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Big changes ahead for frequent fliers on Delta

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:51 a.m. HST, Feb 26, 2014

ATLANTA >> Delta Air Lines is making fundamental changes to its frequent flier program and will reward those who buy its priciest tickets, as opposed to those who fly the most miles.

It will be the first major carrier to make such a change and other airlines will certainly be watching to see how travelers react to the change.

Delta said Wednesday that the 2015 SkyMiles program will better recognize frequent business travelers and leisure customers who buy premium fares.

It's a bid to lure the much-sought-after business traveler, but it will affect everyone who flies with the carrier and uses the program.

Delta had been moving in the direction of a revenue-based program. In January 2013 the company said that its 2014 frequent fliers would need to spend at least $2,500 to qualify for the lowest level of elite status. Previously, they could qualify on miles alone.

A revenue-based program generally rewards business travelers. Those fliers are critical to airlines because they book flights on short notice and buy more expensive tickets, versus the typical leisure traveler that plans a trip well in advance and hunts for the cheapest fares.

JetBlue Airways Corp.'s "True Blue" frequent flier program already awards points based on dollars spent, not on miles. And in 2011 Southwest Airlines Co. changed its frequent flier program to reward more-expensive tickets.

But the change by a carrier that has the reach of Delta could signal a more definitive shift in catering more to those sitting in the front of the plane, rather than the back-seaters.

Delta Air Lines Inc., based in Atlanta, says it's making the announcement about changes to its SkyMiles program 10 months in advance so customers have ample time to make travel plans. The new program goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Delta said that other program updates will include a new mileage redemption structure that will improve Award seat availability at the lowest mileage requirement levels; offering One-Way Awards at half the price of round-trip and providing additional Miles + Cash Award options.

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inlanikai wrote:
What they did not release is how the award and upgrade redemption chart will change for 2015. "Value" is defined by not only what you earn but what it will cost you to redeem those miles. This is just part of a continuing effort on the part of the airlines to devalue frequent flier programs out of existence.
on February 26,2014 | 05:40AM
brb905 wrote:
Boo to Delta. Catering to the business industry is not the best way to cater more clients. I hope this experiment fails miserably!
on February 26,2014 | 06:12AM
Larry01 wrote:
Actually, it's been a past cost-benefit analysis that leads to this decision. Basically, the higher-priced ticket traveler, which is very often the business traveler, is much more valuable than the masses of bargain travelers who just fill seats and barely cover costs. Rewarding those who allow the airline to make their margin and remain profitable is in the best interests of the company. There will still be rewards for bargain flyers, but they will be less in proportion - you get rewarded for what you pay, simple. The flaw in this system, however, is that as the first player to jump, bargain flyers might flock to the other carriers. If Delta survives this, the other carriers will eventually move to the same system. Only if the exodus decimates Delta will this new system die - otherwise, this is the wave of the future.
on February 26,2014 | 10:18AM
tutulois wrote:
I fly a lot, bit ha've avoided Delta for years because of the poor way they treat even their frequent fliers. They would rather fly with empty seats in first/business than give them away -- whereas with United, I frequently get upgraded automatically, with no cost in cash or miles.
on February 26,2014 | 06:20AM
hawn wrote:
Delta has had one of the worst Frequent flier programs for years. Delta will now offer a new mileage redemption structure that will improve Award seat availability at the lowest mileage requirement levels; offering One-Way Awards at half the price of round-trip and providing additional Miles Cash Award options. American Airlines has offered this for years, American has one of the BEST redemption programs. If you ever tried to redeem miles on Delta it was a nightmare, lowest miles flights never available, full mileage for a one way flight, no mileage flights available. Now they want to change, too late switched over to A/A years ago. Even wrote to Delta and told them to look at A/A program.
on February 26,2014 | 06:33AM
control wrote:
Now that the economy is getting better and the seats are filling up, Delta again doesn't care about the little guy, catering to the big spenders and offering perks to the big fish and ignoring the little fishes. It is so hard to redeem Delta miles, Delta hubs aren't in many major areas, it's a wonder that people still fly that airline. I have Delta miles but I think I will use them and close the account since I probably won't fly much with them (never really did, the miles were from many years ago).
on February 26,2014 | 07:00AM
2NDC wrote:
I fly on so many different airlines I don't even bother with mileage programs anymore.
on February 26,2014 | 07:39AM
PokeStop wrote:
Ever try booking a ticket using Delta's mileage redemption program? Good luck!
on February 26,2014 | 08:28AM
serious wrote:
PokeStop, that's not just Delta, they all make it as hard as possible to redeem.
on February 26,2014 | 08:51AM
WhyBother wrote:
I thought United messed up when they added a minimum spending amount to qualify for premier status (i.e., $2500 in ticket costs AND 25K miles to be Premier Silver), but Delta just topped that mistake. I periodically fly on Delta, but won't do so anymore. No sense in rewarding a company that doesn't value the business.
on February 26,2014 | 09:42AM
emelynnr wrote:
Delta has always been the worst with their Frequent Flier program but I guess they really love being on the bottom.
on February 26,2014 | 10:05AM
false wrote:
But their stock is doing great. 135% year to date last year. Over 18% this year,
on February 26,2014 | 03:57PM
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