I’m a little late to the party on commenting about Delta Air Lines recent changes to its SkyMiles frequent flyer program. Delta has very quietly announced a change to SkyMiles on its website that in my opinion at least, does not bode well for the future of mileage plans as we know them.

You can read the changes yourself by clicking here. There was a change to fees collected, but the most disconcerting is the second paragraph announcing that effective December 1, SkyChoice awards (unrestricted award inventory usually requiring double miles) will no longer be available on every flight in which a seat is available for sale.

This is a big deal even if you’ve never used a double miles award. While I won’t predict widespread catastrophe amongst mileage plans if this gets widely adapted (it’s already in place at NWA), I don’t think this bodes well for mileage plans. I’ve long thought that these programs were going to morph into something far different than they are today, and this may be the first step in that direction. Time will tell. In the meantime, this is not a positive change for Delta flyers that like having the option of using double miles to snag an award seat if none are available at the restricted level.

I have really learned to like flying Delta as I’ve done a bit of that this year. Their customer facing technology is better than any other domestic airline in my opinion. But this change to SkyMiles certainly gives me pause when considering whether or not I will focus on building up my SkyMiles account.

From my perspective, American’s AAdvantage remains the overall best frequent flyer program in the business. We’ll see if AA follows Delta’s lead on this strategy. If they do, that’s not a good sign for mileage programs in general.