Delta SkyMiles members have new mileage redemption options, which members of the programs of American and United can only envy.
Specifically, SkyMiles members may now combine restricted and unrestricted awards, and coach and first-class awards, on the same itinerary. So, for example, members can fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles in restricted first class and return using restricted coach. The price: 35,000 miles (half the 45,000 miles normally required for a restricted first-class roundtrip, plus half the 25,000 miles for restricted coach).
While the new policy gives them a significant competitive advantage over rivals American and United, Delta isn't breaking new ground here. Among the largest programs, US Airways permits Dividend Miles members to combine Mileage Saver (restricted), Premium (unrestricted), coach and first-class segments on the same itinerary for flights booked on usairways.com. And Northwest allows its members to combine restricted and unrestricted award segments, but not to mix classes of service.
Although Delta deserves points for making awards more accessible, it shouldn't be forgotten that such mixing and matching wouldn't be necessary if it weren't for Delta's self-imposed capacity controls on lower-priced awards.