Delta changes frequent flier program to award money spent not miles flown

In a major change to its frequent flier program, Delta Air Lines will soon begin awarding free flights based on dollars spent, rather than miles flown.

The move by Atlanta-based Delta is aimed at rewarding its higher-spending customers, an acknowledgement of how valuable those deep-pocketed travelers are to the company. It’s also a competitive move to attract lucrative business travelers as Delta jockeys against other carriers, including United and American, for those customers.

“We’d like to provide more benefits to our premium customers,” said Jeff Robertson, vice president of the Delta SkyMiles program. “A lot of our customers fly us 10, 20 times a year, and we should reward them for that.”

Meanwhile, those most likely to not benefit from the new program, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, are bargain-hunting travelers who earn thousands of miles by flying long distances across the country on cheap fares.

It’s a historic change for frequent fliers who for decades have earned flights based on miles flown.

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