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Delta hints at frequent flier changes

MINNEAPOLIS — Delta Air Lines is hinting that its frequent flier program will increasingly favor big spenders over travelers who simply rack up miles.

Such a change would generally reward business travelers, who often fly on short notice on more expensive tickets.

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Air travelers have long complained that a $700 ticket buys them a seat next to someone who might be riding on a fare sale for, say, $200. More and more, the airlines are steering greater rewards to the traveler who spends more.

Delta announced last week that in 2014 frequent fliers will need to spend at least $2,500 to qualify for the lowest level of elite status. Previously, they could qualify on miles alone.

Travelers prize that status because it moves them to the front of airport lines and lets them qualify for upgrades to first class. Delta said the shift was to make sure ‘‘our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience.’’

Delta appears to be planning more changes in that direction. President Ed Bastian said on Tuesday that Delta wants to shift its SkyMiles rewards program ‘‘to drive the type of customer behavior that we would like to encourage.’’

Delta declined to say more about future changes to SkyMiles.

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