Delta Introduces Rollover Miles

I’ve decided to put a very early Tuesday post out this week. In fact, it’s still Monday here on the west coast. But since Delta took the time to brief me about their 2010 SkyMiles changes, I figured I’d put my post out the second they lifted the embargo. So here we are.

Besides adding a new Diamond tier for super cool, awesome frequent fliers (comes with knee pads to give to customer service employees to use when kissing your butt), they’ve done something pretty interesting. They’ve become the AT&T of the airline industry by adding rollover elite qualifying miles.

So how does the rollover game work? Well, any miles you fly above and beyond the threshold for elite qualification, you get to use to qualify the following year. For example, let’s say you flew 40,000 miles in 2010 – not quite the 50,000 you need for Gold status, but far more than the 25,000 you’ll need for Silver. With other airlines, those 15,000 extra miles don’t do anything for your elite status, but now Delta’s program lets you start off your 2011 qualification efforts with 15,000 miles in the bank.

This only works if you reach that 25,000 level. In other words, if you had a total of 10,000 elite qualifying miles in 2010 (which gets you absolutely nothing), you can’t carry those over to 2011 with the hope that after a couple years you’ll eventually reach Silver. That’s smart for Delta to do that, because otherwise they’d end up with way too many Silver members and that dilutes the benefits for those who actually are frequent fliers.

This development makes for some interesting choices for frequent fliers. Currently, when frequent fliers hit the highest mileage threshold that they expect to be able to meet, they often shift their other travel to other airlines in order to try to qualify in other programs. Now, the higher mileage earning level and the ability to roll those miles over makes for a very compelling reason to keep flying Delta instead. Very interesting move on Delta’s part. I like it.

But these aren’t the only changes coming in 2010. Looking through the list that Delta sent me, SkyMiles members don’t seem to be losing anything this year. It’s still a 24 month mileage expiration policy, upgrades are still free for elites within North America and northern South America, and everyone still gets 500 miles minimum on every flight. There are, however, a few new things this year besides the rollover.

  • Gold, Platinum, and Diamond elites will now get complimentary upgrades on award tickets as well as on paid tickets. (I believe Northwest already had this benefit.)

  • Gold, Platinum, and Diamond elites will have fees waived to book through the phone reservations line. (Another Northwest benefit.)

  • Platinum members get to choose one of the following – 4 systemwide upgrades (less than last year’s 6, but now redeemable on day of departure), 20,000 bonus miles, Gift of Silver elite status to a friend, 4 Sky Club day passes, Travel/retail gift cards

  • Diamond members get to choose one of the following – 6 systemwide upgrades (now redeemable on day of departure), 25,000 bonus miles, Gift of Gold elite status to a friend, 6 Sky Club day passes (which would be a dumb choice since they get complimentary membership), Travel/retail gift cards

So, it’s another day of good news for frequent flier mileage junkies. I’m happy to see Delta incorporating some of the benefits Northwest frequent fliers were already enjoying, and I think this rollover idea is pretty cool. Nice work.

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