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One of the beauties of airline alliances and partnerships is the ability to fly on numerous airlines but accrue miles and elite miles with one airline of your choice. So instead of having mileage balances split across a bunch of different programs, you can accrue into a couple and focus on building and maintaining elite status with those airlines. While some airlines have been focused on building alliances (like Qantas’ and Emirates’ new love affair) Delta just announced today that it will be slashing the earning rates with some of their key partners.

For example, say you need to go to Seoul for a business trip and you’re booked in business class on Korean Air. Before September 1, 2013 you’d earn 100% base miles flown, plus a class of service bonus of either 35% or 25% depending on the fare class, either 100% or 75% MQMs and also a bonus of base miles for your Medallion level (for example a Gold Medallion would earn 100% of the miles flown).

After September 1 you would only earn 100% base flown miles. ZERO Medallion Qualifying Miles. ZERO Medallion bonus. ZERO Class of service bonus. Not only is this horrible news for earning miles on partners, but it’s also unfair that the new earning rates are effective for travel beginning September 1 rather than for travel booked beginning September 1. So if you already have travel planned for after that date and expected the MQMs for it for your 2014 elite qualification, this could definitely throw a wrench in your plans.

Grim earning ratios on many of Delta
Grim earning ratios on many of Delta’s partners

In addition to Korean, Delta is taking away MQM-earning on Hawaiian, Malaysian and Olympic. MQMs are also reduced on partner flights on: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Europa, China Airlines, Czech, China Eastern, China Southern, Kenya Airways, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, Tarom, Vietnam and Xiamen so make sure you double check the fare class when booking flights on those airlines and banking to Delta.

It seems to be business as usual with the following partners, though I’m skeptical that this won’t change in the future: Aeromexico, Air France, Alaska, Alitalia, GOL, KLM and Virgin Australia.

More Bad Changes to Come? I think this is just one of many more bad changes to come to Delta as they shift more to a revenue-based frequent flyer model. The hammer will drop when they likely switch redemptions to a revenue system (more expensive flights will need more miles, unlike today’s system of zones/tiers for award tickets). I’m guessing this change will be announced early in 2014 as they announce the 2015 SkyMiles program. Inside sources have told me that it was supposed to be rolled out earlier, but they encountered a lot of stumbling blocks, like leaked information and hiccups with credit card partners that made them delay implementation.

However, Delta already announced a revenue component of the Medallion elite program starting with the introduction of Medallion Qualifying Dollars in 2014. This isn’t a big deal for people who spend a lot on Delta ticketed flights or on their Delta Amex, but I don’t view it as an enhancement by any means since no improvements to the program were announced alongside it (like system-wide upgrades that are actually valuable).

Hat tip Delta Points who Tweeted me with Delta’s press release.

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