Permanent: Delta SkyMiles Award Tickets Count Toward Elite Status

Permanent: Delta SkyMiles Award Tickets Count Toward Elite Status

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Delta SkyMiles has announced a couple of positive changes today, one of which I’d consider to be particularly exciting.

Earn Delta Medallion status with mileage tickets

It has been revealed that Delta SkyMiles award travel will qualify toward Medallion elite status permanently. This was first added as a temporary feature back in the spring of 2021. That policy was eventually extended through 2022, but now we’ve learned that this will stick around permanently (or as permanent as anything in the airline industry can be).

With this policy, if you redeem Delta SkyMiles for a ticket (including Miles + Cash tickets), you’ll receive Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) for those flights.

How are the MQDs earned, since there’s no revenue associated with award flights? MQDs will be earned at the rate of one cent per mile. In other words, if you redeem 20,000 SkyMiles for a ticket, you’d earn 200 MQDs.

There are a few things that make this interesting:

  • In 2020, Virgin Atlantic started counting all award flights toward Flying Club elite status as a permanent perk; Delta has a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic and owns a 49% stake in the airline, so I’d imagine there was some cooperation in this decision being made
  • With the way that Delta has tried to turn SkyMiles into a revenue-based currency and allow members to redeem SkyMiles for virtually all Delta purchases, there’s no reason award flights should be treated differently than revenue flights for these purposes
  • I’m impressed that Delta SkyMiles is even awarding MQDs for award flights, meaning that you could (in theory) earn Delta Medallion elite status exclusively through award flights

Delta is the first major airline in the United States to introduce this policy on a permanent basis, so will other airlines follow?

  • I could see United MileagePlus introducing a similar policy, given that United has slowly been rolling out more perks for elite members in select situations on award tickets
  • I don’t see American AAdvantage following, since the program is now based entirely on earning Loyalty Points, so there’s no practical way those could be earned when redeeming miles
Travel on Delta award tickets counts toward status permanently

Delta eliminates mileage earning cap on tickets

Delta SkyMiles members earn anywhere from 5-11x miles per dollar spent on airline tickets (before taxes & fees), depending on their elite tier. The one limitation has been that you’re capped at earning 75,000 SkyMiles on a single ticket. This is an issue that 99.99% of us would never run into, as you’ll only run into this limit if you’re spending at least ~$6,800 on a ticket (if you’re a Diamond Medallion member), or even $15,000 on a ticket (if you’re a non-elite member).

This cap is being eliminated effective immediately. Furthermore, any SkyMiles members who had tickets in 2022 that would have earned more than 75,000 SkyMiles will retroactively have those miles credited.

I’d also consider this to be a great change for the highest fare passengers. The cap of 75,000 miles per ticket, essentially limiting the amount you can spend and be rewarded on, never made much sense to me. Delta is also the first major US airline to lift this cap.

Bottom line

Delta SkyMiles has announced a couple of genuinely positive changes. The program will be permanently counting award tickets toward elite status, meaning you can earn MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs, for award tickets. Furthermore, the airline has eliminated the cap of 75,000 SkyMiles per ticket, meaning that those on really expensive tickets can earn even more miles.

What do you make of these two Delta SkyMiles changes?

Conversations (28)
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  1. A Moxley Guest

    Delta still requires the most miles for flight redemption of any US airline, particularly business class which is why I never use them.

  2. DLPTATL Guest

    I usually cash in a huge number of SkyMiles for a DeltaOne R/T to Europe once a year. Getting credit for this in MQDs almost certainly tops up my MQD requirement so that I hit Diamond instead of Platinum (MQM's are never a problem for me, it's the $15k MQD hurdle that's tough to hit).

  3. azamaraal Guest

    It has always been tough to know how to work the points game when looking for both status and reward travel.

    Finally an airline recognizes that award travel is just paid with a different form of currency and should also earn loyalty points. After employment travel drops off most loyalty travellers must eventually purchase points so this is a welcome change.

    Hopefully other airlines will adopt the same award strategy.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      You sound just like DCS.

  4. iamhere Guest

    Permanent until they change their rules.

  5. JV Guest

    Can someone point out where Delta's policy states that you earn MQDs for Award Travel at $0.01/mile? It is stated in the article, but I can't find a Delta statement or policy that indicates this.

  6. Dave Guest

    One way Delta flights to Europe run 360.000 miles. What more is there to say about Skymiles?

  7. TranceXplant Member

    Those are definitely positive developments. Hopefully AA will at least drop the mileage cap. As it's a rule that rather oddly punishes top tier elites who fly J and F internationally, where tickets can easily cost more than $6818 (1/11th of 75k).

  8. Sam Guest

    Glad this is permanent. Been nice this past year earning huge Amex welcome bonuses & redeeming cheap awards from SEA.

  9. kennethholland New Member

    I think this is a positive overall, but still feel it's a bit of a 'let's throw you some crumbs' move. I think Delta is the top of the 4 legacy carriers...it wouldn't be hard to be more aggressive with their rewards strategy and make the other three look cheap.

  10. Ralfinho Guest

    The earning cap, while of no interest to most flyers, was indeed something that I didn't understand as well. The earning of miles was already bound to the money spent.
    That award flights now count towards elite status is something I see as a positive ... and as something logical. Using miles is just another form of payment.
    One other thing: When you use capital letters in the terms "Medallion Qualifying Miles" etc....

