Friday, January 2, 2009

Northwest WorldPerks Program Changes for 2009

In an email to subscribers, Northwest Airlines announced changes to Worldperks, the airlines frequent flyer program. Many of the changes rolling out over the next couple months are as a result of the merger between Northwest and Delta. Here are some of the key changes to the program:

First the good news: Beginning in February, Worldperks members who also have a DeltaSky miles account will be able to transfer base miles between the two accounts. Also, effective immediately, customers flying Delta-operated flights will earn you Northwest elite-qualifying miles.

And the not so good: On January 15, The airline will introduce a third mileage award level and synchronised award mileage requirements with Delta. The added level sits between the PerkSaver and PerkPass. For a standard domestic award redemption, for example, award requirements will be displayed as 12,500, 20,000 and 30,000 for one-way travel, based on a round-trip award ticket purchase. Availability will range from highly limited-capacity controlled up to unlimited availability on all flights - depending on the award tier you choose. In summary, the more points you want to spend, the more flight choices made available to you. Many industry experts feel the addition of the third tier will nearly wipe out award availability at the lowest award tiers.

The simply bad news: Northwest jumps on board with other airlines by instituting a close-in ticketing fee for award travel. Starting January 15th, the airline will charge between $75 and $150 if you decide to book any award travel within 21-days of departure date. Airlines claim award availability tends to open up near the departure date as airlines realize they cannot fill the plane with revenue passengers. Accessing this "last minute" (21-days or less) inventory will now cost you. 

These changes are in addition to previously announced 9-29% hikes in the miles required to fly certain routes that start January 15th.