personal finance

Delta spells out miles needed to earn free flights

DALLAS — Delta Air Lines Inc. is providing more details about changes to its frequent-flier program after some travelers complained about the overhaul. Starting in 2015, customers will earn miles based on how much they spend, not just on miles flown.

On Thursday, the airline released charts showing how many miles are needed for a free trip — a key piece of information for SkyMiles customers that Delta had planned to hold back until late this year.

Delta is leaving the minimum miles needed for a US trip at 25,000 and lowering requirements on some flights, especially international ones in business and first class.


The airline decided to release the miles-needed charts now because ‘‘customers were asking for greater transparency,’’ said Jeff Robertson, vice president of loyalty programs.

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The reaction was mildly positive.

Brian Kelly, founder of the travel website, said the redemption rates are good news, though much will depend on how many seats Delta makes available for people who are cashing in miles.

Jonathan Wu, of the consumer-finance site, said the new redemption rates ‘‘look like minor tweaks.’’ Even though Delta did not broadly raise mileage requirements, the overall changes in SkyMiles will still make the program less valuable for leisure travelers, he said.

Last week, Delta said that starting Jan. 1, it will base miles earned on how much passengers spend — a big advantage for business travelers and others who buy expensive tickets.


Robertson acknowledged that leisure travelers, who won’t benefit as much, ‘‘shared their disappointment with us.’’

Loyalty programs at Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America are already based on spending, not miles.