Some major changes at Delta, United, and American

As I mentioned in the past, you need to have the mantra of "earn and burn" because frequent flier miles are devalued about every 18 months. The most common way they're devalued is by raising the number of points it takes to redeem for a flight. United's most recent changes in February nearly doubled the price for several routes, for example.

Delta made similar changes to their plan and they also made a huge change in that the number of points you earn on a paid flight is now based on the price you paid, rather than the distance you flew.

And because when one of the 3 legacy carries does it, the others usually follow suit, American announced a huge devaluation a few days ago. The worst-impacted part of their plan were their rule-buster rewards (AAnytime) that would let you book the last seat on the plane even if all the award seats were empty — the price for that doubled. The worst part of all is that American did this with zero advance warning.

Our economy is recovering and demand for seats is shooting up, so the airlines feel they can get away with these kinds of changes – especially when they all seem to make the devaluations within months of one another. No sense jumping from one to another in anger if the same change is going to happen elsewhere...

Even the low cost carriers do devaluations, so you can't necessarily escape by flying Southwest or JetBlue.

Until the airlines can return to the previous service levels (many drastically cut their schedules during the recession) prices will likely stay on an upward trend and points programs will continue to be gutted. In reading comments and postings on Flyertalk, it's clear that many people had big trips planned that were ruined by these devaluations. As a reminder, the two best ways to burn those points ASAP is to:

  1. book a ticket for a trip many many months in the future when there's more availability, or
  2. plan something completely spontaneous for this weekend (many airlines release a bunch of mileage award seats at the last minute).


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