Delta’s Frequent-Flier Program Will Reward Dollars, Not Distance

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Delta Air Lines is overhauling its frequent-flier program to reward big spenders. It’s a significant change from the existing program, which is based on miles traveled.

According to Bloomberg, Delta is looking to sweeten the mileage rewards for frequent business travelers and those who spend big bucks for tickets.

“The losers in Delta’s new SkyMiles program will be leisure travelers who book their tickets far in advance to save money and those who snag weekend specials — flights that are discounted, based on last-minute seat inventory,” Bloomberg says.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, Delta customers will earn between 5 and 11 miles per dollar spent, based on their frequent-flier status. A bonus 2 miles per dollar will be earned by travelers who use their Delta SkyMiles credit card to book their flight.

So, how will this new revenue-based program compare with the distance-traveled program? Bloomberg said:

Under the current program, a $400 round-trip flight from San Francisco to New York-JFK would earn 5,172 miles, according to a mileage comparison calculator Delta has posted. Next year, the same flight would earn 2,000 miles. Doubling the ticket cost to $800 doubles the miles earned.

George Hamlin, an aviation consultant in Fairfax, Va., told the Chicago Tribune that the new revenue-based frequent-flier program is Delta’s attempt to cater to its most profitable customers — business travelers. “It’s going to upset a lot of people but it’s economic reality,” Hamlin said. “Leisure passengers typically seek out price, and carrier loyalty is often a second priority.”

Some smaller airlines, like Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America, already have revenue-based frequent-flier programs in place. The Chicago Tribune reports:

“The travel industry, including nearly all hotel and credit card programs, has already moved to a spend-based model,” Jeff Robertson, vice president for Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program, said in the statement. “Delta will become the first U.S. global carrier to make this transition to better reward our most loyal customers.”

Delta customer Eugene Elander wrote in an online opinion piece that he’s disgusted by the new program, which he says is just a reward for the rich: “Delta Air Lines should change their slogan to: FLY THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES WITH DELTA!”

Whatever people think, this idea is likely to catch on. “American and United are likely to follow Delta’s lead,” Bloomberg said.

What do you think of Delta’s revamped frequent-flier program? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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