Delta SkyMiles Is Adjusting Partner Mileage Earning Rates In 2018

Filed Under: Delta

Over the past few years the “big three” US airlines have introduced revenue based mileage earning for tickets booked through them, which has presented some interesting arbitrage opportunities when traveling on partner airlines.

These programs still award miles based on distance flown when traveling on partner airline tickets, because in many cases they don’t have easy access to how much people paid for partner airline tickets. So when you’re able to snag a cheap premium cabin ticket on a partner airline, it can represent a great way to earn a disproportionate number of miles and elite qualifying dollars towards status. For example, just a few weeks ago I shared some ~$1,200 roundtrip business class tickets on China Eastern from the Philippines to the US, which would earn you a lot more miles than if those tickets were on Delta.

With that in mind, we’ve seen quite a few adjustments in terms of partner airline mileage earning rates lately, and the latest such change has just been announced by Delta.

Delta SkyMiles has updated some of their partner airline mileage earning charts for travel as of January 1, 2018. Some of the changes are positive, others are negative, and there’s not much consistency here at all. You’ll want to head over to the Delta SkyMiles partner airline earnings page to see all the changes, but I’ll provide a few examples.

Delta has four groups of partner airlines — Group 1 (“we own you”), Group 2 (“we sorta like you”), Group 3 (“we don’t really like you, but…”), and Group 4 (“who?”). Let’s pick an airline in each group to see how mileage earning rates have changed:

Group 1 example

Here are mileage earning rates on Aeromexico through December 31, 2017:

And here are mileage earning rates on Aeromexico as of January 1, 2018:

As you can see, we’re seeing an increase in mileage earning for discounted business class tickets and expensive economy fares, while mileage earning is being reduced only for the very lowest economy fares.

Group 2 example

Here are mileage earning rates on Saudia through December 31, 2017:

And here are mileage earning rates on Saudia as of January 1, 2018:

This one’s interesting. We’re seeing a huge cut in mileage earning for premium cabin tickets. Paid first class goes from earning 200% miles to earning 100% miles. Business class goes from earning up to 175% to earning up to 100%. Similarly, the number of elite qualifying dollars you can earn is being greatly reduced. Full fare first class previously got you elite qualifying dollars at the rate of 40% of the miles flown, though that will be halved in 2018. Even economy mileage earning is being cut.

Group 3 example

Here are mileage earning rates on Xiamen through December 31, 2017:

And here are mileage earning rates on Xiamen as of January 1, 2018:

I just wrote the other day about how frustrating it is to only earn 75% MQMs for travel in paid business class on Xiamen Air. That’s being improved, as paid business class will earn 100% MQMs. That’s still not great for business class, but is better than it was.

Group 4 example

Here are mileage earning rates on Hawaiian through December 31, 2017:

And here are mileage earning rates on Hawaiian as of January 1, 2018:

This is more for demonstrative purposes than anything, since you only earn miles on Hawaiian for flights between the Hawaiian islands. However, it’s interesting that these tickets are now eligible for Medallion Qualifying Dollars credit.

What surprises me is that Korean Air is still a Group 4 partner airline, despite the fact that Delta and Korean Air have announced a joint venture. You’d think they’d be a Group 1 airline by now, but that still hasn’t happened.

Bottom line

On balance I don’t see anything too drastic with these partner changes. There are some positive changes, but also some negative ones, and I suspect this is just the result of Delta renegotiating some of their contracts with partner airlines.

Will you be impacted by any of the changes in partner mileage earnings rates through SkyMiles?

(Tip of the hat to Ben)

  1. China Airlines MQM have increased to 100% but MQD % for business and premium econ have dropped quite a bit.

  2. I second the China Eastern, I see a lot of people taking advantage of MU cheap business fares to help out the MQD on Delta’s Spend..

  3. 2 Roundtrip NYC-PVG-SIN Trips on China Eastern in Business= $15,600 MQD with only spending around $2,200/ticket; very tempting

  4. Both AM and SV also start earning more MQMs on many premium cabin tickets though, which is interesting. Especially for AM as there are some moderately good MQM runs out of the US that pop up on AM from time to time, and they would get even better with this new earning chart.

  5. I’ve almost given up on crediting anything to US airlines. Here are my suggestions for crediting domestic flights:

    Delta: credit to Virgin Atlantic or GOL.
    American: Alaska now, BA or Cathay soon.
    United: Lufthansa or Avianca

  6. @Ferdinand Magellan – VA is a surprisingly good option for Delta crediting. Status with VA gives an earning multiplier, accrual is distance based and the redemption options across their bespoke alliance aren’t bad.

    Further, if you’re wanting to, you can transfer VA points to SQ.

  7. This is weird. I don’t understand why Delta is making this change so soon to 2018 without sending any notice to customers. What about people who already booked 2018 tickets and may now receive less miles? At least it seems like most business-class airfares now receive 100% base miles and 100% MQMs. But many no longer get class of service bonuses.

  8. One of the interesting changes I see is KL is shifting back to earning based on distance flown (was previously the one partner airline where miles were earned based on spend).

  9. This is unusual. I don’t comprehend why Delta is rolling out this improvement so soon to 2018 without sending any notice to clients. Shouldn’t something be said about individuals who effectively reserved 2018 tickets and may now get less miles?However, numerous never again get class of administration rewards.

  10. @John Phine @FNT Diamond
    There is some fine print that says if you have problems getting the correct credit for your ticket, call or email SkyMiles

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