Delta one Suites Cabin

The day you accumulate enough points or frequent flyer miles to unlock a “free” flight should be a joyous one, right?

For those who also value the perks that come with frequent flyer status, like lounge access, extra bags or upgrades, that day is often caveated with a bit of regret. Why?

Because typically when you cash in miles, you earn nothing back on the trip. Your big “cash in” might be holding you back from earning perks in the future. Oh no!

It’s fair enough not to earn miles you can spend back when you’re cashing in miles, but you’re still flying, so should it just be a big zero?

Delta now officially has an answer, and it’s no. The airline has now become the second global airline to award status credit on flights booked with SkyMiles, and has another exciting change too.

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Amazing Change #1: Delta Removes Earning Caps

Ok, this one is a bit niche, and for the one percent of one percenters, or those with delightful corporate travel policies, so I’ll get this one out of the way first.

Delta SkyMiles is removing the caps on how many miles you earn when you book expensive tickets. SkyMiles are earned based on money spent on a cash ticket, but since the introduction, Delta put a safeguard in place. That safeguard is going away.

It makes a lot of sense. For a general member, it previously meant capping earnings when tickets exceeded $15,000, but elite members with top tier status only needed to spend around $7,000 on a ticket to cap out. Now, the more the merrier.

Why hold a customer back from spending a fortune on a ticket? If they’re willing to break whatever the barrier was, surely that should be incentivized, not discouraged. Delta is now doing exactly that.

There’s now no cap on earning potential from Delta tickets, so if you book something crazy and expensive enough, who knows what you might earn!

Status Credit For Award Tickets With Points

Virgin Atlantic got there first, but they’re partners, and it’s great — so who cares!

Delta Airlines will now award Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) and Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQS) towards status when you redeem SkyMiles for Delta operated flights permanently. MQD’s, or Medallion Qualifying Dollars will also be counted, based on one cent per point. Spend 50,000 miles, earn $500 MQD’s.

Tickets purchased using a combination of SkyMiles and cash count too.

The airline introduced this as a customer friendly move during the pandemic, as a potentially temporary measure, but due to immense feedback it is now permanent.

This means that SkyMiles members redeeming their SkyMiles for Delta flights will benefit in their pursuit of elite status when taking these flights. On a trip such as a business class ticket to Japan, this could mean a huge leap toward status earning.

Delta SkyMiles: A Race To The Top?

The last decade of US airline behavior has been widely regarded as a race to the bottom.

Things which were once free became chargeable and a series of airline loyalty program devaluations created more satirical cartoons in major newspapers than politicians. No easy feat.

But Delta seems to be going a different way, particularly lately. The airline was the first to bring back refined meal service in long haul economy when others refused, and has invested more in technology and on time performance than most airlines as well.

Once crowded and joyless lounges are becoming more refined and Delta’s business class deployed on international routes is arguably the best of a major US airline. The bountiful 100,000 point Delta Amex credit card bonuses don’t hurt, either.

These changes further harness Delta’s unprecedented loyalty base, with the message that choosing to fly Delta, regardless of how you pay, should be rewarded. There’s a lot to love with these changes. And even more hope others follow.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. @ Gilbert — Seriously, a race to the top? While these changes are great, SkyMiles still have very low value compared to some other currencies. They have devalued to roughly 1 cpm at this point, and a roundtrip business class to Europe frequently runs a laughable 500k-700k.

    1. “Starting March 31, the ability to earn toward Medallion Status on Delta-marketed Award Travel will become a permanent feature of the program. Delta is also removing the 75,000 mileage earn cap, retroactive starting Jan. 1, 2022 – an industry-leading move that will give SkyMiles Members unlimited earning potential.“

  2. Delta Miles redemption rates on Skyteam metal are horrific. I am sure one can find occasional sweet spot but this is the last loyalty program I care about. The 100K Amex sign up bonus would not get you even one way J to Europe on Delta.

    1. It’s certainly got its quirks. To me, I’ve largely seen it as a decent “cash back” program for a while. 1 cent per point spent on cash tickets makes it easy to offset fares to reasonable levels and not fuss with points availability. That’s just me.

  3. A good way to use your miles is to find a new way to find a vacation to save an airline fare on as well.

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