The Death of Mileage Running?

Mileage runners are a breed apart, willing to hopscotch around the world to build up miles for coveted elite status in airline loyalty programs.

Listen as Rick Seaney tells editor Anne McDermott about his own mileage run – to Beijing – for dinner:

Best Airlines for Amazing Luxuries

Why They Run So Hard

It’s all about the perks. Forget free checked-bags, we’re talking about upgrades to business or first class where you can enjoy a lie-flat seat, gourmet food, lots of personal service and maybe even a shower. Mileage runners live for such perks, but Delta may put a crimp in their plans.

Details: SkyMiles Changes

What Delta Changes Mean for Mileage Runners

Starting next year, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program is trying something revolutionary – it will be the first miles program (in my memory, anyway) that includes a spending requirement. It won’t be enough to earn miles to reach silver or gold or even higher elite status – you will also have to pay a minimum amount for flights. Which may mean the death of year-end mileage runs where would-be elites look for cheap deals on long trips to earn them status – and all the perks that come with that.

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Other Airlines May Follow

If you feel you’re safe because you don’t fly Delta, consider this: Airlines are like sheep, always following the herd. What do you think happened when American began charging a fee to check a bag? Except for JetBlue and Southwest, they all do it now (and some even charge for carry-ons).

In Delta’s Defense

From a strictly business point of view, what Delta is doing make sense – they are rewarding their best customers, the big-spending business travelers. Plus, whatever you think of the changes to the SkyMiles program, you have to admire the fact that the airline gave its members a year’s notice which is frankly unusual.

We’ll keep watching to see how this plays out and which airlines (if any) follow suitĀ and I invite you to checkĀ this space for updates.

More from Rick Seaney:

Changes to Frequent Flier Miles Programs Could Mean the End of ‘Mileage Runs’

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Published: January 23, 2013