Delta further extends SkyMiles benefits, permanently removes award travel fees and more

Sep 22, 2020

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On April 5, Delta was the first of the Big 3 U.S. carriers to announce sweeping status extensions for its Medallion members.

Later that day, United matched. The following week American did too.

Well, Delta’s leading the industry again. This time, the carrier is further extending the validity of loyalty benefits, permanently adjusting the award fee structure, making SkyMiles more flexible and more. Read on for the full details.

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In This Post

Delta extends loyalty benefits again

In April, Delta announced extensions for most co-branded credit card benefits, such as companion certificates and flight credits. However, with the pandemic keeping most flyers grounded, the airline is making additional customer-friendly adjustments to the expiration policy. You’ll see the new extensions updated automatically in your account over the coming weeks.

Specifically, the Atlanta-based carrier is making the following adjustments for its co-branded card benefits.

Delta’s also extending Sky Club memberships that were active as of March 1, 2020. Now, those eligible memberships will expire on June 30, 2021. Additionally, SkyMiles Select members will receive an additional six-month extension to the benefits, including any unused drink vouchers.

Each year, Platinum and Diamon Medallion elites can select some additional perks from the Choice Benefits package, including upgrade certificates, Sky Club memberships, travel vouchers and more.

As previously announced, Delta is offering Platinum and Diamond elites another pick at Choice Benefits for the 2021 program year without needing to requalify. 2020 Choice Benefits will not be extended further, as confirmed by a Delta spokesperson. So, if you still haven’t made your selection for 2020, choose wisely.

Also, don’t forget that existing Medallion status has already been extended through Jan. 31, 2022. Additionally, all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned in 2020 will roll over to 2021.

Related: Delta becomes the first US airline to extend elite status and more

Delta permanently removes most award fees

United jolted the industry when it announced that it’s permanently eliminating (most) change fees.

American and Delta didn’t let UA have the spotlight, though. Less than 24 hours later, the two other major legacy carriers matched.

However, Delta’s announcement “felt rushed” and was missing some key details, like whether the policy applies to award tickets.

Well, the Atlanta-based carrier has announced that effective immediately, it is removing change and redeposit fees for (most) domestic award tickets.

Previously, the pesky $150 award redeposit and reissue fee was waived for top-tier elites, but now all SkyMiles members will enjoy fee-free changes and cancellations to all domestic awards, excluding basic economy fares. (It remains to be seen if the carrier will introduce a new benefit to replace fee-free redeposits.)

Related: How airline no-change-fee policies stack up against Southwest

Delta awards are more flexible than ever

But Delta isn’t stopping there. In addition to eliminating (most) award change fees, the airline is also making SkyMiles tickets more flexible.

One of the downsides to redeeming SkyMiles is that you typically can’t make voluntary changes or cancellations to itineraries within 72 hours of departure. If you do, you’ll forfeit the miles paid for your ticket.

Effective immediately, Delta is permanently dropping this policy for domestic awards. Now, every SkyMiles member can change and cancel a domestic award (excluding basic economy fares) up to the scheduled departure time.

This is great news for Delta flyers. Hopefully, the airline will soon make similar adjustments to international award tickets as well.

Related: How to change or cancel a Delta Air Lines flight

Delta will give you credit if you switch to a cheaper flight

As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Delta has also clarified that it will offer future travel credit if you decide to switch to a less expensive flight.

For example, if you’ve booked a $2,000 ticket to Hawaii but decide to switch to a $200 flight to Florida, you’ll receive the $1,800 difference as a remaining balance for future travel. If you switch to a cheaper award fare, you’ll receive the SkyMiles difference instantly credited back to your account.

Of the Big 3, both American and Delta will credit the difference when moving to a less expensive flight. United, unfortunately, will not. Hopefully, the competitive pressure will cause United to reconsider.

As a reminder, there are no change fees for any Delta ticket purchased between March 2020 and the end of the year. Come 2021, however, change fees will only be eliminated for domestic flights, excluding basic economy tickets but including awards.

Related: The 48-hour timeline that led to airline no-change-fee policies

Bottom line

Once again, Delta is first to announce sweeping adjustments to its loyalty program benefits. Certain certificates and Sky Club membership will receive a second extension.

The airline is also permanently eliminating change and redeposit fees for domestic awards. Plus, you’ll now be able to make changes to a domestic SkyMiles ticket right up until scheduled departure.

With just about three months left of 2020, it’s only a matter of time before we hear from American and United about their loyalty-related updates for 2021.

All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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