Delta Air Lines announced two changes to the SkyMiles program this morning. SkyMiles award tickets for travel on Delta, which first began counting towards elite status in 2021, will become a permanent feature of the program. And, in an effort to incentivize customers who buy the most expensive tickets, there will no longer be a cap on the miles earn for travel.
Award Travel Counts Towards Elite Status
Delta-issued award tickets for travel on its own flights will count towards elite status permanently. Delta vassal Virgin Atlantic was the first to make this change to its program. SkyMiles followed on a temporary basis for 2021, and then extended this for 2022.
In some sense this is a trend because American Airlines, which completely revamped its elite status earning so that most activity (including credit card spend and online shopping) counts towards status – while a minimum number of flights on American are needed to earn ‘choice rewards’ at the Platinum Pro status level and beyond. Award travel counts towards the 30 minimum segments for this benefit at American.
Note though that Delta’s status-earning doesn’t count award travel on partner airlines, or partner airline redemptions on Delta.
Earning is calculated based on distance the minimum miles requirement for SkyMiles status. Each award flight is a segment. And qualifying dollars treat each mile redeem as worth a penny, so a coach award ticket that costs 30,000 miles earns 300 qualifying dollars.
No More Cap On Miles Earned For Tickets
When Delta introduced its revenue-based mileage-earning program eight years ago, they placed a limit on the number of miles that a ticket could earn. No ticket would accrue more than 75,000 SkyMiles no matter how much that ticket cost.
- The most expensive tickets stopped earning miles as price went up to the very highest levels
- Lower-tier members were treated more generously, because higher status members hit the cap more quickly as a result of their bonuses.
At 5 miles per dollar spent, a general member could earn on the first $15,000 spent on a ticket. However a top tier member earning 11 miles per dollar would max out their earning after $6818. Most tickets aren’t that expensive, of course, but last minute long haul business class certainly could be.
This created a weird incentive, too, for customers to break up their tickets into one-ways. It adds complication to the customers they want to make things easiest for. Finally Delta has eliminated this cap.
When United and then American went revenue-based with their programs, they copied Delta’s cap. Generally U.S. airline executives believed at the time that Delta’s management was smartest and anything they did must be correct. It’s not yet clear whether United or American will remove their caps, following Delta’s move.