Travel infrequently? You’ll be earning fewer Delta Sky Miles in 2015

Delta is making major changes to its frequent flier program. Photo: Delta

Delta is making major changes to its frequent flier program. Photo: Delta

Delta Air Lines on Wednesday announced changes to its SkyMiles program that will reward the airline’s most lucrative and frequent travelers while making it more difficult for sporadic travelers, mainly of the leisure variety, to earn enough miles to redeem for free tickets.

The changes going into effect in 2015.

Instead of earning miles based on the numbers of miles of your flight, you’ll earn them based on how much money you spent on the ticket. The pricier your fare, the more miles you earn. Also, you’ll earn even more miles if you are an elite member of the SkyMiles program or if you buy your ticket using a Delta branded credit card. For full details, check out the press release on Delta’s website. Delta also put out a FAQ, which you can find here.

Delta published a chart of how you will earn miles in the future:

SkyMiles program status Miles per dollar* Miles earned with Credit Card*+ Total miles per dollar*
General member 5 +2 7
Silver Medallion 7 +2 9
Gold Medallion 8 +2 10
Platinum Medallion 9 +2 11
Diamond Medallion 11 +2 13
+ on Delta spend

This is likely good news for business travelers who buy a lot of pricey tickets. In the future, it’ll be possible for a traveler buying an expensive last-minute ticket to earn more miles with a coach ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco than a leisure traveler would earn on a flight from L.A. to New York. Under the current distance-based formula, all travelers earn far more miles on Coast-to-Coast flights than they do on short-hops.

Delta also plans to make changes to its redemption chart, but those details are limited. We do know  it will be possible to use your SkyMiles for one-way tickets, which is not now not an option. You must currently buy a round-trip. We also expect Delta will tweak its award charts so that there is more variance in how many miles a “free” trip will cost. The number of miles required will probably fluctuate, even more than it does now, based on demand. So if you want to use your miles for a popular route, it’ll probably cost you a lot.

Want a more thorough breakdown? The frequent fliers at Flyertalk, who engage in a fine message board, have shared nearly 500 posts about the changes. 

Also, Delta is the nation’s third-largest carrier. But I think most industry watchers expect that its competitors probably will eventually roll out similar programs.

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