Here’s How Delta Air Lines Recognized A Customer Who Flew 7 Million Miles

I just wrote about how great a job United Airlines has been doing recognizing the special moment that a customer reaches a lifetime status milestone – at the airport and inflight. It seemed fitting to share this heartfelt message from a newly-minted Delta Air Lines seven million miler.

He’s touched by the simple plaque he received as a gift from Delta, and offers a tribute to Delta’s leadership and the employees who have treated him well in the air consistently since 1975.

@sucessbyparnell What year did you get your wings?? @delta #skymiles #skymileslife #catchflightsnotfeelings ♬ original sound – Al Parnell

Delta’s lifetime elite status is earned based on Medallion Qualifying Miles earned from all sources – including partner airline travel and qualifying miles generated through co-brand American Express card spend.

Six million miles earns lifetime SkyMiles Diamond status. Unlike United Airlines, which awards lifetime Global Services at four million miles, there’s no path to lifetime invitation-only 360 status.

While this man is no United Airlines Tom Stuker, who has well over 20 million miles the story on Stuker apparently (I’m told) is that he’s flown with a lifetime pass he purchased – so each new flight isn’t costly to him, yet he still earns miles. So he’s on a lifetime mileage run, more or less, even when flying for work.

What’s so striking to me, though, about the 7 Delta million miler (besides the age of the man doing TikToks), is how the simple act of a tangible thank you can be so meaningful. United has the more generous lifetime elite program. But these gifts from Delta, not as generous in many cases as they once were, still really touch the heart of customers who have spent decades with the airline. They genuinely appreciate being told thank you, and having that thank you occur as a ‘moment’ (a package delivery) that they can touch and feel rather than an email or mass produced pamphlet with luggage tags.

(HT: G.S.)

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. Awesome. Good Job DL, reminds me of my Dad’s plaques from the 50’s and 60’s. Notably, his first flight was on one of DL 12 DC-3 from Atlanta to Pittsburgh during WW2 when we was coming home for Xmas while at officers training school at G-Tech.

  2. For that DL 7 mil miler, how about a free RT first class flight wherever he wants to go. Just a plaque and “Thanks”?

  3. Wow, 7 million miles! Congrats, he must be excited to finally have enough SkyMiles to fly biz to Australia.

    (I kid, I kid)

  4. Joined AAdvantage in 1980. My number is so old I often get told (before they check it) that “it’s not valid because there are no letters in it”. 7 Million AA miles, and still flying more 150,000 “butt in seat” miles annually. Never a note or a card. Not expecting anything, but a personal thank you would have been nice…

  5. Well, I don’t have 7 million miles on American, but I do have 5.25 million with only five out of US flights and not using a branded mileage credit card. Started in 1989. Other than a baggage tag, all I’ve ever received is an email and some bonus miles. I used to fly in and out of SFO and once received a letter from the operations manager say I was one of their top 10 fliers out of SFO.

  6. Years ago when I was in Tampa, one of the local guys hit 6 or 7 M miles. Delta tech ops made him a lounge chair from a first class seat. Big presentation in St Pete.

  7. @ Gary — It is amazing that a $50 plaque can distract from the $100,000+ devaluation that this man has likely suffered. Way to go, Delta!

  8. @sunviking82:. I remember my father’s 1959 United 100,000 mile award plaque and invitation to the 100,000 mile Club (later morphing into the airline clubs we know today). Talk about inspiring loyalty!

    And I still appreciate it when Delta employees thank me for being a million miler. Don’t care about the Skypesos – it’s the little things that count.

  9. @fatetta Never once got a letter? I’m an EXP (not a MM) and I would say I get handwritten notes from FAs at least 5 times a year.

