How Many Lattes Does a Delta Ticket to London Cost?


Starbucks is looking to woo travelers, enabling its loyalty program members to double dip on rewards by also earning Delta SkyMiles, but the remarkably low conversion rate suggests that the partnership is more of a publicity stunt than a real benefit for its customers.

The coffeehouse giant, which has almost 35,000 locations around the world, is offering U.S. loyalty members just one mile per dollar spent. This rate of conversion is a fifth that of purchases from Delta, which yield five miles per dollar spent (or more for frequent fliers). Slightly more valuable for consumers is Starbucks’ promise of double Stars (the brand’s loyalty points) for purchases made on days when members have a scheduled Delta flight.

“Starbucks Rewards and Delta SkyMiles are centered on creating moments of meaningful connection, and by bringing together two of the country’s most celebrated loyalty programs we are able to reward our members with more of what they love,” Ryan Butz, vice president, loyalty strategy and marketing at Starbucks, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Delta to offer our members even more valuable benefits, as well as invite more customers to join Starbucks Rewards.”

Even Starbucks’ most frequent customers will not benefit much from this partnership. Data from travel booking app Hopper, which tracks flight prices, finds that the average airfare for a domestic round trip is $330, which would amount to 1,650 miles. By contrast, the estimated cost of a Starbucks Grande (medium) brewed coffee across states, according to Fast Food Menu Prices, is $2.10, which will earn consumers 2 miles. Delta award prices vary, but a one-way economy class ticket from New York to London prices out at 35,000 SkyMiles in January.

This partnership, while effectively operating in name only, may be the result of a year or more of brand outreach on the coffeehouse chain’s part. Last October, Starbucks’ then-CEO Kevin Johnson shared with analysts an intention to create a system for cross-brand rewards partnerships.

“Through blockchain or other innovative technologies, we are exploring how to tokenize Stars and create the ability for other merchants to connect their rewards program to Starbucks Rewards,” Johnson said. “This will enable customers to exchange value across brands, engage in more personalized experiences, enhance digital services and exchange other loyalty points for Stars at Starbucks.”

Read more: Starbucks Looks to Double-Dip Loyalty With Blockchain-Enabled Cross-Brand Rewards

Across the restaurant industry, chains are increasingly looking beyond their own brands to drive loyalty and customer acquisition (typically offering more tangible benefits for consumers). For instance, fast-casual brand Panera Bread, which has more than 2,100 locations across the United States and Canada, unveiled earlier this month a deal with American Express whereby the latter’s cardholders can get free four-month subscriptions to Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club beverage program.

Related: Panera, Amex Partner on Cardholder Loyalty Play

Similarly, IHOP, the California-based casual dining breakfast chain with more than 1,700 locations around the world, announced in August a partnership with Xbox to make gaming rewards available to the brand’s “International Bank of Pancakes” loyalty program. Members are offered one-month free trials of the Xbox’s subscription offering as well as in-game add-ons and download codes.

See also: IHOP Announces Xbox Rewards as Restaurants Explore Cross-Brand Loyalty