Delta’s New Changes Pretend it isn’t a Skyteam Member for Elite Status Earning – But That’s Not Even the Big Story

Lucky thinks it’s a huge devaluation that effective September 1 Delta is reducing elite status mileage-earning on many of their partners, and that you can no longer earn Delta elite status miles on Skyteam partner Korean Air at all.

Full qualifying miles will be earned only on Aeromexico, Air France, Alaska, Alitalia, GOL, KLM, and Virgin Australia.

Reduced status miles may be earned on:

  • Aeroflot
  • Air Europa
  • Czech
  • Kenya Airways
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines

And there will be no elite status mileage-earning on:

  • Hawaiian
  • Korean
  • Malaysia
  • Olympic

It’s indeed shocking that flying on Korean Air — a member of the Skyteam alliance — will not contribute at all towards status on Delta.

Delta is saying that travel with their partners is not nearly as valuable as — and not as deserving of recognition as — travel on Delta.

Which is in and of itself a fair statement. Except that undermines the concept of an airline alliance, something we’ve increasingly seen over the past year with alliance cracks and bilateral agreements outside of and across alliances.

Lucky reports Delta’s absurd explanation.

We’d like you to understand that each airline determines its level of participation in partnership with us, so there are varying levels of customer rewards when flying with our partners.

Because, of course, “we would prefer that your customers not get recognized for travel with us” is what Korean Air said never.

And the notion that “each airline determines its level of participation” is fundamentally contrary the idea of an alliance. It’s how bi-lateral partnerships work.

I actually read Delta’s explanation a bit differently though, and much more weasely. The emphasis should be on in partnership with us.

    Korean Air: We’d love to have our customers recognized for their travel with us through the Skymiles program! That will encourage more of your customers to buy our tickets, which is the sort of benefit we look for as part of an airline alliance.

    Delta: No.

And so there it is. Korean Air determined their level of participation in the Delta Skymiles program, in partnership with Delta.

But it’s not nearly as big of a change as it seems Because the real devaluation was the announcement that beginning in 2014 flights on partners where the tickets were issued by those partners would not have their price count towards the minimum spend that would be required towards status.

If you buy a roundtrip ticket on Air France, you will not earn credit for the money you spent on the ticket towards the needed spend for status.

For many customers, the binding constraint will be “Medallion Qualifying Dollars” and not “Medallion Qualifying Miles.”

If you want to earn silver status on Delta, you could fly 25,000 miles on Air France — that still credits 100% of miles flown towards status — and you would still have to spend $2500 on Delta tickets to have that status.

Earning qualifying miles on partners — unless the flights are on tickets issued by Delta — won’t matter for many flyers. It will only matter for those who spend a lot on their Delta tickets flying relatively short distances, whose tickets are expensive but never seem to fly enough.

It’s another trickle in the Delta devaluation, with certainly more changes to come. And with spin worthy of the airline that ludicrously claims it is forbidden by lawto give advance notice to its members when it increases the price of awards.

Does anyone that knows anything about travel, miles, and elite status — that doesn’t live in Atlanta or the Upper Midwest — still fly 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. So what is the big discussion about? Delta was looking for yet another way to screw their customers over and found one… “Loyalty” program? LOL, I will use alternative airlines that don’t constantly reduce service quality and that truly appreciate their customers.

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