  10. I am a Delta flyer and hit one million last year. I got a text message upon landing at MSP asking if I felt recognized for my million. Oddly that flight just hit 990000. It seems there was some glitch. I answered the automated text message “no” and got a response that hopefully my next million would be better. A couple weeks later I was flying again into MSP for my million mile flight from LAS. We were delayed on the runway for 4 hours in LAS so it was memorable. I got the same message and answered and got the same response. About 3 weeks and as many flight later a flight attendant came by and said that she saw I recently hit 1 million so congratulations. But that was it, nothing more than the average “thanks for flying with us”. I did seek out the plaque once I saw that story posted here but I know Delta would have never sent it to me on their own.
    I fly Delta because in my time they have been very reliable and I have had some fantastic experiences with the front line employees. Far out numbering the negative ones. But I don’t count on Delta corporate to give two hoots about me. In fact I had to repair my plaque when it came because one of the logos had come loose and was laying in the bottom. That is a little disappointing to feel like my loyalty doesn’t matter to the people in charge. I know a company doesn’t have to thank me at all for doing business with them and I am a small fish in the pond at only 1 million but I thought I would get a little better. Heck, they can’t even be bothered to print me off a diamond tag with 1M on it like they used to and the million miler tags are plastic.

    *gets off soap box*

  11. @Jerry Nope. Never a letter. The FAs are all very nice and are always welcoming, but never anything written. I honestly never gave it too much thought until the recent posts about what other companies write to their long-term customers. I never expected them to send me a gift, but a phone call or a letter from someone at Corporate would have shown that at least someone noticed!

  12. I am no million miler but I get handwritten notes from FAs all the time.

    They usually say “Call me” and a number.

    When I call them “Hey 212-555-0000, can I get a diet coke?”, they look at me funny.

  13. American now uses only actual flight miles towards MM status. No bonus points and no loyalty points count.

  14. Nice. I thought they would cancel his flight, drag him off the flight and beat the krap out of him.
    Delta showing some class for once. Nice.

  15. A plaque? Lol. Reminds me of when my Father retired. The best salesman the company ever had (to that point), and he was given a $25 watch. I find it absolutely insulting.

  16. When I had no status on Delta, I wrote a feedback note on the website and had mentioned the passing of my father being the reason for one of a succession of trips I was flying during a six week period. The next week, there was a massive package on our front porch from Dean & Deluca. Under the Delta Air Lines ribbon surrounding the box was a note of condolence from Angela and the Customer Care team. I cried when I read the note. That unbelievably kind, tangible gesture meant far more to me than global upgrade certificates I now receive as a Diamond Medallion or what I can do with hundreds of thousands of SkyMiles. Delta practices the definition of empowerment. So, yes, to some of us, the emotional value of a plaque is far more valuable than the monetary value of “SkyPesos.”

  17. i remember boarding a connecting HKG-GUM flight and the captain says to me, I see you will hit 3M on UAL. but it might just be a bit short by a few miles so we will take a longer way there and get you there on this flight. I thought he was joking but 15 minutes past arrival time on descent he announces it on board and when I landed the crew gave me a nice letter and on the GUM-HNL leg they got me a cake on board and it was a bit embarrassing but it did make me smile. Felt weird getting all this attention sitting in economy the whole time. did get a plaque and a few other things in the mail later. and everytime i walk to my economy seat they thank me for being a 3m flyer.

  18. Delta can also be unfair in its treatment to low level medallion members as I detailed below : It seems that you can’t take their employees responses as truth…because Delta won’t support them .
    I travel to see my parents cross country as they are 90 & 95 and live in a assisted living facility.

    I was a Silver medallion member on Delta airlines and in December 2022 I was below the threshold of the dollar amount to remain at this level so I contacted Delta and was told ….here is that message: Im about 700.00 away from keeping my silver needs to be done by December 31,2022 . How do I make up the difference Or will this be extended through 2023 ? Hi, William! Thanks for messaging with Delta. My name is Rema. I’ll be happy to assist you! Just so you know, delta made an extended for the qualification and it will be up until January 31,2023. Is there anything else? So I now have until 1/31/23 to achieve the 3000 amount . Do I just need to book a 700.00 flight b4 then . If so …that is very doable . TY Sure thing! Thank you for being our Silver Medallion Member and the best part of Delta. We appreciate your business and loyalty. So I booked a flight in December and one on January 24th to reach this threshold…then I was sent this email after filing a complaint with Delta : William, Thank you for reaching out regarding your Medallion® Status for 2023. I am responding on behalf of the Delta SkyMiles® team. First, I want to thank you for your loyalty to Delta. I understand your concerns about not reaching Silver Status and that you have requested an exception. We are unable to grant your Status exception at this time. I apologize if this was not the response you were hoping for but thank you for your understanding and continued loyalty. We look forward to welcoming you onboard soon. Sincerely, Dana Lane SkyMiles Account Support . So I canceled my January flight since I had been denied and was given mis information from a Delta representative..which should of been honored but wasn’t . I can’t believe I have the statement in writing ( which I believed was true ) so I based my flights on that misinformation and now I lose my status . SAD

