Changes are coming again to Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program. On June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed to book an award flight may go up significantly, depending on the popularity of the destination and “other factors.” For a detailed look at the changes, read John Ewoldt’s report.
Brian Kelly, the frequent flier behind The Points Guy website, maintains, “SkyMiles are among the hardest to use.” Now it looks like it’s going to get tougher.
As SkyMiles drop in value — and that has been slowly happening for years — it may be time to rethink our fidelity to the program. After all, when loyalty programs were introduced it seemed like a win-win. Consumers got the occasional free flight, and booking it was relatively easy. Airlines earned repeat customers.
The question for fliers is, can the program still work for us? I say it can, provided we don’t let it tie us to one airline.
While I usually fly Delta — who doesn’t, since it flies about 75 percent of the flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International — I booked with American when I found a cheap flight to New Orleans. I didn’t think twice about stopping in Dallas and forgoing the mile credits I would have gotten with Delta.
I’ve also stopped throwing my Delta-branded American Express card at any register that will take it (though I maintain the card because it grants me a free checked bag on Delta flights). Based on a tip by awards expert Gary Leff, who writes the View From the Wing blog, I now use an American Express Everyday because it earns more points. “It’s better to get cash back and use that money to book with any airline,” he told me.
Finally, decide how you want to use your miles and plan ahead. I go for upgrades, a relative value in the fickle world of awards.
Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.