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?

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