Delta makes HUGE changes to mileage earning structure on partner airlines

While we all know SkyTeam is kind of the alliance of the “leftovers,” this move makes me wonder whether calling them an “alliance” at all is too generous.

Delta announced today that for flights flown on or after September 1, 2013, they’ve changed the earnings structure for travel on partner airlines. Partner airlines now fall into four groups, as follows:

This is puzzling on so many levels. For example, Korean Air belongs to SkyTeam, but as of September 1 you won’t be able to earn MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) for travel on them. Meanwhile you can earn MQMs for travel on Virgin Australia, which doesn’t belong to SkyTeam. This is the first case I can think of where an airline changed policies to the point that you can’t earn any elite qualifying miles for travel on an alliance airline.

Interestingly on FlyerTalk, Delta explains it in part as follows:

Weā€™d like you to understand that each airline determines its level of participation in partnership with us, so there are varying levels of customer rewards when flying with our partners.

I mean, that’s a complete BS reason. “Participation” requires two parties, so it’s pathetic that they’re trying to remove themselves entirely from this situation.

I can understand airlines have a tough time balancing their interests and their alliance’s interests. After all, if you award the same number of miles for traveling on a partner airline as you do for traveling on your own flights, and your partner airline has a better premium cabin product, is that really a smart business decision? Earlier this year United cut the mileage accrual rates for premium cabins on some of their partner airlines, and to some degree I can’t blame them.

But to completely eliminate the ability to earn elite qualifying miles on a partner airline is downright ridiculous. Then again I hope most of you are earning Delta miles through non-flying means, and this doesn’t impact you.

Filed Under: Delta
  1. Ok. Here’s my beef. Why in the world would I want to fly with an airline where I cannot earn the miles that I use to keep my status? There are only so many vacation days in a year, and if I’m over in the part of the world, I don’t understand why I shouldn’t be able to fly with, a PARTNER, and earn miles?! It’s ridiculous. Are they trying to find a soft way to move out of the alliance? Geez – even GOL earns full 100% across the board. I swear, the worst part of being married sometimes (in this case to skymiles) is that you cant just up and leave easily. I am pleased to see that Aerolineas is slighty stepping up their game, however. Being that I’m often in South America, it at least gives me another reason to look at them over LAN.

  2. I think the explanation given by DL is a cop out and not completely true. Sure, we know that partner airlines set their mileage earnings per fare class themselves (i.e. we know that Asian airlines are less generous and will often give, say, 70% of miles on discounted coach fares). However, do partner airlines REALLY dictate elite qualifying miles? How could that even cost them anything?

    It’s clear that this is simply a means for Delta to drive more revenue toward themselves. Look at, with the Group 1 airlines, every one is either (1) a JV partner (Air France/KLM, Alitalia and Virgin Australia), (2) an non Skyteam airline DL has made an investment in (Aeromexico and GOL) and (3) Alaska, which I assume DL NEEDS to feed their transpac flights from Seattle.

  3. Why no MQMs??? I thought Delta was already starting MQDs that require 006 tickets!

  4. I got almost all my mqms last year on KE (granted they were RGN fares). I’ve moved away from DL. Here’s to hoping I don’t end back up in ATL and have no choice!

  5. @Alex Psy is a spokeman for Asiana Airlines. No problem for him šŸ˜‰ But the changes are yet another gouge….

  6. Well it seems like you could circumvent the issue by booking the code share on tier 1 airlines based on this language from their site:

    “For example, DL2368 is marketed by Delta Air Lines and follows the SkyMiles earning rules. However, CZ327 is marketed by China Southern Airlines and would follow the China Southern chart (even if purchased on or operated by Delta Air Lines).”

    Very different from what I experience in *A as a US flyer (mileage based on operating carrier, regardless of flight #/booking).

  7. Its all about the JVs! Any airline that still earns 100% MQMs, Delta has either a JV with (KL, AF, AZ, VA) or they’ve invested their own cash into the airline (G3, AM). Not hard to figure out really, they’re just trying to direct your dollars by incentivizing certain airlines, and prioritizing their own. SkyTeam is an alliance in name only, its mostly a cooperative marketing venture.

