By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Delta Air Lines announced major changes Wednesday to the way its elite frequent fliers - and best customers - qualify for free perks.
For fliers to qualify for the airline's Medallion Club, which represents 2 to 3 percent of the 30 million or so SkyMiles members, a formula combining total miles and the type of fare will be used. A deeply discounted ticket, for example, will earn only 50 percent of the miles toward qualification, while a first-class ticket will count double.
The new system will be phased in during the next two to three years and does not change how normal SkyMiles members accrue miles.
Experts said frequent business travelers increasingly have been buying lower-priced leisure tickets to cut costs.
"This could've been a lot worse in the greater scheme of things, because Delta actually gave some things back," said Randy Petersen, editor of Inside Flyer magazine.
The airline operates its second-largest hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
"We want to recognize and reward those customers who are paying those higher fares with a faster path to Medallion status," said Patrice Miles, Delta's vice president of consumer marketing.
Some local Medallion members were upset by the change.
"Delta has been steadily picking away at their better customers, and eventually we'll find other options," said Mike Seidenman, a Fairfield salesman and a platinum Medallion member. "This kind of screws us to the wall."
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