Delta, Northwest Link Mileage Programs

Since beginning the process of merging its operations with Northwest's, Delta has promised that, in the run-up to full integration of the two airlines' mileage programs, travelers with both SkyMiles and WorldPerks accounts would be allowed to combine miles from the two programs.

Today, Delta officially delivered on that promise, informing SkyMiles and WorldPerks members that their miles are now combinable. According to the news release: "This new feature allows members who have SkyMiles and WorldPerks accounts to visit delta.com or nwa.com, link their accounts and transfer any amount of miles into either account on an unlimited basis. Both accounts will remain open and functioning until late 2009 when Delta plans to merge the two programs to deliver one best-in-class loyalty program for members in 2010."

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There's even a 500-mile bonus for those who link their accounts before March 15.

The process is straightforward. First, link accounts by providing both a SkyMiles and WorldPerks membership number and PIN. Assuming the personal information (name, address, etc.) associated with the two accounts matches, they should then be linked. Next, according to Delta's website, "you may transfer as many miles as you want in either direction—as many times as you want—as long as the miles are there to transfer." There's no fee for the transfers.

In case you were wondering, transferred miles do not contribute toward earning elite status in the program into which they're moved. And a mileage transfer does not reset the clock on mileage expiration.

For those with miles in both the Delta and Northwest programs, the ability to combine them could make the difference between qualifying for an award and falling short. So this will be a significant real-world benefit for some.

Every bit as noteworthy is the very fact that the airline spent the time and money required to introduce the transfer feature. Delta could have simply waited until the two programs were merged, at which point all miles will automatically be combined. And given the current fee-for-all environment, no one would have been surprised if Delta had elected to charge a fee for the transfers. They didn't. That bodes well for SkyMiles, which is poised to take its place as the world's largest mileage program once the Northwest integration is complete.

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