Why you can’t sell your frequent flier miles

Do you know it's generally against the rules to sell frequent flier miles and other airline perks?

Do you know it’s generally against the rules to sell frequent flier miles and other airline perks?

What should you do if your airline audits you?

This is something Gary Leff, the talented blogger at View from the Wing, explored Monday in a blog post. But before we explore his advice, perhaps you’re a bit puzzled about why an airline might audit you. It gets complicated, but most audits are triggered when the airline believes that you have sold someone else a benefit that was only supposed to go to you.

Some examples:

  • You redeem a free ticket using miles. You sell that “free” ticket to someone else for cash. (Giving the ticket to a friend or relative for free is usually OK.)  
  • Airline often give their best customers chits for free premium class upgrades. But customers also cannot sell these.

As we learned from the Minneapolis rabbi who had his account closed by Delta after he complained too much, airlines have complete control over your miles. And according to Leff, their auditing departments can be thorough. Sometimes, the airlines will confront travelers while on they are on their journey to question if they’ve purchased something that should have been free. More often, airlines will probe the person they’ve accused of selling the ticket or upgrade. In the worst cases, an airline can close your account.

Leff has a thorough explanation of exactly what to do on his blog. But here’s his advice in brief:

If you’ve broken program rules, offer a contrite apology. You might lose some points, you might even be asked to pay the cost of a ticket that was obtained contrary to program rules. But unless your conduct was large scale and ongoing you’ll probably be invited to continue participating in the program

When it comes to frequent flier programs, Leff knows his stuff. You might consider following him on Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

Your United and Delta miles will be less in 2014 than now. But why?

United Airlines is devaluing its MileagePlus program in 2014. Photo courtesy of the airline.

United Airlines is devaluing its MileagePlus program in 2014. Photo courtesy of the airline.

Your Frequent flier miles on  some airlines will be worth less in 2014 than they were in 2013 .

“A mile earned today is worth less than a mile earned a year ago,” said Tim Winship, the Los Angeles-based editor of FrequentFlier.com. “I think it’s a pretty fair bet that a mile earned a year from now will be worth less than today’s miles. That is very much the trend. There’s no sign that it is going to turn around any time in the future.”

But what’s the reason for this change? I highlighted a couple of them in a newspaper story from the weekend. First, unlike in previous years when planes routinely took off with empty seats, airlines are packing planes with paying customers, leaving fewer seats for them to give away. Second, airlines spent the past decade selling and giving away huge numbers of frequent flier miles, a trend that was bound to cause — eventually — some inflation.

I was able to weave in the nickname for Delta Sky Miles, which some frequent fliers say is the least generous program.

“Skypesos — that term has been floating around for years,” said Brian Kelly, founder of a popular website called The Points Guy. “Delta has always been known as leading the way to the bottom of the pack. They give them out like candy but they make them extremely difficult to use.”

Both Delta and United have announced major devaluations for 2014. Each has considerably raised the number of miles for premium class travel, while more or less keeping economy class as is. Rahsaan Johnson, a United spokesman, said the reason for this is because premium class travel is worth far more to travelers than ever before.

“The reason for the change is that the value of the product — the value that customers assign to our international premium cabin product — is significantly higher today than it was in 2008, which was the last time that we had an increase in award mileage levels,” Johnson said. “If you flew in 2008, chances are you were in a cradle seat that did not lie flat. You did not have on-demand audio and video.”

What do you plan to do with your airline miles in 2014? Earn and burn them? Or hold onto them?

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

Delta moves, again, to devalue its Skymiles program

Delta moved Friday to further devalue its frequent flier program, Skymiles

Delta moved Friday to further devalue its frequent flier program, Skymiles

More bad news Friday for frequent fliers.

Delta moved to further devalue its Skymiles program, which means you will soon need more miles to redeem most “free” award tickets. It’s a bit of an unusual move, as Delta had already announced it would devalue its program starting on June 1. That led many people to try to book award tickets before then, so they could take advantage of current rates.

But on Friday, Delta announced something of an interim increase in mileage rates. Between Feb. 1 and May 31, Delta has introduced a new award chart, with — you guessed it — higher rates than the current ones for many routes.

Mile charts are pretty complicated — the number of miles required depends on many, many factors — so it’s probably best to go to Delta’s site to see the changes for yourself.

Delta has been getting a reputation as being especially stingy with its frequent flier program, which some people have nicknamed “skypesos.” The airline has been moving steadily in recent years to devalue miles.

The Delta move comes on the heels of one another one last week by United, which considerably de-valued parts of its Mileage Plus program. While passengers who redeem tickets on United will only see modest increases, travelers who  use their miles on partner airlines like Lufthansa will see great increases in the number of miles required.

The United changes, detailed on the View From The Wing blog, have not gone over well with frequent travelers. 

My advice is to use your miles as quickly as you earn them. The longer you keep them, usually, the less they end up being worth.

After I first published this blog post, Delta sent over a statement. It reads:

“To balance continued investments in products and services, we regularly evaluate Award pricing and adjust it periodically. Select redemption levels have been updated for Award Tickets booked on or after November 8, 2013, for travel on or after February 1, 2014. Customers can continue to book Award Tickets for travel before February 1, 2014, at the current Award redemption levels.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email