Time to start burning those Northwest Airlines miles

All of the buzz in the underground is that Delta and Northwest Airlines are seconds away from a merger. As speculation swirls around who’s going to come out on top, who’s going to be laid off and whose aircraft are going to be rebadged, an interesting conversation about frequent flyer miles has emerged.

What happens to the frequent flyer programs when two airlines merge? The worst case scenario is that the airline on top squishes the smaller carrier and that those miles turn to zero. In this case, that would be Delta usurping Northwest’s program. And that’s got passengers scared pink about the future of their accounts. Some have been hoarding miles for years in a 401k nest-egg type of fashion, thinking they’ll travel the globe for free as they hit their golden years. What will they do if their balance turns to dust?

The notion of total-loss to many frequent flyers has them scrambling to put the miles to use. Since award tickets are refundable, many are booking tickets far into the future that they may refund after the merger. Others are buying tickets for friends, family and strangers, while expunging the remaining balance on piles of magazine subscriptions.

What am I going to do with mine? I’m currently sitting on top of enough miles to book a ticket to Europe. Part of me wants to sponsor a contest on Gadling for a free ticket, while another part wants to just book a ticket to Munich for Oktoberfest. Either way, I’m not hopeful about the future of Northwest’s Worldperks program.