So you thought that airline alliances are about making travel on member airlines a seamless experience? Think again. All of those glossy SkyTeam ads may have you fooled. This week Delta gutted the SkyTeam partner airline mileage-earning chart reducing the amount of miles to be earned on certain carriers within the alliance. Star Alliance and oneworld have similarly reduced mileage earning on some lower fare classes in the past, but neither goes as far as Delta just did.
For example, Delta dropped MQM earning on all Korean Air flights completely, and Korean Air is a founding member of SkyTeam! You can still earn SkyMiles for Korean Air travel, but they won’t count toward elite status. Huh? Isn’t that one of the main benefits of the alliance? Delta also provided MQMs for some flights on Hawaiian, Malaysian, and Olympic in the past even though they were not part of the alliance, but that benefit has also been nixed.
In addition, MQM earning on Aerolineas Argentinas, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Vietnam, and Xiamen has been reduced significantly and no elite mileage bonuses are offered for Medallion members. Almost all alliance members saw drops in MQM earning and bonus mileage for elite flyers with the exception of Air France, KLM, and Alitalia (with which Delta operates a transatlantic joint venture). Aeromexico was also spared as were a few non-alliance partners like Gol and Virgin Australia.
Changes go into effect for travel beginning on Sept. 1, 2013 so if you already have flights booked after that date, your mileage earning just took a hit. Korean Air flies to Seoul nonstop from Atlanta so be careful booking that flight if you are hoping to earn MQMs.
Korean Air often prices their tickets significantly cheaper than the Delta codeshare (aboard the same plane). Remember, if your ticket has a DL in front of the flight number (even if it is operated by Korean Air) then you will earn mileage based on Delta’s standard, not Korean Air’s. But you will pay for that privilege.
The TICKET checked a one-way fare on August 31 from Atlanta to Seoul. Korean Air charges $1,133 for a one-way ticket in economy; Delta charges $2,969 for the same seat. But, with Delta’s fare you would earn the 7,000 or so MQMs for the flight and any relevant bonuses based on your Medallion status; on Korean Air’s flight (which is almost two-thirds less!) you get nada to get you closer to Medallion status although you would still earn SkyMiles.
Delta explains that partner airlines determine how they want to participate with the SkyMiles program, but it seems that there should be a base level requirement of mileage earning for alliance members. This is clearly a move to encourage travel on Delta-operated flights or those of its joint venture partners.
Rumors are continuing to swirl about a major devaluation to the SkyMiles award chart coming next year (originally scheduled for this year, but there were some snags that needed to be worked out, remember, this is the Delta website we are talking about!). It is widely believed that mileage will soon be tied to the cost of a ticket rather than the traditional award zones that we know today. It’s wait-and-see on that front, but this drop in mileage/MQM earning on SkyTeam partners may be the straw that breaks many frequent international travelers’ backs.
Will these changes impact your travel? Will it affect your loyalty to Delta? Please leave your changes below.