ATLANTA Delta Air Lines Inc. is giving frequent fliers a guaranteed ability to redeem miles for a reward ticket if a seat is available on a particular flight but it will cost you.
The Atlanta-based airline said on its Web site Wednesday that a three-tier redemption structure for its SkyMiles program will go into effect in September, replacing its current two-tier system.
As fuel costs have soared and airlines' financial situations have deteriorated, some carriers have been retooling their frequent-flier programs.
Reward tickets are not entirely free.
While airlines generally pass along taxes and federal fees to customers using reward tickets, Delta also recently imposed a fuel surcharge on reward tickets of $25 for a roundtrip flight within the United States or between the United States and Canada, and $50 for a round-trip flight between the United States or Canada and any other international destination. Northwest Airlines Corp., which Delta is seeking to buy, has matched the surcharge.
As for Delta's SkyMiles tier structure, the current system allows 25,000 SkyMiles or 50,000 Skymiles to be used to get a reward ticket in coach for a domestic round-trip flight, excluding travel to Hawaii. The new system will allow 25,000, 40,000 or 60,000 SkyMiles to be used for round-trip flights.
Using 60,000 SkyMiles would guarantee a passenger a reward ticket if a coach seat is available on a domestic flight, excluding travel to Hawaii. A first-class domestic round-trip ticket, excluding Hawaii travel, will cost 100,000 SkyMiles for the last available seat.
Delta currently sets aside a limited number of available seats for reward redemption.
Delta will continue to have a limited number of seats set aside for using 25,000 miles for a reward ticket. Using 40,000 miles will give you a better shot at snagging an available seat, but not a guarantee.
International Delta flights also will come with guaranteed reward tickets for available seats, but in some cases it will cost you an eye-popping number of SkyMiles. For instance, a reward ticket for a last available first-class seat on a roundtrip flight to Asia will cost 370,000 SkyMiles.