Ask Randy: Should you merge your Delta and Northwest accounts?

These are tumultuous times for frequent fliers, as struggling airlines continue to add new fees and restrictions to their loyalty programs. So we've invited frequent-flier expert Randy Petersen to take your queries and offer advice on how to make the most of your miles. Here are some recent queries; join him in his ongoing forum to post one of your own or help answer a question from a fellow reader.

Mike32: Randy, is there any benefit to not merging [Delta and Northwest] accounts now? And, when do you see CO flights not being eligible for NW / DL loyalty programs? Will one still be able to "top off" their points with AMEX Membership reward points? I appreciate the information on the lifetime mileage merger.

Randy Petersen:Thanks for the question. The reason for not merging is predicated on still wanting to participate and enjoy the promotions that NWA is offering right now. As you may be aware, SkyMiles and WorldPerks do not currently share the same partners or bonus offers, meaning that if you were to merge into a SkyMiles account right now, you may be losing out on some of the new WorldPerks offers and specific partners. I have elected to keep my WorldPerks program separate and active rather than merging into my SkyMiles account and adopting that as my only program of choice right now. I'm not in that much a hurry to see my combined mileage total — I can pretty much figure that out myself though it will make me a mileage millionaire!

As for CO flights. The last day that CO flights will count toward partnership miles into either a Delta or Northwest frequent flyer account is Oct. 24, 2009.

As for AmEx? There will be no changes since Continental continues with Membership Rewards after leaving this partnership and of course Delta continues as a partner. The good news is that now Northwest WorldPerks members (well, former ones anyway!) will be able to transfer Membership Rewards points into their new Delta SkyMiles account, whereas in the past they could not do that when it was truly Northwest WorldPerks.

Here's a very helpful timeline for members of both Delta SkyMiles and Northwest WorldPerks for what will be happening toward the final integration of both airlines and frequent flyer programs. It gives you the month and the type of activity that will help you prepare — and answer your additional questions — for the day when you will all be one frequent-flier program:

Hope this helps and again, thanks for the question.

SOOZQ: Is [cellphone use on planes] going to happen? I hope not ~ I am so against more noise pollution in the way of the possible approval of cellphone usage on planes ~ tell me it won't happen. 30,000 feet up is the only place I can go to not have to listen to someone talking too loudly and when they are on a plane, they are going to really yell. Text & e-mail, OK, but no more noise.

Randy Petersen:Long term it will certainly happen. Having conversations with others already happens, though not in the same participation manner as most of us are accustomed to. What you see is a huge generation gap in terms of acceptability of this. Most of the younger generations have no problems with the use of cellphones in and around their own personal space or as part of even a one-to-one dialogue with someone else in person. Older generations are more conservative on this matter and over time it will likely be adopted. But that will be more a long-term outlook, not certainly in the next 2-3 years.

The argument for adoption is that the focus should be on the obnoxious people who truly don't realize that when they have a phone in their ear, their voice seems to rise. Deal with them and not penalize everyone — or so it goes. I'm more with you. Right now we typically can get an idea of what it is like, just listen when any plane lands and we're all standing around waiting for the door to open. Amazing the number of passengers who can't wait another minute or two to get into the terminal and carry on a conversation in a more private manner. And the strange observation there — it's really the older generation who get on the phone the fastest when landing, the stereotype of passenger who says they don't want cellphone conversations while flying. There are some safety issues to keep in mind since the flight attendants will be arguing that the ability to use them onboard might (and for good reason) interfere with their ability to communicate directly with passengers in times of emergencies and safety.

Good arguments on both sides, but for right now, use the iPhone only in the "Airplane Mode."