Yesterday news leaked that Delta was introducing benefits for Starwood Preferred Guest elite members: Golds and Platinums can earn 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on tickets (or a fixed 500 points per segment in some cases) and Starwood Platinums will receive many of the benefits of entry level elite status — priority check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bags.
It turns out the leak was incomplete (and in one instance incorrect), and now we have the rest of the story.
- First, the relationship is reciprocal, because Delta elite members will also earn miles in addition to Starpoints on their Starwood hotel stays.
- And second because the rumor that Starwood Platinums would receive day of departure upgrades on Delta (after every last elite in the queue had cleared) was incorrect. Presumably that was discussed at one stage, and that suggests it’s a benefit that could well be added in the future. But that’s not a part of the rollout at this time.
Reciprocal elite benefits will begin March 1.
Starwood Golds and Platinums Will Earn Starpoints in Addition to Miles When Flying Delta
Starwood Gold and Platinum members will be able to link their Delta and Starwood accounts, and then they will earn 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on Delta tickets (although unpublished fares will earn a flat 500 Starpoints per segment and anything booked through an online travel agency will not earn Starpoints).
If any flights on a ticket are operated by another airline or contain another airline’s code, then the ticket will not earn any Starpoints.
The ability to earn Starpoints certainly makes flying more rewarding, and especially since this is on top of the points already earned for Delta travel. It’s not going to be possible to credit those Delta flights to Alaska Airlines or other partners when doing this (you’ll have to credit to a Skymiles account), but it’s still a big plus.
Starwood Platinums Will Be Treated Like Elites When Flying Delta
Starwood Platinums will receive the following when flying Delta:
- First checked bag free (for themselves and up to 3 companions)
- Zone 1 priority boarding
- Priority check-in
Delta elites don’t receive any incremental benefits besides Starpoints-earning from this program. A Delta elite who is also Starwood Platinum won’t get extra free checked bags, for instance. But this does benefit Starwood Platinums who aren’t already Delta elites.
The previously rumored upgrades won’t be a part of this… for now.
Still, Delta Silvers don’t clear a ton of upgrades on most routes. So this makes Starwood Platinum in some ways similar to an entry-level elite with Delta.
And with Delta’s new minimum spend requirement to earn status it may be easier to get better treatment from Delta by being a Starwood Platinum than by flying 25,000 on the airline.
Delta Elites Will Earn Miles in Addition to Starpoints When Staying with Starwood
All Delta Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond members will earn one Delta mile per dollar spent on eligible room revenue.
They don’t have to choose mileage-earning as their preference with Starwood to do this. They don’t have to give up their usual Starwood points-earning to do this (their Starwood status will continue to determine whether they earn 2, 3, or 4 Starpoints per dollar). So this is above and beyond current earning, so a win for Delta elite members.
Delta Platinum and Diamond Members Will Receive Some Status Benefits With Starwood
This is limited to Delta’s top two elite tiers. Platinum and Diamond members staying at Starwood properties receive:
- Elite check-in line
- Free in-room internet
- Late checkout
- Room upgrades similar to what Starwood offers their Gold members
I’ve checked into these benefits and it turns out that the late checkout benefit is the same 4pm benefit offered to Starwood Golds (meaning also that it’s guaranteed, except at resorts and convention properties where it’s on request subject to availabiltiy).
And — unlike Starwood elite member benefits flying Delta — some of these privileges are additive. Meaning that a Starwood Gold member that would otherwise get free internet as a check-in amenity can get free internet through their Delta status and then choose a different check-in amenity instead, be it points or a beverage.
This makes Delta Platinum and Diamond members ‘almost Gold’ with Starwood, it still doesn’t get them
room upgrades (which Starwood Gold members only get within the room category booked meaning possibly a higher floor or better view) and it doesn’t earn them bonus Starpoints for their in-hotel spend (though they are earning Delta miles on top of their Starpoints).
Not a ‘Game Changer’ But Still a Real Win
This is going to mean more points earning for Starwood elite members when they fly Delta, and more points earning for Delta elite members when they stay at Starwood.
And it also provides reciprocal recognition with some basic elite-style perks for each program’s most valued members when they’re traveling with the other company.
I really like the slogan, “The sky is no longer the limit.” This makes good business sense (although there’s a real cost for both companies) to exchange elites in this way.
In the past hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton would do targeted mailings with status to elite members of an airline program. This takes what the programs themselves already knew about potential business, formalizes it, and extends it.
And does so without taking away benefits from any members, except perhaps that the elite check-in lines for both companies could be incrementally longer (which if that happens they should compensate for, without too much difficulty, if they’re paying attention).
So definitely a win for the elite frequent flyer and frequent guest program member, and a potential business win for Starwood and Delta.
But it’s not a game changer because while there’s some reciprocal recognition it remains at the lowest level, benefits offered to the top elite members of one program are marginal below what the other program offers to their own entry-level elites. It’s a toe in the water.
I don’t anticipate Starwood rolling this out with other airlines, at least in the immediate term, and I have to imagine that at least in North America there has to be some sort of exclusivity in the arrangement in order to get the two programs committed here. But I do imagine that other programs will watch to see how this evolves, and in the monkey see monkey do industry it’s entirely possible we’ll see other chains and airlines linking up in the future.
Update 8:48am: to correct that Delta Platinums and Diamonds will receive room upgrades similar to what Starwood offers their own gold members — meaning an upgrade within the same room category (such as higher floor or better view).
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