Delta’s new partner MQD earning rates: Better than nothing

Delta introduced new rules today related to earning status and it is mostly good news, particularly for customers who like flying on partner airlines. Previously the minimum spend requirement to reach status (Medallion Qualifying Dollars/MQDs) was based only on flights where Delta was the ticketing carrier. Now those MQDs can be earnt on 21 partner carriers, though calculating the earning rates is not quite as straightforward as looking at the fare paid.


Delta will credit MQDs based on distance traveled on a partner carrier so long as that partner carrier is also the ticketing carrier.

Flights marketed and ticketed by the partner will earn MQDs based on a percentage of distance flown* as determined by the fare class paid.

So an Air France round-trip discount business class ticket (Z fare) of $3,011 between NYC and Paris would earn approximately 1,818 MQDs based on 3,636 miles each way and a 25% MQD conversion factor. Definitely better than the zero previously planned but also rather discounted from the actual dollars paid. A $1423 Q fare will earn ~727 PQDs under the rules with the 10% conversion factor.

A KLM G fare between Amsterdam and Rome runs ~$145 for travel in April 2015; that fare will earn ~80 MQDs based on the 1,612 miles round-trip distance and 5% conversion factor. If you’re crazy enough to pay $1,411 for the business class fare on that route (in the I fare class) the earning would be ~484 MQDs with the 30% conversion factor.

Still to be clarified is the earning rate on a partner ticket which involves multiple carriers, such as a KL ticket including an AF segment. I’ve reached out to Delta for clarification on that.

Also affected by today’s announcement is the ever-crumbling partnership with Alaska Airlines. Starting 1 April 2015 flights on Alaska Airlines metal – even if ticketed by Delta – will earn nil for MQDs and the MQM earning on cheaper fares will drop in line with the award mile earning rates for those fares. P fares on Alaska will earn at a higher MQM rate (200% v 150%) with the new rules.

The highest conversion factor I see in the charts so far is 60% for Air France first class. Korean Air flights still earn nothing towards Medallion qualification.

These numbers are definitely an improvement from the zero that the fares previously were crediting at. And Delta will be going back and providing retro-credit for all trips taken since 1 January 2015 so clearly the company sees some pressure to offer up the MQD earning on partner flights. You can see all the partner earning rates here.

Finally, the announcement confirms the previously discussed 21-day advance purchase limit on some award bookings is real, at least in the CONUS/Canada/Mexico markets. On the plus side, at least for 2015, one-way awards in the market can be found for as low as 10,000 points rather than the more commonly seen 12,500. And, while I’m sure there are some 10k award seats out there, I’m not seeing any straight away.

These are nearly all improvements in the policies for the program, but still not so great that I’d call it game changing. More like a nod to those already loyal to the SkyMiles program than motivation for people to move that direction.

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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.


  1. Better than United I guess. With those conversion factors most would be tempted to bank those miles elsewhere surely?

    1. Remember that these conversion factors are only about the MQDs, not MQMs or RDMs.

      Also remember that the programs are spectacularly complicated.

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