When Delta went public with its plans to introduce an all-new SkyMiles program in 2015, it skimped on details in one crucial area: awards.
The earning side of the new program was described in minute detail. But on the equally important subject of the new SkyMiles award chart, the airline revealed only two facts, and made one promise. The first fact was that a restricted roundtrip domestic coach award ticket would still be priced at 25,000 miles. The second fact was that the new award chart would have five tiers, as opposed to the current chart's three tiers. And the promise: Lower-tier award seats will be more readily accessible. In the company's words, "SkyMiles members will benefit from more tickets requiring fewer miles."
Addressing as it does a recurring complaint from current program members, who groused that cheaper award tickets were elusive at best, the promise of improved award-seat availability was heartening, although it was greeted with some skepticism. And the sketchy information revealed regarding the specifics of the new award chart added to that skepticism, fueling speculation that it was a bad-news story that Delta wanted to keep under wraps as long as possible.
Apparently sensitive to the complaints that it was withholding critical information, Delta today revealed details of the new award scheme—a significant reversal of its original plan, which was to delay publishing award details until the 4th quarter of 2014.
To be precise, what Delta revealed today are details of the award charts for travel from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada. For now, it's a .PDF file, here.
The most visible change is the promised five pricing tiers for each area. Taking the award for coach travel within the continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada as an example, the new award chart comprises Level 1 for 25,000 miles roundtrip, Level 2 at 35,000 miles, Level 3 at 40,000 miles, Level 4 at 50,000 miles, and Level 5 at 65,000 miles. That's exactly like the current three-tier award, but with the addition of two new tiers surrounding the current middle tier, and a 5,000-point increase to the current top-tier award price.
That increase to the most expensive, least restricted domestic coach award is one of the very few price increases—of the 44 price changes, more than 95 percent are price decreases.
The positive pricing changes should come as a relief to those who were anticipating across-the-board price increases that would effectively devalue their SkyMiles miles.
But holding the line on award prices is only half the redemption challenge. SkyMiles members will now be waiting and watching to see whether Delta delivers on its promise that lower-priced award seats will be more available in the new scheme. If not, the old SkyPesos moniker will continue to apply.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.