  8. DL and KE’s relationship has been continuously souring in the past year or two … this may just drive KE straight into the hands of oneworld (if not for their worthless investment in CSA)

  9. Wow, I am just amazed how fast they are cutting benefits. Do they think they can achieved this without any backlash?

  10. I can understand why some folks fly Delta. I just can’t understand why anyone would bother with Delta’s crummy loyalty program or their screwy alliance.

  11. After reaching Gold status for life with AA almost 10 years ago I was “forced” to move to Delta since I moved to a city that is Delta hub and I had no choice other than flying Delta since they offer many non stop flights from here and my company has Delta as preferred airline. Nowadays I have almost 1MM miles with Delta and I regret every time I have to jump on one of their planes. It has to be the worst airline when it comes into caring less about its customers. They change rules without notice and don’t give a s… for their customers. Sadly, I have to stay with them.

  12. “While we all know SkyTeam is kind of the alliance of the ā€œleftovers”” LOVE IT !!!!!

    Hope Korean is smart enough to move to One world.

    As far as Delta, I have not flown that airline since 2004. Thank God!

  13. Next time I cram my 6’6″ frame into an RJ I’ll remind myself it’s a great plane.

  14. I’ve been loyal to DL due to where I live. But, I think I need to give DL a serious thought!! Is devaluation of Medallion benefits next?

  15. While the KL and MH changes hurt VA is positive, and if you fly DL and credit to AS and you’re doing just fine.

  16. When I first started to become a more active traveler I chose Delta, in part because I was a former Northwest traveler having gone to college not far from Minneapolis. Upon being more active I realized that I preferred Minneapolis and Detroit as connecting airports rather than Chicago O’Hare.

    But, this is getting ridiculous. This probably doesn’t impact me since I’ve never flown any of the airlines downgraded today. But it’s more the totality of the feeling DL gives you lately. I have been low level elite for several years now, but this year I decided against pursuing any status. And while there are significant benefits even to a Silver, I just can’t rationalize loyalty anymore.

  17. This seems like it has to be a Delta-driven change. It is probably negative for Korean (Korean is the biggest US-Asia carrier and I could see this change having a significant impact on their load factors and yields on trans-Pacific routes, especially in premium cabins, and TPAC routes provide a ton of feed to all of their Asian routes) and likely neutral to positive for Delta (may lose/anger some customers, but probably pick up some customers on Delta’s NRT flights who would otherwise have flown Korean, or pick up some passengers on Delta-marketed Korean flights for which Delta makes more money than if passengers just buy Korean-marketed Korean flights).

    The only possible upside for Korean is that they might get some people to credit miles to their own award program, and/or not bother to claim miles at all, but this is a fairly minor effect compared to potentially losing a lot of traffic in one of their major focus markets.

    So, if Delta is being honest that this change was driven by Korean, it may well get reversed by the end of the year. But if it was driven by Delta, unless this drives lots of Asia-oriented travelers to UA (which it might), there’s not much reason to back down.

    (BTW, in this particular case, I don’t know that there really is a product differential jealousy case to be made — Korean is good but nowhere near as outstanding as a CX/SQ/NH, and most of Delta’s TPAC flights operate using their renovated planes which are actually quite competitive, from a hard product perspective at least, with KE.)

  18. @Bgriff — actually I should probably re-phrase to specify that Korean is the biggest Asian carrier to the US. UA and DL may have more TPAC capacity than KE does, though, not sure.

  19. Well, this does it. I’ll take my GM status through to 2015 and then I am done with DL. OW, here I come.

  20. Thank you tur. It seems that almost everyone ignores that little fact about DL codeshares with Korean! While I too am upset that Delta seems to be coming out with an enhancement every other week or so, there are still huge advantages to flying Delta depending upon where you live. Since I’m at the busiest airport in the world (ATL), I have tons and tons of nonstops to cities all over the place at very reasonable prices. It’s like having my own private jet service on call for an average of about $300 per round trip flight!

  21. Am I right in thinking that for a number of years now, earning Flying Blue miles when flying KE has also been quite poor!? Only the top flexible booking classes earned mileage!

  22. @ Phillip — That’s correct, a lot of fare classes on Korean Air don’t earn miles with Flying Blue.

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