Delta Weakens SkyTeam with New Mileage Policies

One of the key features of today's global airline alliances is the ability to earn redeemable and elite-qualifying frequent-flyer miles when flying on an extended network of airlines. In fact, it could be called a defining characteristic of alliances.

Beginning on September 1, that definition will no longer apply to SkyTeam, as Delta rewrites the rules for earning SkyMiles elite-qualifying miles (EQMs), elite bonuses, and class-of-service bonuses on SkyTeam airlines.

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No longer can travelers assume that the current Delta bonuses will be uniformly awarded for flights on SkyTeam partner airlines.

With the changes, most flights on SkyTeam carriers will earn fewer EQMs, and in some cases none at all, as follows:

  • No EQMs: Hawaiian, Korean, Malaysia, Olympic
  • Reduced EQMs: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentina, Air Europa, China, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech, Kenya, Middle East, Saudia, Tarom, Vietnam, Xiamen
  • Full EQMs: Aeromexico, Air France, Alaska, Alitalia, GOL, KLM, Virgin Australia

There are comparable changes to the number of elite bonus miles and the class-of-service bonuses SkyMiles members will earn with SkyTeam airlines.

It's a messy hodge-podge—exactly what mileage earning within a global alliance network shouldn't be.

Delta flights, of course, continue to award full EQMs, elite bonuses, and class-of-service bonuses, as do code-share flights when ticketed with a Delta flight number (DL1234, for example). As Delta is no doubt counting on, the new policy creates an extra incentive for travelers to choose the Delta-marketed option when flights are operated by an alliance partner.

The changes are a significant negative not just for Delta loyalists, but for SkyTeam, which can no longer boast the kind of consistent mileage-earning policies in place at the oneworld and Star alliances.

Reader Reality Check

Will these upcoming changes affect your loyalty to Delta and SkyTeam?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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