It hasn't been a good week for travelers. United and Delta have both announced devaluations, with Delta devaluing its award program and United its elite benefits. Let's see how bad it really is.
On the heels of JetBlue's announcement that they will begin charging baggage fees, Delta has decided that after January 1st, 2015, all new award bookings will no longer be allowed stopovers or open jaw reservations.
Under previous rules, a traveler could have one stopover (a stop between 4 and 24 hours on the way to a destination) on each award booking. This will no longer be possible come the new year.
Additionally, "open jaw," or reservations that leave from one city, and return to another, were possible, so long as the final leg was less than the first leg. Now, you'll be facing Delta pricing for one-way fares, instead of one complete reservation. With the new fare pricing for award flights, this is effectively a devaluation. One positive of this announcement is that more SkyTeam partners are listed on the site, like Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and Alaska Airlines (though there are plenty still missing).
This means that you won't be able to stop over for a night in cities en-route to your final destination, like Paris for a night on the way to Greece or Rome on the way to Istanbul. In my eyes, this is a big deal, as I love building in "bonus" destinations into my travel.
United Airlines also devalued a part of their loyalty program this week. For one, you'll no longer get a Global Entry fee waiver as an elite member (a $100 value). To compensate, check out the American Express Platinum card, which includes this benefit in card membership.
Currently, Gold members are allowed 3 checked bags per person (up to 70 pounds). After February 1st, 2015, economy tickets for Gold members will only include two checked bags. Some international travel will still include 3 bags. In my opinion, this isn't a major devaluation, since I travel light, but I could see some situations where I would want the most baggage possible.
Premier members will also have to pay the co-pay for upgrades on transcontinental flights in United's p.s. routes between the West and East coast. This can be as much as $500 on some flights!
Also, you'll no longer be afforded the status of the person who booked your award tickets after April 15th, 2015. You'll be given the benefits that you yourself have earned.
These are all bad changes for travelers, and discourage loyalty. Both of these programs are switching to revenue-based loyalty programs in 2015, so the chips have already been stacked against the flyer. Other programs, like American, have yet to make these types of changes. Never forget that you can apply your miles to any program in an alliance- Lufthansa and Air Canada have great programs for Star Alliance flyers and Korean Air has plenty of good award possibilities for SkyTeam.