And So It Begins With Delta: Some Online Travel Agency Bookings Not Earning Full Mileage

In August I noted a change that ‘unpublished fares’ would no longer earn full mileage on Delta.

Some coach fares only earn 50% mileage credit, and the lowest coach fares only earn 25% mileage credit — and may not even earn elite bonuses or class of service bonuses for paid premium cabin tickets.

The challenge is that they don’t tell you upfront whether any given fare is published or unpublished, although for now everything available at counts as published.

Delta says that “Unpublished fares are normally purchased through a specialized agent, third party or to a group” but works like “normally” and including “third party” makes the whole thing very opaque, so far corporate travel agency (“third party”) bookings seem to be earning full mileage but it now seems that some online travel agency bookings are not.

Delta Points reports on a Travelocity booking that earned only 25% of flown miles. It’s not clear whether this was a package (“air + hotel”) or whether it was a ‘special rate’ stand alone air purchase.

But it seems pretty clear that at least some online travel agency tickets are being treated as consolidator fares by Delta, which per the new September rules are no longer going to earn full mileage.

The person traveling in the example cited received their elite upgrades like normal. It’s understandable that a Delta elite would want to stick with Delta, and perhaps it was cheaper to do so via Travelocity — although making their Travelocity purchase they certainly thought they were going to be getting full mileage. And there’s no reason why they would have expected otherwise.

Delta hasn’t gone the Frontier route of cutting mileage earning on all online travel agency fares.

But they’re making changes where the customer doesn’t clearly know what to expect.

I’m not a regular Delta flyer, so I can’t say from experience, but with other airlines I’ve had no problem obtaining elite benefits by entering my frequent flyer number at booking, and then once upgraded and checked in and baggage checked if that applies switching frequent flyer numbers at the gate (or if any pushback, just removing my frequent flyer number from a reservation and submitting for credit after the fact).

Right now it still seems possible to credit Delta flights that would only earn partial miles in the Skymiles program to other airline frequent flyer programs like Alaska’s. Although at some point that, too, could change.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It makes sense, because Delta as a business is making tons of profit while their frequent flyer program has been in the red for years. Heck, they would be right up there with Exxon as most profitable if it wasn’t for Amex buying all of their miles at a huge loss to them.

    Oh wait, did I have all that backwards?

  2. The spirit air of legacy carriers
    I hate Delta and will never use them unless the last airline standing and the only last option on the planet

  3. I don’t like using 3rd party booking services because in case of any problems with your reservation, you need to call the 3rd party to get it fixed. Better to book directly through the airline/hotel and cut out the middle man.

    Regardless, I don’t see s huge problem with DL (or any other airline or hotel) doing this. DL is trying to drive business to DL, not to Expedia/Orbitz/Travelocity, etc.

  4. Anyone have any experience using a corporate tool (CWT) to book Delta flights? I wonder if they will still earn full mileage…

  5. Frontier had some issues with corporate tools (like concur) and had to work around it because of frequent fliers complaining.
    Curious if Delta will run into the same problems.

  6. My guess for them lumping the OTA’s into the consolidator fare bucket would be that they aren’t happy with people using other places (such as Travelocity) now that Ultimate Rewards works with decent bonuses with them. So, instead of purchasing your Delta tickets with an American Express card, many people might be using their Sapphire Preferred cards for Freedom cards and doing so through Travelocity for the bonus. Instead of Delta getting the business direct, these partnerships are drawing ticket purchasers away from and Amex. I don’t think that is the number 1 reason, but could be one of the many I suppose…

  7. useless post of the year….

    a useful post would have real information as to how to avoid the fares that don’t give 100% mileage.

    for example:
    what fare code letter are these fares?
    are they the same fare code as normal ones?
    I.E. is a T fare from also coming up as a T fare on those sites but you get less miles?
    do they come up as an E fare?
    how can you avoid these fares?

  8. @asdfasd – the fare code doesn’t help here, a T fare could earn full mileage or not, lower fare codes do not reflect whether there will be full mileage earned or not

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