Delta completes the bonus elite mile party – with a catch

Not willing to be outdone by the other major carriers, Delta announce today that they too will offer bonus elite miles for their customers.  They even went so far as up the ante a bit, offering triple miles for some fares.  This applies for Northwest customers, too.

The theory behind this type of promo is that the carriers need to drive revenue in the very near term (like before the end of Q2) to help make their numbers look almost passable rather than outright anemic.  United, American, and Continental all chose a straight 100% bonus across the board.  Continental isn’t even requiring that the tickets be new money spent.  Delta, on the other has come up with a tiered approach, pushing more bonus miles at the top end of the fare spectrum and excluding the low end of the market.

Fares booked in the front cabin, as well as the top coach fares (J, C, D, S, I, F, A, Y, B, M) will all earn 300% MQMs in the SkyMiles program.  These fares would normally earn 150% MQMs so it is only double normal but also triple the base number.  Sure, someone is having fun with semantics there and whether it is truly double or triple miles is open for debate, I suppose, but I am willing to call it 300% MQMs and move on, especially since the other carriers are not doubling their class-of-service bonuses.  So if you spend lots of money on Delta tickets you’re in really good shape.

For tickets booked in “normal” coach fares (H, K, Q) customers will earn 200% MQMs.  This is essentially comparable to the promo from the other three carriers and is a nice match in that sense.

For tickets booked in the “discount” buckets (L, U, T) customers will earn 100% MQMs -  no bonus.  Delta has a habit of excluding these cheapest fares from promotions and they have done so again here.  Basically they are acknowledging that the folks flying on the cheapest tickets are barely covering their costs (and possible not even that) so they get no bonus.  This is much less generous than the promotions offered by the other three majors.

I cannot believe that I am typing this, as I rarely think that Delta has done things correctly with their SkyMiles program of late, but I actually applaud them for taking this approach.  The are cutting off the bottom feeders which would really contribute to the bottom line anyways and rewarding the high spend customers.  When the name of the game is promoting additional revenue this really makes sense.  Yeah, a bunch of people will be pissed that they aren’t getting to qualify for top tier elite for less than $1500 like is possible on the other carriers, but that isn’t really what the carriers should be after.  Kudos to Delta for actually trying to use the bonus to drive the behavior they want in their customers.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.