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Delta SkyMiles members are in for quite a few changes as we head into 2015 – that’s in addition to 2014 program changes including the institution of a spending requirement for elite status qualification. Those upcoming changes include increased elite status spending requirements and, more importantly, the switchover to a revenue-based mileage-earning scheme where, instead of earning miles based on distance flown, flyers will earn miles based on how much they spend on airfare.

Delta Airlines Partners

Delta already released new award charts for mileage redemptions, but yesterday, the airline updated its airline partner earning page to show customers how many miles they will earn on partner flights starting in the new year.

Airline Partner Groups

Delta breaks its partners down into 4 groups, like this one.
Delta breaks its partners down into 4 groups, like this one.

Delta changed its Medallion Qualifying Miles earning rates on partner awards back in 2013 and split its airline partners into four groups with varying earning rates. Those in Group 1 award flyers more MQM’s than those in Groups 2, 3 or 4.

Here is how the groups break down.

Group 1 partners earn full Medallion Qualifying Miles and Dollars (on Delta-ticketed flights):

  • Aeromexico
  • Alaska
  • Air France/KLM
  • Alitalia
  • GOL
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Group 2:

  • Aeroflot
  • Air Europa
  • Kenya Airways
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Tarom

Group 3:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Czech
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Air

Group 4:

  • Great Lakes Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Korean Air

What’s important to note is that flyers will earn Delta miles based on the airfare and their elite status on Delta flights and those flights that are ticketed by Delta and have a Delta flight number (which you would want to book in order to earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars spending credit), partner flight mileage and Medallion mileage will be earned based on distance flown and the fare class you purchase. So we’re talking about two different earning rates to keep in mind. However, the point of the new earning rates is to align what you would earn on partner airlines with Delta’s new revenue-based earning structure, so that lower fare classes on partners earn lower award and Medallion mileage.

New Earning Rates

The good thing is that Group 1 airlines will continue to award flyers with full Medallion Qualifying mileage of 100% miles flown. For instance, here is the current earning chart for Air France, one of Delta’s closest airline partners:

As you can see, all fare classes currently earn between 100-200% MQM’s, even discounted economy fare classes.

Delta Air France 2014 earning

However, here is the much more complicated 2015 earning chart:

Delta Air France earning 2015

While those top first and business class fares still earn 200% MQM’s, and all first class tickets earn 300% award miles, discounted first and business class fares earn just 150% MQM’s.

Perhaps even more important to note is that only Y, B, M and U economy tickets will earn full MQM’s with Y and B fares earning 150% MQM’s, while all other economy fare classes earn reduced mileage though 100% MQM’s.

So if the elite miles are the most important to you, at least you are still earning full mileage even on discounted economy fares. But your award mileage earning on discounted economy fares will potentially be greatly reduced.

You can note similar changes between the current Virgin Atlantic earning chart:

Delta Virgin Atlantic earning 2014

And the 2015 Virgin Atlantic earning chart:

Delta Virgin Atlantic earning 2015

Where those economy tickets in all classes but Y, B, R, L and U will earn full MQM’s but reduced award miles.

With the three Group 4 airlines, the important thing to note is that, while you earn award miles, you earn no Medallion Qualifying Miles. This actually is not that significant a change since two of these three airlines were already on the list – Korean and Hawaiian – but still worth noting since both are important Delta partners.

The other big change here with Korean is that, instead of earning full award mileage on pretty much any paid fare, after January 1, only full-fare Y and B economy tickets will earn 100% mileage, while those in M, S, H, E and K classes will earn reduced mileage of 50-75%.

The new earning rates on Korean Air flights.
The new earning rates on Korean Air flights.

With Hawaiian, you also currently earn full mileage on paid fares, but after January 1, those in Q, S, N, H, I, B, M, G, L and K economy fare classes will earn reduced mileage (also note that you only earn Delta miles on Intra-Island flights, not those to/from the mainland US).


Perhaps the biggest changes here reflect Delta’s devolving relationship with Alaska. Last week, Alaska announced changes to earning Mileage Plan miles on Delta flights where Mileage Plan members would earn reduced mileage on most economy tickets.

Delta’s changes now reflect that as well, where economy fares in Q, L, V, K, G, T and R classes on Alaska now earn reduced mileage whereas they used to earn full mileage.

Certain economy fares will earn fewer miles on Alaska.
Certain economy fares will earn fewer miles on Alaska.

The good news is that Delta flyers on Alaska flights will still earn full MQM’s and class bonuses for full-fare economy and first class tickets.


While disappointing, I can’t say these changes are very surprising. With Delta restructuring its SkyMiles earning chart to a revenue-based system, it was bound to try to align mileage earning on partners to reflect the fare classes being purchased.

Still, it means that there is just one more layer to consider when purchasing tickets on Delta and its partners.

Hat Tip: Delta Points.

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