    The earning cap, while of no interest to most flyers, was indeed something that I didn't understand as well. The earning of miles was already bound to the money spent.
    That award flights now count towards elite status is something I see as a positive ... and as something logical. Using miles is just another form of payment.
    One other thing: When you use capital letters in the terms "Medallion Qualifying Miles" etc. it looks like as if those were names or something but they aren't. If you wanted to spell out what MQM, MQS, and MQD mean why not just do that?
    MQM stands for "Medallion Qualification Mile".

  11. Chris Guest

    Ben, regarding your statement that Delta appears to be the first carrier to remove the cap on earning on revenue tickets, didn't AA remove their earlier cap when they switched to loyalty points? Their calculator which they rolled out in the earlier announcement which allows you to put in the estimated fare and get the expected loyalty points earned, did not have a cap on loyalty miles earned as I tested several scenarios. Or did...

    Ben, regarding your statement that Delta appears to be the first carrier to remove the cap on earning on revenue tickets, didn't AA remove their earlier cap when they switched to loyalty points? Their calculator which they rolled out in the earlier announcement which allows you to put in the estimated fare and get the expected loyalty points earned, did not have a cap on loyalty miles earned as I tested several scenarios. Or did I miss the fine print but haven't seen any specified limits? For example I entered one flight of $10,000 and as an Executive Platinum it indicated I would earn 110,000 loyalty points.

  12. Brian cK Guest

    Do partner awards count toward elite status too?

    1. Chet New Member

      Must be a Delta Market Flight - with tickets that use DL as the airline code.

  13. DrewT Member

    Sounds like some positive changes - I wish the was the kind of stuff AA would "me too", but it's never the positive stuff

    A couple of years back I flew TPAC on what ended up being a full fare J ticket on AA. Booking last minute, they only had center seats, and of course they didn't want to spend the extra for the privacy dividers. On top of that, they capped how many...

    Sounds like some positive changes - I wish the was the kind of stuff AA would "me too", but it's never the positive stuff

    A couple of years back I flew TPAC on what ended up being a full fare J ticket on AA. Booking last minute, they only had center seats, and of course they didn't want to spend the extra for the privacy dividers. On top of that, they capped how many miles I earned, cause I guess I was too good of a customer? Or they made too much profit off that ticket? Stupid, short sighted bean counters

    1. Eskimo Guest

      You can always switch to a different carrier. When it comes to TPAC, number of superior Asian carriers comes to mind including JL CX in Oneworld.

      Stupid, short sighted bean counters. Yes.
      But also the stupid blindly loyal customers who are paying these bean counters and begging them to please take my money.

      The chase for lifetime status is just another carrot on a longer stick.

  14. Jeff Guest

    I wonder how this will impact award inventory and the distribution of elites.

    Lately, I have been using the ‘Pay with SkyMiles’ feature the AmEx cards offer. I have found the trade off of earning MQM and not worrying about inventory is worth the $0.001 per mile “cost” (i.e., 1.0 vs 1.1-1.2 cents per mile redemption). I think of this new change as marginal increase in redemption value. Even though I end up with a...

    I wonder how this will impact award inventory and the distribution of elites.

    Lately, I have been using the ‘Pay with SkyMiles’ feature the AmEx cards offer. I have found the trade off of earning MQM and not worrying about inventory is worth the $0.001 per mile “cost” (i.e., 1.0 vs 1.1-1.2 cents per mile redemption). I think of this new change as marginal increase in redemption value. Even though I end up with a lot of them each year, I’ve long accepted that SkyMiles are worth a penny.

  15. DenB Diamond

    I'd put this news squarely in the "tinkering at the fringes" category. If this is what they're doing under the bright light with their right hand today, I wonder what their left is up to.

    When they make a change that makes informed people take SkyMiles seriously, I'll be excited.

  16. Jan Guest

    Nice! Almost makes me wish I’d saved up a few when I burned most of mine last year.
    I just hope this isn’t followed with a general devaluation across the board.

  17. BKAloha Guest

    But tomorrow they will announce that a roundtrip Delta One ticket from JFK to London will now cost 1,000,000 miles.

    1. Anthony Diamond

      Unless there is a flash sale, the way to use SkyMiles is for domestic, generally economy flights. We use other currencies (American, Flyuing Blue, StarAlliance, whatever) to cross the pond.

    2. Mr. Obvious Guest

      Agreed. Splurged 200,000 miles once to bring my wife to Switzerland with me in Delta One. Could have been 5-7 domestic trips potentially.

    3. BKAloha Guest

      I'm spending 210,000 miles for JFK-FCO (Delta 1) next month. Today, it's now 495,000 miles or $5,500 cash. Oy vey. If I downgrade, I'll be hating on the people upfront for the entire flight :).

    4. Mr. Obvious Guest

      Haha - so true.

      Days of my business travel are long gone (thanks Covid). I enjoyed the Diamond status while it lasted anyhow...

    5. art Guest

      Like they say, when everybody is "elite", nobody is.

  18. Anthony Diamond

    Hugely positive change. For those invested in Delta status, hard to see a better use of SkyMiles than on regular way award tickets that you can redeem for 1.2 to 1.4 cents per mile generally. Plus remember Delta allows for elite upgrades and certificate upgrades on award tickets too.

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BKAloha Guest

But tomorrow they will announce that a roundtrip Delta One ticket from JFK to London will now cost 1,000,000 miles.

4
Dave Guest

One way Delta flights to Europe run 360.000 miles. What more is there to say about Skymiles?

1
kennethholland New Member

I think this is a positive overall, but still feel it's a bit of a 'let's throw you some crumbs' move. I think Delta is the top of the 4 legacy carriers...it wouldn't be hard to be more aggressive with their rewards strategy and make the other three look cheap.

1
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