Delta Airlines has announced changes to its frequent flier reward program, starting in January 2015. The updated program will reward customers based on airfare instead of mileage, raising scrutiny from those who made earning mileage points for the lowest airfare a sport. Under the new frequent flier reward program, Skymiles members could see a decrease of 60 percent or more in points.
Paul Skrbec, spokesperson for Delta Airlines, says, “We have believed that we should move to a revenue based Skymiles program for a while now. We discussed the changes with thousands of customers, employees, corporate travel agencies and managers.” Although the new reward program may seem like a nightmare for some, Skrbec does point out there will also be advantages in the new program. The airline will eliminate blackout dates, allocate more seats for awarding points and mileage can also be used for one-way fares.
The changes to the reward program, announced by Delta Airlines this week, will most likely have a positive effect on business travelers who purchase flights short-notice for a higher price, but others are not too happy about the announced changes. So-called travel hackers are known for their mileage runs, where flying large amounts of miles for the lowest possible airfare boosts their frequent flier accounts. According to Tim Winship, publisher of Frequentflier.com, there is no use in switching to another airline. “It is just a matter of time before American Airlines and United Airlines will follow Delta’s example, as Delta is the biggest operator. The travel hackers are definitely the ones to be affected by this change as they are not going to be able to generate large numbers of miles through long, cheap flights,” he says.
There are; however, travel hackers who remain optimistic. Rene DeLambert, a Delta Airlines frequent flier, says he does not think mileage runs will completely stop as passengers will remain to hunt down reward points. According to him, Delta’s new reward program will simply change the way travel hackers focus on earning points. “There are other ways to earn points than by just getting on a plane,” he said.
The new reward program will get Delta customers five to 11 points per dollar spent, based on their Skymiles status. Customers who have an airline branded credit card, can earn up to 13 points per dollar spent under the new program. Delta Airlines says they wanted to announce the changes 10 months in advance, to give their customers enough time to make travel plans for 2014.
The Skymiles program from the Atlanta-based company, founded in 1924, is the only reward program among top airlines where customer’s miles are never expired and frequent fliers may use them at their leisure. Apart from getting on a plane, Delta Airlines customers can also earn reward points by shopping online, dining out in restaurants or staying at a hotel. Travel hackers expect that the announced changes to the reward program will make Delta customers be more creative in earning miles on the ground rather than at 30,000 feet. One travel hacker said, “Thankfully there are credit card offers where you can pick up large amounts of points easily. I will keep milking those offers.”
By Diana Herst