Delta changes frequent-flier program

Published Feb. 26, 2014


For Delta frequent fliers, money will talk loudest

Delta Air Lines is changing its frequent-flier program to favor passengers who buy the priciest tickets instead of those who fly the most miles. It's a bid to lure business travelers, who often book flights on short notice and pay more than bargain-hunting leisure travelers. Beginning next year, Delta will base miles toward free flights on the amount that passengers spend on tickets. The average Delta SkyMiles frequent flier will earn five miles for every dollar spent. And passengers who hold elite status in the frequent-flier program will earn lots more miles. For example: a New York to Atlanta round trip now earns 1,522 miles. Next year, a basic SkyMiles member paying the $302 economy fare on Delta's website for a typical flight would get 1,510 miles; he'd get 3,005 miles if he bought the $601 premium-cabin ticket; and if he were a "Platinum Medallion" member of SkyMiles, he'd get 5,409 miles. Currently, members of its SkyMiles program earn miles based on how far they fly — it doesn't matter whether they bought an expensive first-class seat or the cheapest ticket in economy. "If you're a corporate traveler, the IBM guy, this is good for you," Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine, which tracks the airline-loyalty business, said of Delta's move. "The infrequent traveler clearly is the loser here. Frequent-flier programs are no longer for them at all." — tbt* news services