In a move that has largely gone under the radar, Delta Air Lines is also cutting earnings on partner-issued tickets, effectively closing a backdoor that made it relatively easier to earn elite status on Delta.
Delta Air Lines Reduces Earnings On Partner Tickets – Death Of The Aeromexico MQD Run?
Delta has so-called “core global airlines partner” and “global airline partners.” The “core” members are partners with whom Delta has a closer financial relationship, including:
- Air France
- China Eastern
- Korean Air
- Virgin Atlantic
Flying on these partners generally earns more miles than flying on Delta’s other partner carriers.
Historically, flying these carriers on longhaul routes in cheap paid business class or premium economy class marked a savvy way to accrue status for much less than if booking Delta-issued tickets.
For example, many took advantage of cheap fares from Dallas to Madrid on Aeromexico via Mexico City. The $1,900 ticket covered 13,155 miles. Without any way to know how much you paid for the ticket, Delta awarded MQDs on business class Aeromexico fares at a rate of 40% of the distance flown. So 40% of 13,155 is 5,262…meaning a $1,900 ticket earned $5,262 toward Medallion status.
Do that a few times and you could earn top-tier status for far less than those who exclusively fly on Delta.
But earning rates will be reduced effective January 1, 2024. Griff calculates among “core” partners, 106 of the 204 eligible fare classes will earn fewer MQDs as of next year (21 will see increased earnings). Among non-core partners, 36 out of 256 eligible fare classes will earn fewer MQDs in 2024 (with four earning more).
In my Aeromexico example above, discount business class tickets on Aeromexico will now earn 30%, not 40% of the distance flown. That may not fully eliminate the value of these mileage runs in every single case, but in many cases, it will. In the example above, the $1,900 ticket would earn 3,947 MQDs, which makes the hassle difficult to justify.
Will Delta Follow United?
It should be noted that United has strict limits in place which effectively dilute earnings on any partner-issued ticket by only awarding 16.67-20% of the distance flown (depending upon the partner) and capping earnings at 1,000 PQP per segment for business and first class segments and 500 PQP per segment for economy and premium economy class.
For example, if you spend $20,000 on a one-way Singapore Airlines ticket from New York to Singapore you will earn only 1,000 PQPs.
In short, it is extremely hard to earn United status by flying partners. That makes me wonder whether Delta will do something similar going forward…
While not totally eliminating partner earnings, Delta has reduced earnings on a great number of fare classes, making it harder than ever to earn elite status. These changes take effect in January and while they could be worse, they close another door to earning status that made it a bit more attractive.