Delta SkyMiles

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Delta SkyMiles: You May Want To Rethink This

Nov 28, 2003 (Updated Nov 28, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:I found two tickets to Cyprus!

Cons:It takes forever to earn the miles, can almost never get a seat

The Bottom Line: I would not recommend SkyMiles because it's way too hard to get a free ticket.


Frequent flier programs are the most confusing things that you’ll ever learn about. Some airlines like having the program because it lures customers onto their planes and gets them more money from credit card companies that they team up with. Others hate it because they lose money. So what’s the deal with Delta Skymiles? Do they like it? Do they hate it?

The answer is both.

Delta shows that they like it because they use their miles to compete with other airlines. For example, you can earn triple miles on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles or San Francisco. And why? Because Delta doesn’t want to lose market share to AirTran, their main competitor in Atlanta, and JetBlue, which is pulling the plug on the routes on December 4th.

And how do they hate it? According to an article that I read last week, Delta increased the amount of miles needed to get a free ticket. The number of miles needed were already a lot, but to increase the amount makes it only harder to earn free travel on the airline. And there’s even more obstacles to challenge after earning the miles! So Delta isn’t that confident in their program, huh?

How It Works

Delta Skymiles comes in an America Express credit card. First of all, half of the places I shop don’t even accept America Express. It isn’t a basic credit card such as Visa or Mastercard. You first must apply for the card like any credit card, and you can apply for different levels.

Medallion gives you special privileges such as preferred ticketing, free upgrades to First Class upon check-in, and sometimes use of Delta’s lounges/clubs at select airports. Of course, to get to this level, you have to start off as a regular cardholder until you fly on Delta enough to get the Medallion miles.

Free tickets sounds good, right? But there’s a catch. You have to pay $100 a year which is more than what US Airways, a weaker airline (financially), charges for its own frequent flier program.

You get one mile per dollar you spend. However, if you shop at certain places that have an affiliate with Skymiles, then the miles are sometimes doubled. Also, you get extra miles if you fly with Delta. The amount you get depends on the length of your journey.

Using Your Miles

I should make note that you can use your miles on any Delta carrier: Delta mainline, Delta international, ASA, Comair, or Song. You can also use the miles on any of Delta’s affiliates such as Alitalia, Czech Airlines, Air France, Korean Air, and AeroMexico. Here are how the miles work:

*35,000 miles for an economy ticket to Hawaii from U.S, and 75,000 miles for a first class ticket (round trip). It used to be 30,000 miles for economy and 60,000 for first class.

*25,000 miles for an economy ticket within the U.S and Canada, and 45,000 miles for a first class ticket (round trip). It used to be 40,000 miles for first class.

*The mileage rise for first class and business class upgrades in Europe, Asia, and Africa will be by nearly 30,000 miles more

Once you finally get the miles, you still have to go through one more obstacle, and that’s finding a seat. Unlike JetBlue's TrueBlue, only a certain amount of seats are open to use with your SkyMiles.

I tried to use my miles for a round trip flight to California, but unfortunately, I was not able to. I’m going to California in April, and I booked my tickets in July. I called Delta and asked if I could use my tickets. Nearly a year in advance, and I was told that there were no more seats available for SkyMiles members. However, she did tell me that she’d put my name on the list in case someone canceled their ticket.

This is exactly what happened: I called in and asked for a flight from Rochester, New York to San Diego, California. The agent, with her rude attitude, told me that there were available seats from Rochester to Atlanta or Cincinnati, but the connecting flights had no more SkyMiles seats available. I was also told that there were no more SkyMiles seats for flights to Orange County, Ontario, or on any of Delta's ten flights to LAX.

First of all, there were many seats open all the flights as I was calling many months in advance, but they were for people who were willing to pay. So how many seats are put aside for SkyMiles members? Five? It’s Delta’s loss. My business has gone to jetBlue instead for my trip to California.

Anyway, I called back a few weeks ago to get a flight to Cyprus, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea. Since Delta doesn’t fly into Cyprus, they said that they could put me on a flight with their code-share partner, Czech (CSA) Airlines. I was actually very surprised when they said that there were seats available for SkyMiles members. I have since put the reservation on hold (2 weeks).

Exploring Your Account

When at Delta.com, you can simply type in your 10-digit SkyMiles account number and pin number, then easily see how many points you have in your account. Also, information on how you got those points are shows. For example, I can see that I earned 500 points on a flight from Cincinnati to Rochester, New York. This information is also sent to you on your monthly SkyMiles update.

When logged into your account, you can also buy miles. It’s $54.59 for every 1,000 miles, and miles can only be bought in increments of 1,000. In my opinion, I don’t think it would be a smart move to buy miles unless you’re really close to an amount of points that’ll get you a free trip.

My Thoughts

So what do I think? I think Delta SkyMiles is pure crap. If you can find a seat, then that’s great! It’s just that it’s very hard to do so, and it takes a long time to even earn enough miles for a flight. I definitely think the mileage points were high to begin with, and Delta’s decision to increase those points was a bad move. I would recommend trying another airline’s frequent flier program - an airline that actually cares.


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