For some fliers, mileage programs come up short

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm •  Published: February 28, 2014
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Delta has "treated me the best over the years," Jenkins said, but that doesn't mean he'll remain loyal. He said that he's also got elite status on American and US Airways, and "United is going to get a call."

Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, a website dedicated to travel-loyalty programs, said that if enough people like Jenkins switch, it'll make United and American less likely to copy Delta's approach.

Many travelers are reluctant to switch, especially once they've achieved elite status. Kelly suggested asking other airlines if they'll match your status. Take a screen shot of your account, email it to the other airline and ask, "What can you do for me?"

Another approach, he said, is to credit miles flown on Delta to an account at partner Alaska Airlines, which still has a traditional miles program and lets you redeem trips on Air France, Emirates and other carriers.

When comparing programs, look at ease of redeeming awards, the number and quality of partner airlines on which you can fly, and availability of upgrades.

Some Delta customers have gone on Twitter and Facebook to complain about the SkyMiles changes. Paul Skrbec, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based airline, said it's too early to gauge the response among its 92 million members — the airline is still contacting them.

Many news accounts have portrayed the changes as a loss for most economy-class passengers. Skrbec said that's too simple. The changes will benefit the coach passenger who pays $700 for a last-minute ticket and sits next to someone who paid $200 far in advance.

"The person paying $700 has been asking us, 'Why aren't you giving me more?'" Skrbec said.

Of course, the airlines themselves created that complexity by constantly adjusting prices based on demand.

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David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter