Delta Puts the Lie to the Skyteam Alliance Value Proposition

I suggested earlier that Delta’s change to elite status mileage earning on partners undermines the idea of a global airline alliance.

Beginning September 1, flying on Skyteam alliance partner Korean Air will not earn any “Medallion Qualifying Miles” at all.

Which is completely contrary to the consumer-facing purpose of the alliance. It undermines what Skyteam itself markets as a primary consumer benefit.

Here’s the Skyteam website‘s highlighted (with a box around it!) claim:

This website claim is simply no longer true.

It’s stretching the truth with Delta already, since status will require a minimum amount of spending — that partner airline tickets for travel on those partners will not count towards.

But starting September 1 it will literally no longer be true since it will not be the case that joining ‘any’ Skyteam program will mean earning elite status for your flying on Skyteam airlines. And it will not be true that the more you fly (on Korean), the quicker you’ll enjoy benefits (from Delta).

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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. got to agree with you. I’m surprised SkyTeam let this fly but I guess Delta holds the power.

  2. Meh…As I said in the last post, the FF reciprocity isn’t really the focus of the alliances and it never has been. You could claim that the “promise” was already broken long ago when the airlines stopped giving credit on partners for cheap fares. From that perspective things aren’t really all that different. You had then, as you do now, some fares on some partners which don’t earn MQMs. Yes, this is more fares on one partner which don’t earn, but saying that this is where the promise was broken ignores much of the real world history that has been going on for some time.

    And you’re still earning miles towards elite status which is part of the requirement; just having the spending doesn’t get you the status.

  3. A great reason to not fly Delta and the Alliance but it depends where the individual finds the Grass greener
    Ill take Star or One World any day of the week by far

  4. I think OW is going up and ST is going down overall.
    This hastens demise of ST as we know it for US flyers.

  5. @seth : many lower fares don’t earn RDM or EQM but I think this is the first time in any alliance history of an entire airline excluded from EQM earning, including full fare first class

    In Delta’s eyes, one paying for full F fare on ICN-ATL is worth less than the kid next door doing once a year ATL-MCO on some L/U/T sale

  6. Yes, this is the first time any single alliance partner has earned nothing on all fares. But to say that the alliance is suddenly drastically different than it was previously is, to me quite a stretch.

    The reality is that the literal text in the image above is actually still true.

    If you join any of the FF programs (first sentence) you can earn miles towards elite status. It doesn’t say that all flights on all partners and all fares will earn.

    The second sentence is the closest to no longer true, though even that’s a stretch. As you fly more you will earn more points towards elite status. Yes, if you are a member of SkyMiles and only fly on KE then it isn’t true. But I think that’s a very, very small edge case.

    The third sentence also remains true, or at least as much as it ever was. You can, in fact, earn and redeem points on all 19 SkyTeam partners. On select fares. Just like it has been for years.

    I have no idea why this non-story and gross twisting of the language deserved a second post from Gary today on the same topic. It offers no new information, at least not which is accurate.

  7. And, to be clear, I think this is a crappy move for FFers. I just don’t think it is nearly as unprecedented as some are making it out to be.

  8. Seth Miller,

    …. if it is not unprecedented in the era of the current big 3 airline alliances, give even one example of this happening before with a Oneworld or Star Alliance carrier where the restriction wasn’t the direct result of a new government restriction or of imminent financial insolvency.

  9. @Gary, so what do you consider to now be the best recommended program to accrue SkyTeam miles/status? Obviously, if you are currently Diamond or Platinum Medallion and have a decent chance at scoring domestic complimentary upgrades, DL is basically your only choice. You could also make an argument for Alaska since there are some reciprocal benefits and they have decent partners. Putting aside the complimentary upgrade factor, which SkyTeam program has the best award availability/rates? Flying Blue? Korean?

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