Delta Making Frequent Flyer Miles Harder To Redeem

Delta is “tweaking” its frequent flyer program to make seats more difficult to reserve. It’s also going to begin charging a fee for booking flights on its partner airlines.

The main change comes from the elimination of a program where one could pay twice the number of award points in order to book any open seat on any flight. Delta says most of its customers won’t even notice a change because not many of its passengers use the program.

In an Oct. 30 interview, Lee Macenczak, Delta’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, said that, “90 to 95 percent of people using SkyChoice,” Delta’s premium award level, won’t be affected.

“We perceive it to be a minor change, but it’s elicited a much more emotional response,” he said.

“We got some push back from customers, and we expected to,” said Macenczak. “What we’re really saying is: Can you give this a chance? Because we believe that for the most part, people won’t notice much of a change.”

Delta’s justification, however, isn’t assuaging critics of the new policy.

Said Howard: “Airlines lost sight of the original purpose of frequent-flier programs, which was to psychologically bind the business traveler to picking an airline and sticking with them.”

Don’t worry, Delta. All your business travelers are going to go fly Southwest anyway, because they no longer have to wait for a bunch of toddlers to board the flight. At least in theory.

Delta under fire for frequent flier change [Atlanta Business Journal via USAToday]
(Photo:Maulleigh)

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  1. Major-General says:

    This plus Delta’s outstanding customer service pretty means that business should be booming.

  2. missdona says:

    90%+ use Sky Choice because there are no seats available at the lower point level. I’m glad I cashed-out with them to go to Hawaii

  3. ParkerTheDog says:

    FTA – Delta’s Macenczak says, “There are more changes coming to the program, some I think will be well-received in the near future.”

    I wonder if he is implying that they plan on getting rid of their frequent flier program altogether. They are taking this “baby step” in order to ease their customers’ pain…

  4. chortik says:

    i cashed out as well as soon as the made the sky-save/choice change. basically you can’t get anywhere for 25k miles anymore.

  5. ChiefDanGeorge says:

    Yes all us Delta business travelers are going to switch to an airline that doesn’t serve our area.

  6. astn says:

    I’m not sure what Delta is thinking with the majority of their actions these days, but in this case they are mostly moving in the same direction as the rest of the herd. The people this affects are not the people that the airlines care about, for the most part–the infrequent “frequent flier”, who can generally get a “free” ticket every other year. As it is, those people should really be shopping for value, not for loyalty, and ignoring frequent flier miles–which generally means airlines like Southwest. By all means, sign up for the programs, but having any loyalty for the casual flier is pointless and stupid.

    That’s not to say Delta isn’t screwed. I’m a “gold” member of their program and will be “platinum” (the highest level) by the end of the year. I try to stay off Delta aircraft and instead fly Continental (a partner airline) which has MUCH better customer service. At the end of the year I’m going to try to transition over to Continental’s program entirely, even if it costs me a level of status. When even your “best” customers are willing to make sacrifices to get away from you, you should wonder if you have a customer service problem.

  7. Flibbetigibbet says:

    Clark Howard is exactly right (run for mayor, Clark!). I used to fly Delta religiously to build up miles (I’ve cashed in over 350,000 of them), but it isn’t worth it any more. I turned my last 100,000 miles into two tickets to Europe (on a partner airline of course, since it’s impossible to get a SkySaver seat with Delta–no wonder they now want to charge a fee) a few months ago, canceled my Delta Amex, and switched to AirTran for all my domestic travel.

    Kiss my hiney, Delta. My only regret is that you didn’t go completely bankrupt like you deserve.

  8. Neurotic1 says:

    I worked in Delta’s reservations office for a few years and the FF program was a source of much frustration, not only among customers, but also among the employees. For instance, Delta’s rule on redemption would be one year from the date of travel. When travlers would call in, exactly one year in advance, the day the inventory sopposedly opened up, there were often no FF seats available. The flight could be wide open with five booked seats and Delta would still not open up any FF seats. Delta would often play games with the inventory and the agents never knew the total number of FF seats on any given flight because it was always changing. Then to add insult to injury, the agents are trained to offer to free up a FF seat if the customer redeems double the number of miles and pay fees. Of course, this created more angry customers than anything else. I don’t know how the airlines stay in business.

  9. SadSam says:

    @chortik:

    Correct, I’ve got a bunch of Delta miles that I tried to use recently and some of the ff seats cost more than a 100,000 miles (no I was not trying to go to Europe, trying to go to Boston).

  10. PalmBayChuck says:

    The ONLY reason I fly Delta is to accumulate miles. I’m finding it harder and harder to redeem them. I’m close to emptying my miles account and going with another airline. I’ll drive to Orlando so that I can have a good selection.

  11. moracity says:

    My wife used to be be a frequent flyer. We then got a Skymiles AMEX. We pay for everything with card and pay off the balance every month.

    Our Skymiles flew us to Italy for our wedding and Italy/Malta for our first anniversary. We also use our Skymiles for visits to family across the country throughout the year. We even flew First Class over 4th of July this year. If Delta has a competitive deal, we’ll pay for tix instead of using miles.

    We’ve never had a problem using our miles, so it’s worked out great for us. Being in ATL, we don’t have Southwest -and AirTran sucks. Now that Delta is focusing more on customer service, instead of trying to go no-frills, it’s actually a pleasure to fly.

    If the program changes or goes away, who cares? It’s been good for us, but I’m not going to whine or complain if they do away with it. I’m sure they lose money when we fly anyway.