

Quick Hits: Delta SkyMiles Bonus & Free Avios

There are some great deals going on right now that I thought I would just touch on briefly.

As I alluded in my post Burn Your Miles Wisely, through March 31, Delta is offering a 75% bonus on purchased SkyMiles.

Delta 75% Bonus on Purchased Miles

While normally Delta SkyMiles can be purchased (up to 60,000 in a year) at a rate of  3.5 cents per miles, through this offer you are able to get them at a rate of 2 cents per mile.  This is great if you are looking to top off your account for an award ticket or looking to play the mileage upgrade game.  Tip of the hat to One Mile at a Time has a great post on this, which can be found here.

 

Also, per The Points Guy, you can receive 3,000 British Airways Avios points–FOR FREE by signing up for a free-trial of RealtyTrac.com.  Just make sure to cancel your membership within 7 days if you don’t want to be dinged with the $50 monthly fee.

RealtyTrac.com Sign-Up

There was some skepticism about whether or not signing-up for a free trial would work for earning the 3,000 Avios points.  Although I am still waiting for my “purchase to post,” TPG has verified that the points will at least post as pending!

Still Time to Earn Delta SkyMiles via FedEx

Often shipping packages can prove to be a hassle.  But now with FedEx, it can be rewarding, and maybe a little bit more enjoyable.

This deal has been for a while, per this post back in November by Mommy Points.  I bring this up now for a couple of reasons.  While I have known about this for some time, I myself just got in on this today.  Also, there is still time to get in on this promotion.  While the initial promotion ends January 18, you can still earn one mile per dollar spent with FedEx thereafter.

Miles are earned for shipping with with FedEx Express, FedEx Home Delivery, or a combination of both.  Until January 18, 2012 progressively higher rewards can be earned.

  • 2nd shipment earns 250 miles
  • 4th shipment earns 500 miles
  • 6th shipment earns 1,000 miles
  • 10th shipment earns 1,250 mile
  • 12th shipment earns 1,500 miles

To go directly to the overview page to sign up for this, you can click here where you will be asked to enter your SkyMiles number.

If you are trying to top off your mileage account for an award this can be a great way to get there, especially if you have multiple packages to ship.  500 miles and here and there may not seem like much, but as I wrote about earlier, every mile helps when you are trying to obtain an mileage upgrade or award ticket.

Happy 2012 and Year In Review

Happy New Year to you!  If you believe in the Mayan calendar, spend all of your miles by the end of the year–they will expire during the apocalypse.  Just Kidding!

As far as travel goes, 2011 was a pretty good year for me.  While I did not do any international travel, I did travel a fair amount of domestic travel, which was nearly all for leisure.  Due to some upgrade savvy, most of this travel was in First Class.  In the coming weeks I will highlight some of these experiences in the form of trip reports.

At the start of the year, even before becoming a miles and points junkie, I made it a goal to obtain Medallion status on Delta for the first time.  Originally I thought I just might be able to make Silver Medallion.  (25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or MQMs)  As it turned out, I ended up exceeding my goal and making Gold Medallion (50,000 MQMs despite flying only about 25,000 “Butt-In-Seat” miles.  HOW SO??

Thanks to The Points Guy, I got in on the 100,000 Membership Rewards bonus for new cardmembers, after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months.  I then immediately turned around and transferred all of those points to Delta.  Concurrent to this, Delta had a 50% bonus all AMEX Membership Rewards points transferred to Delta.  In addition, transfers of 100,000 or more AMEX points would earn 25,000 MQMs.  Because of these two promotions, I literally went from zero status to elite status overnight.  I will quickly mention here that I have enjoyed numerous other perks of the card–including elite-level rental car benefits, rental damage insurance, SPG Gold Status, and especially airport lounge access!

Another big promotion for me this past year was the Radisson Big Night Giveaway.  As I mentioned already, a phantom stay netted me 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points–good for at least one night at any Radisson hotel in the world.  High off of my success, I tried it again with a new Club Carlson account.  I have not seen the points post just yet since the “stay” was only a few days ago, but they did charge my credit card for the stay which gives me some hope.  We will see if I can get 50,000 more points.

The final big points haul for me of 2011 was actually a little bit of a surprise.  Back in November I applied for and was accepted for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  For spending $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months there is a 50,000 point bonus–which is still active. In addition, there is a 7% bonus on all earned points during a calendar year.

However, due to some confusion about my address I waited and waited for the card to arrive, but it never did.  Finally at the beginning of December I got a hold of them (I am always amazed at the immediate response once receives when calling them….listening AMEX???) and everything was straightened out.  When I called to activate the card, I was informed I had until mid-February to meet the spend requirement.  I quickly pointed out that due to their error I had only just received the card, and should get an extension.  They obliged, and I received the card just in time to do my Christmas shopping.

After only about two weeks of use I am roughly halfway to meeting the $3,000 spend threshold.  But here is this crazy part.  Via AwardWallet I was informed that my Chase Ultimate Rewards Account had changed to 50,000 points.  I wondered if this was a mistake and logged, to see it listed as “an” adjustment. I have made a couple of payments already, but most of it is not yet paid off.  I know this will earn me 3,500 based on the card’s 7% annual points bonus, but maybe I still have a chance to get in on 50,000 more points.

Also, I bought US Airways 90,000 miles (for around $1,300) this past summer.  I plan to top off my account to 120,000 and then redeem for a First Class ticket to Asia (Tokyo) with a stopover in Europe (Rome) either this year or next year.

