Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Contributed by
American Airlines AAdvantage
Contributed by JDiver
The SkyMiles frequent flier program by Delta Air Lines is generally similar to other domestic legacy airlines in the United States, but there are a few significant differences, which are outlined below. Delta Air Lines generally treats its mid-level frequent flyers better overall than other airlines. Passengers seeking low-fare tickets in cities where Delta Air Lines maintains a hub may want to consider choosing another frequent flier program, as flights will usually be more expensive and upgrade opportunities may be limited. In other cities, Delta Air Lines can be less expensive than other airlines, but one has to carefully scrutinize the airfares from competing airlines. However, most of Delta Air Lines mainline aircraft are equipped with only two classes, rather than a three-class aircraft which American Airlines and United Airlines use on certain domestic routes such as between New York and Los Angeles, so an upgrade on Delta is always to a top-of-the-line seat, potentially making it more valuable. As with most airlines, Delta Air Lines has an affiliated credit card, which is the Delta SkyMiles Card by American Express.

Member Rating
My experience has been of over (gasp!) sixty years of flying American, beginning with DC-3s. I'd rate miles earning ability excellent - through elite and other bonuses, credit cards, dining program, airline and hotel partners, etc. On American, with a bit of flexibility and planning, I have been able to get the lowest "cost" award seats with little problem, and award seats at the higher cost with no problem at all. And even on award flights, we have been treated like revenue flyers: a nephew flying BDL-ORD-HNL on award miles was "Rule 80'd" over to United when his Honolulu flight went mechanical.

Member Rating

Features:

Flights on most SkyTeam airlines earn “base” mileage, which counts toward elite status on Delta Air Lines. The Gold Medallion elite level requires 50,000 Medallion Qualification Miles to qualify, mostly derived from physically flying on a qualifying flight. Gold Medallion SkyMiles members earn 100% bonus SkyMiles and Medallion Qualification Miles on virtually every Delta Air Lines and partner airlines flights. Domestic upgrades can be requested – and sometimes automatically implemented – up to 72 hours in advance. I like American's elite program! As an Executive Platinum, I receive lots of priority and perks - eight systemwide upgrades every time I requalify, bonus miles, First lounge access on oneworld airlines, and the exceptional Executive Platinum desk agents. And there are plenty of perks for Platinum members, including 100 percent bonus miles, reasonable access to upgrades and lounge access on oneworld airlines.

AA is possibly the only airline (and nobody knows how long this might last) one can earn lifetime elite status with miles from all sources - lifetime Gold for 1 million, lifetime Platinum for 2 million.

Customer service, on the ground and in the air, varies widely - if not wildly. I think mostly it is good, with occasional veering into poor and impersonal, and as often into spectacular and memorable service.

Pros:

SkyMiles allows mid-level Gold Medallion members to earn 100% bonus SkyMiles on all qualifying paid flights. Unlike the mid-tier levels at American Airlines and United Airlines, Gold Medallion members have unlimited upgrades on most flights within North America whenever available without requiring the use of certificates. One can earn miles and Medallion Qualification Miles on many Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights domestically, whereas United passengers can earn miles on USAirways. American Airlines passengers have Alaska Airlines as a partner as well.

The ability to mix and match award travel can help make it easier and more flexible for members to obtain award seats. There is also a new program that allows one to pay with certain amounts of SkyMiles instead of cash, but one must have a Delta SkyMiles Card by American Express in order to take advantage of this program.

Service by Delta personnel is usually considered superior to comparable service in the industry, and Delta personnel have been known to go out of their way to assist passengers. Regarding flights in coach class, Delta Air Lines usually offers a choice of snacks on many of their flights greater than 1.5 hours in duration, while other airlines tend to offer one snack on a majority of comparable flights. Airlines such as Northwest Airlines offer no snack on many of their flights. At press time, Delta Air Lines is reportedly readying to offer improved food and beverage service on its domestic flights in all classes of service.

Delta Air Lines has embarked on a program to equip many of its aircraft with improved personal in-flight entertainment options such as movies, hundreds of .mp3 songs and games. It has also recently improved the interiors on a number of its aircraft with new materials and brighter lights, and continues to do so.
I believe American may be the best for award seat availability. I am quite happy with finagling my flights on American, British, Iberia, Dragonair, Japan Airlines, Qantas, the LAN family etc. and Cathay Pacific is the jewel in the crown. Some of the gaps in the oneworld network are filled with partners, e.g. Fiji or French Polynesia, and now India with Jet Airways, but I would like to see a couple of other airlines join to fill the remaining space, particulalry because of some "defections" - notably Swiss and Turkish, though Malév and Royal Jordanian will help fill some of that. I'd like to see SN / Brussels Airlines become part of oneworld; right now, they do offer miles earning, burning and codeshares.

Cons:

Upgrades on international flights are non-existent for Gold Medallion members. Gold Medallion members, who are also SkyTeam Elite members, are not allowed complimentary access into international lounges, whereas mid-level members of other SkyTeam airlines such as CSA Czech Airlines have lounge access included in their benefits. Watch out when accruing SkyMiles on Continental Airlines, as some of the lowest airfares only earn 50% Medallion Qualification Miles even though one will earn 100% SkyMiles. Also, some low airfares on airlines, such as N fares on Air France, may not accrue SkyMiles at all. Unlike American Airlines, where virtually every mile earned counts towards elite qualification for the next year as well as towards two tiers of lifetime status, only miles flown, as well as select offers such as from the Delta SkyMiles Card by American Express, count towards elite qualification for the next year on Delta Air Lines. While Delta Air Lines does offer snacks, Continental Airlines offers a hot meal service on a greater percentage of its coach class flights. Although Delta Air Lines reserves the first several rows of the coach cabin for its SkyMiles elite customers, including Gold Medallion members, it does not provide a section with extra space, such as United Airlines does with its Economy Plus seating. Many SkyMiles members complain that Delta Air Lines does not provide an adequate inventory of seats for award travel, particularly on desirable routes. Although service is usually considered superior, Delta Air Lines personnel can also be rigid at times in resolving customer issues when compared to competing airlines. I think oneworld is a good partnership, but it has some gaps - Star Alliance seems to have more global coverage, but then that has to be tempered with award availability and miles earning, among other factors.

One must read and become thoroughly familiar with lengthy terms and conditions - interminable verbiage drawn up by teams of lawyers to protect the airline from any real responsibilities. I fly always with open eyes, full information, backup plans and knowledge of the specific language and terminology likely to get me served. Airlines, including American, are about on par with the shell-game "artistes" to be found in the New York streets; successful flyers fly defensively.

Member Rating:

Overall Rating

5.23

Earning Ability

5.63

Award Choices

4.90

Partnerships

5.49

Elite-Level

5.23

Rules & Conditions

4.56

Service Support

5.21

Online Support

5.58

Rate this Program
Overall Rating

6.09

Earning Ability

6.68

Award Choices

6.05

Partnerships

6.10

Elite-Level

6.20

Rules & Conditions

5.26

Service Support

6.12

Online Support

6.25

Rate this Program