Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using Delta Skymiles to Get Easier

Cashing in frequent-flier miles on Delta Air Lines will get easier come September. You may spend more for your seat, though.

Because of credit card partnerships and other promotions, frequent-flier miles are easier to earn than burn, said Jeff Robertson, managing director of Delta's SkyMiles program. The changes are designed to give customers more flexibility to use frequent-flier miles.

"We want the miles to be burned," Robertson said.

A round-trip domestic flight now goes for 25,000 SkyMiles. Such seats are limited, and there are restrictions when you can book a flight redeeming SkyMiles. Redeem 50,000 miles now and you have more choices.

And there are some flights on which you can't use frequent-flier miles no matter how many you're willing to burn.

The new system will have three tiers: 25,000, 40,000 and 60,000 miles. A limited number of seats — roughly 6 percent — are available at the lowest tier. At the highest tier, if there is a seat available, you can get it.

As with the current system, each leg is priced differently.

For example, Robertson said, if you've got to get to Phoenix the Thursday before the Super Bowl, you will need to redeem 30,000 for that flight. But if you're flexible about when you need to get home, the return flight might cost just 12,500 miles.

"The ability to mix and match makes it a pretty good program," said Randy Petersen, publisher and editor of Inside Flyer magazine, which reviews and rates frequent-flier programs.

A frequent criticism of frequent-flier programs, Petersen said, is "there are too many miles chasing too few seats. In this case here, every seat is available."

Travelers will still have to pay a $25 fee to book award flights that was announced this month.

Robertson said Delta is studying the possibility of using SkyMiles to pay fees, such as $50 for checking a second bag.

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