  19. Delta lost my business with the NWA acquisition.
    NWA counted their FF miles by only actual miles flown. Delta awarded FF miles for flying, credit cards, multipliers, etc.
    So my million miler status meant far less to Delta re: status.
    I may now be a Delta Lifetime Silver, but they rarely get my business.

  20. Been with AA since 1987. I’m lifetime PLT and have been for years. Got some luggage tags I think (they’ve all broken when bags were checked ). So after 3 million now watching the million mile ticker slowly move as CC spend no longer counts. All good I guess. Will make PLT Pro by end of month so OW Emerald will be nice. What fun games we play!

  21. I am just 45K short of 3 million. I started in 1979 – spent 17 years not earning (because I was an airline employee). I was a Flying Colonel (but not many know what that was). I agree that DL is reliable but that carries a premium price. This year I am premium on all 3 alliances. The devaluation of the miles is something I will have to deal with.

  22. @Timothy—congrats on Statius with all three alliances! I forgot to add that I am SA Gold through Air Canada and have been enjoying the lounge access and priority access where offered. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll make SA Gold again but maybe will only be downgraded to SA Silver.

  23. @ Timothy — Yes, just to brag, I’m 1 MM UA, 2 MM DL, 2.96 MM AA…It may take 5 more years to reach 3 million on AA at the rate I’m going…

  24. I have the highest status tier on UA, AA and DL. What is going on with DL? Is it just me or has their service suffered the most through the pandemic? I have been flying on partner airlines to maintain DM on DL and then fly KLM when I can figure out how to use the 4 Global certs Dzl allocates for me. At least on KLM I can upgrade to Business from Economy. I can’t do that on DL with their own certs! Who wants to travel in Economy Dis-Comfort?

  25. Delta is a good carrier. Fortunately for Delta the Western Airlines culture (“The Only Way To Fly”) prevailed over the East Coast Shuttle culture. However, I am an out of pocket CASH customer and my last booking to Europe was on AA Business (J) and saved me $2700+ from the same on Delta. As an added bonus I didn’t have to go through ATL, NYC, PHL or DET. Delta, you can keep your plaques and I’ll keep my USD’s!

  26. Clearly I’m not understanding how airline miles are calculated.

    If we assume 150K miles actually flown per year – then you’d have to fly that for 46 straight years to get to 7 million miles.

    And to talk about 20 million miles – thats the equivalent of flying 80 round trips NYC-LAX per year for 50 straight years.

    The average airline pilot files 400k miles per year. So you essentially have to fly for a living for 17.5 years to hit 7 million. And to hit 20 millon miles – thats a 50y career as an airline pilot.

    I’m calling BS on all of it. Its not physically possible.

  27. @Airline Skeptic: Mileage bonuses, credit cards, partner mileage, etc. It’s a game, brother. There are rules and people learn how to take advantage of them. Just read some more on the internet and you’ll understand.

  28. @Airline Skeptic: Mileage bonuses, credit cards, partner mileage, etc. It’s a game, brother. There are rules and people learn how to take advantage of them. Just read some more on the internet and you’ll understand.

  29. I have been flying Delta and Skyteam members since 1986 and I have reached 6.5 Million miles with Delta. We have had our up’s and down’s in past 37 years with Delta but overall Delta and staff does a very job to take care of its customers.

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