From 2015, Delta Air Lines' SkyMiles programme members will be able to benefit from more tickets requiring fewer miles, new One-Way Awards, the introduction of additional Miles+Cash Award options, and a range of other improvements to the Delta.com Award shopping tools, including a revamped mileage redemption structure that aims to provide greater flexibility and more ways for loyal passengers to use their reward miles. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The recently announced 2015 SkyMiles programme will introduce a shift from today's current model in which customers earn redeemable mileage based on distance travelled to one based on ticket price. The programme updates will be effective from the start of 2015 and will include a new mileage redemption structure that aims to improve award seat availability at lower mileage redemption levels, as well as other benefits including One-Way Awards at half the price of round-trips.

During the past five years the airline has made strategic investments in Virgin Atlantic Airways, AeroMexico and GOL, and opened a US$1.4 billion Terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal in Atlanta, among other initiatives aimed at saving costs and improving the customer experience.

The airline's current method of earning redeemable miles based on the distance a customer flies will change to a model of earning redeemable miles based on the price of the ticket purchased. Delta says it is providing ten months' advance notice of the upcoming programme changes so that customers have time to make their travel plans accordingly.

Customers will be able to earn between 5 and 11 miles per US$1 spent, based on their SkyMiles status, and will continue to earn up to an additional 2 miles per US$1 when using their Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, for a total of up to 13 miles per US$1 spent by those who 'double dip'. The updated programme aims to better reward those customers who spend more with Delta, as well as give them improved mileage-earning opportunities.

"The introduction of a new model for earning miles will increase rewards for those who spend more as well as differentiate the SkyMiles frequent flyer programme for our premium travellers," explained Jeff Robertson, Delta's vice president for SkyMiles.

The updated mileage-earning plan is intended to provide greater rewards for frequent business travellers as well as less frequent leisure customers who purchase premium fares. The move is consistent with a trend in the travel industry of rewarding customer behaviour based on price. "The travel industry, including nearly all hotel and credit card programmes, has already moved to a spend-based model," said Robertson.

However, for travel marketed and ticketed by Delta's partner airlines, members will earn a percentage of miles flown as determined by the fare class purchased and will also earn Medallion mileage bonuses on eligible fares.

SkyMiles members will have more redemption options with the introduction of up to a five-tier structure to give them a wider variety of Awards and improve overall availability at the lowest price points. The lowest level for SkyMiles Saver Awards will remain at 25,000 miles for an Economy Class Award ticket for travel within the US and Canada (excluding Hawaii). All of Delta's worldwide redemption charts will be updated to reflect the new options in the last quarter of 2014 and will be effective for new Award bookings beginning on 1st January 2015.

In addition to offering multiple new redemption levels, the SkyMiles programme will also introduce One-Way Award tickets starting as low as 12,500 miles within the US and Canada (again excluding Hawaii) and will offer customers the ability to redeem Miles + Cash to provide more Award booking options for tickets purchased at delta.com or through Delta reservations.

Customers will continue to have access to every seat on any Delta flight as an Award seat with no blackout dates. In 2013, frequent flyers redeemed more than 271 billion miles in the SkyMiles programme for more than 11 million Award redemptions.