The Quiet Mileage War Between Delta and American

In mid-June, I heard from a reader that Delta was offering significant bonuses—up to 50,000 redeemable miles plus double elite-qualifying miles (EQMs)—for flights from a handful of selected cities.

The specifics were murky, but the bonuses were big, and worth looking into.

As I normally do in such situations, I checked Delta's website, assuming that such significant bonuses would be aggressively touted. But on the page listing the airline's current flight bonuses, no such promotions were to be found. So I sent an email to Delta requesting confirmation and details.

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Two weeks went by with no response from the airline. Perhaps, I thought, my recent coverage of Delta's P.R. problems had landed me on its persona non grata list.

Not to be deterred, further digging uncovered mileage deals for flights from four airports—Nashville, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and St. Louis—booked by November 30 and flown by December 31. Registration is required, using the above links.

And the bonuses were indeed significant:

  • 5,000 bonus miles plus double EQMs for round-trip flights to Delta hub cities (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis, New York/JFK, Salt Lake City)
  • 10,000 bonus miles plus double EQMs for round-trip flights to all other cities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean
  • 25,000 bonus miles plus double EQMs for round-trip international coach flights
  • 50,000 bonus miles plus double EQMs for round-trip international flights in BusinessElite

So, why the secrecy?

While the bonuses are not strictly limited to SkyMiles members residing in designated geographic areas, as is the case with a current geo-targeted United promotion, my guess is that Delta limited its communication of the offers to residents of the targeted departure cities and surrounding areas. And their non-response to my query was in keeping with that strategy of message containment. Perhaps this was all about hiding the promotions from other airlines, hoping to prevent, or at least delay, a competitive response.

Mystery solved. Maybe.

Secret marketing initiatives rarely remain secrets for long. American responded to Delta's promotion with a simpler and, in most scenarios, less generous offer of its own: triple redeemable miles plus double EQMs for round-trip flights from the same four airports, booked between July 2 and November 30, and completed by December 31.

As with Delta's promotion, you'll have to register to earn the bonuses, using the following links: Nashville, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, St. Louis.

For travelers flying from any of the four targeted airports through the end of the year, these offers are a welcome opportunity to bolster their account balances, and accelerate their progress toward elite status.

My only quibble, and question, is the requirement that qualifying flights begin and end in the four cities. Generally, such promotions are neutral as to the customer's starting point. After all, filling seats is filling seats, no matter where the passenger originated his travel.

Oh well, a new mystery to be solved. Maybe I'll try sending Delta another email.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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