When You Don’t Know How Much Your Miles Are Worth Anymore

Frequent flyers who regularly fly Delta and participate in its SkyMiles frequent flyer program learned recently that they soon won’t be able to rely on the program’s “fixed miles-for-a-free-flight system” after the SkyMiles program changes next year. Reports CNBC:

Travel hackers and bloggers — those frequent fliers who aggressively accumulate miles and study how to make the most of them — immediately took issue with some of the changes and the amount of information shared with customers.
“These changes may mean there are more awards available for every flight, but there will be fewer opportunities to increase the value of SkyMiles,” said Scott Mackenzie of travelcodex.com.
Mackenzie states, for example, that many of the one-way awards Delta is promoting for 7,500 or 10,000 miles are likely to be available only for short or less-competitive routes.
For other flights, “Delta will now determine demand and other factors to determine how many miles are required, in the same way that it uses those factors to determine the price of a paid ticket,” he said.

In other words, when the program changes, no one will know how much their miles are worth anymore until it’s time to book a flight. In the Times, Ron Lieber talks to one of these travel bloggers, Gary Leff, who blogs about airline loyalty programs when he’s not working at his job as a CFO at a university research center:

Delta does offer some free flights for less than 25,000 miles round-trip now. But Mr. Leff has done the math and has pointed out that the value you get per mile (when compared with the cash cost of the ticket) seems to rarely exceed two cents, an important figure that we’ll come back to shortly. Also, free flights in business class to Australia on Delta (long one of the magic redemption destinations for mile hoarders industrywide) now sometimes cost 830,000 miles per ticket, multiples of the former price.

Back to the “two cents” figure, which is important, because, as Lieber points out, if you’re using credit cards (like the American Express card flyers use to rack up Delta points), you might be better off switching to a different rewards card that offers you cash back and guarantees you two cents for every dollar you spend.

Photo: Chris