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Feb 26

Delta makes enormous change to frequent flyer program; Others likely to follow

For many moons, I’ve been advocating the notion that airlines will eventually turn to revenue-based mileage accrual instead of distance.  In other words, you will start to earn miles based on how many dollars you spend, not how far you fly.  The program goes into effect on 1/1/15 and elite status qualification will be unaffected.

Note for those who are new to frequent flyer miles: When one airline makes a big change, the others tend to follow.

The biggest change is basing your total number of miles on the amount that you spend and your elite status.  The new chart is as follows:

Diamond members receive 11 miles per dollar spent

Platinum members receive 9 per dollar

Gold, Silver and base members receive 8,7 and 5 miles per dollar, respectively.

Add two miles per dollar if you pay with your American Express Delta card.

The big winners will be high-level elite flyers on expensive tickets, particularly short trips.  The Diamond member who pays $300 each way on the Boston-New York shuttle earns approximately 2,250 miles now.  But that same member would earn 6,600 miles under the new program (11 miles per dollar X $600).  Note that the 11 miles per dollar is the same bonus (125%) versus base as the current program offers.

And, of course, the loser is the base member with no status.  Paying $500 to fly from New York to LA?  Sorry, your 5,000 total flight miles will earn you just 2,500 miles (5 miles per dollar X $500) now.

Partners will offer a percentage of the miles flown.

Redemptions will also see a change.  The system is moving from three tiers to five.  Few details have been released, but expect it to get even more complicated.

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