Thus, 2011 has been a decent points haul for me.  With some points still pending, I am looking at about 400,000 – 500,000 points and miles earned this past year.  I know of many points junkies like Frugal Travel Guy and One Mile At a Time who gain 900,000 miles and points constantly churning credit cards, but I am pretty satisfied.  When it comes to miles and points I am pretty soft core–I don’t do a ton of Credit card churns (the two I have gotten I intend to keep for a while) and don’t do many mileage runs.

I think of the miles and points I have earned, as a real asset.  I am currently unemployed and really appreciate knowing that I can still have some aspirational travel ahead of me in 2012 and beyond.

It Never Hurts to Ask For Points…

FlyerTalk is a great and wonderful tool for miles and points junkies like myself.  While I am still fairly new to it (JimBobDuggarIsABusyMan is my handle) I have found it to be a wonderful community, great for sharing information on all things travel, including eluse “targeted offers.”

A couple months back I remember hearing on FlyerTak about a deal for 5,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for simply using their web toolbar.  I downloaded it immediately, but was disappointed when the points never posted.  So, like any points junkie would do, I called them back a week or two later to inquire.  It was a targeted offer to certain people who had an account for 6+ months (unlike me) and had recently expired.

However, by using The Points Guy’s”It Never Hurts to Ask” philosophy of leveragging your loytalty to obtain points, I blatantly asked if I could as a “loyal American Express card-holder extraordinaire” I could receive points as a courtesy.  Not expecting a whole lot, I was surprised and delighted to be informed I was receiving 1,000 Membership Rewards Points as a one-time bonus!

This illustrates that while it is important to not to be pushy, it hardly ever hurts to ask, If you are giving a company business by spending your hard-earned money with them, it is fair game to ask for a little bit in return.

I am writing this write now because I had a similar situation with Delta SkyMiles.  Some time back I heard that they had a  couple of birthday promotions this past year--including this one for April, where as a “present” of sorts.  As long as your birthday was registered in your profile, you simply had to fly one round-trip and would be credited between 1,000 and 2,000 SkyMiles.

Delta's Birthday Bonus Promotion for April

Having the blessing curse of a December birthday, I waited eagerly for my chance at some more cheap and easy SkyMiles.  Needless to say, my birthday came and went and I received nada from Delta.  So I sent an email to Delta’s customer service a message, making sure to play the loyalty card:

Delta,

It has been my pleasure to fly with you and my Gold Medallion status should reflect the loyalty I have gained to your company. Throughout the year I have been aware of the generous birthday bonuses of 1,000 SkyMiles that you have given out to members during the month of their birthday. I have eagerly awaited my own bonus since my birthday is this month, yet it has not posted yet. While I know that you are not contractually obligated to this, as a gesture of goodwill, would you please credit me with a SkyMiles birthday bonus? Thank you for your time,

Bryce (#xxxxxxxxxx)

Within a day or two they got back to me:

 
Dear Mr. Burchfield,
 
Like many airlines, we offer targeted promotions to specific customers and potential customers. We regret you did not receive the Birthday promotion. Unfortunately we cannot process credit for this promotion manually…
We would appreciate you providing additional information which will allow us to process your request for 1,000 bonus miles.  Please provide us with the promotional code information for the 1,000 bonus birthday miles you mentioned. We are unable to locate a promotional that does not require enrollment and/or travel to receive promotional birthday miles.
Our current Birthday promotion involves booking and traveling on a Delta Vacations package, is this the promotion others may have mentioned?

Now, I will admit this is where I should have done some homework.  I went and looked up the promotions I had seen before, and I had not realized some level of booking with Delta was required.  But have no fear, I replied back to them:

Unfortunately I cannot do anything to change the month I was born in, and as always I greatly appreciate the courtesies extended to me for being a loyal Delta customer.
 So will this offer me made available to me as a December birthday for bonus miles after my next flight the world’s leading airline–Delta?
 
Thank you very much for your time,
 
Bryce

Maybe being I was being a little pushy mentioning that I “appreciated the courtesies extended to me” and made reference to their own marketing as the “World’s Leading Airline,” but it worked.  I finally received this response:

Dear Mr. Burchfield,
 
Thank you again for contacting us.
 We do apologize for any confusion regarding the Birthday Bonus promotion. Currently we are not offering the promotion in question. I have however as a one time exception manually deposited 1,000 SkyMiles into your account effective today December 22, 2011. Please allow 24 hours for your account to reflect these miles.
Thank you for your support as a Medallion member and for trusting your business to us.  Be assured, we will make every attempt to serve you well; we are focused on the future and look forward to our continued business relationship.
Sincerely,
 
Shawna D
Medallion Desk
 

Which brings me to one more point.  This is not the first time I have been given some kind of “one-kind” exception.  There was a one-day deal this past summer where certain purchases made through the SkyMall earned 10 miles/dollar spent.  I needed some new headphones right away and so I jumped at the opportunity.

Needless to say, because of some confusion I only received 5 miles/dollar spent I grew unhappy and voiced (in a very nice and gracious manner:) my displeasure to Delta.

In return I received a similar e-mail, informing me of 1,000 bonus miles as “a one-time exception.”

So, the moral of the story is, if you have an issue and are willing to voice it, you can use it for your gain–provided you do so in a tactful manner.

Thank you again for contacting us.

We do apologize for any confusion regarding the Birthday Bonus promotion. Currently we are not offering the promotion in question. I have however as a one time exception manually deposited 1,000 SkyMiles into your account effective today December 22, 2011. Please allow 24 hours for your account to reflect these miles.

Thank you for your support as a Medallion member and for trusting your business to us.  Be assured, we will make every attempt to serve you well; we are focused on the future and look forward to our continued business relationship.

Sincerely,

Shawna Daniels

Medallion Desk

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