Delta Increases Flexibility and Extends Benefits (Again)

In early April, Delta was the first U.S. airline to extend frequent flyer elite status and lounge memberships. Now, with the pandemic still raging months later, Delta is announcing another round of extensions to the expiration dates for memberships and benefits.

Additionally, Delta is permanently eliminating change and redeposit fees on most domestic SkyMiles award tickets. With this update, the change fee policy on award tickets will be similar to the change fee policy recently put in place for regular nonaward flights.

Let’s take a look at the details of what’s changing and how Delta’s policies compare with what other airlines are offering now.

Changes to award tickets

Effective immediately, Delta is making two permanent policy updates to award changes and cancellations. However, as you’ll see in the details below, these changes are limited to some domestic award tickets.

1. Elimination of change and cancellation fees on certain domestic awards

The biggest change for SkyMiles members is the immediate removal of award change and cancellation for certain award travel within the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, not all awards are eligible. Delta will continue to charge a change or cancellation fee on basic economy awards.

Before this change, Delta charged a $150 fee for reissuing an award ticket or for redepositing SkyMiles into your account after canceling an award ticket. This fee was charged for all routes and was waived only for Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion members.

2. Removal of the 72-hour rule for domestic award tickets

Delta is also removing its restriction on changing or canceling awards within 72 hours of departure. But, again, this change is limited and will be allowed only for domestic award flights.

Before this update, changes or cancellations to Delta award tickets had to be made more than 72 hours before departure or the award ticket became nonchangeable and nonrefundable. The 72-hour restriction will remain in place for international award tickets.

New extensions on memberships and card benefits

Delta is also extending Sky Club memberships and the validity of certain Delta credit card benefits. If you have one of these memberships or benefits, you don’t need to take any action; Delta will process these extensions in the next few weeks.

Sky Club memberships

All Delta Sky Club memberships that were active as of March 1, 2020, already received a six-month extension. Now, Delta is extending memberships further. Any membership that was active as of March 1, 2020, will now be valid through June 30, 2021.

SkyMiles Select

In 2019, Delta launched a membership package called “SkyMiles Select.” For $59, Delta SkyMiles members received a year of priority boarding, eight drink vouchers and a bag tag. If you bought this package before Delta stopped selling it on April 1, 2020, you’ll get an additional six-month extension to your benefits, including drink vouchers.

Credit card benefits

Delta is also extending the expiration date for benefits earned through SkyMiles credit cards. The following benefits will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021, as long as the benefit is issued between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2020:

Terms apply.

Additional Choice Benefits for Medallion members

As a benefit of earning Delta Platinum Medallion elite status, customers get to choose a “Choice Benefit.” If you reach top-tier Delta Diamond Medallion elite status, you’ll get to choose three more Choice Benefits.

Choice Benefits include upgrade certificates, Sky Club memberships and even gifting Medallion elite status. Understandably, members who chose these benefits for the 2020 calendar year may have had trouble using them. So, Delta is extending the validity of some benefits by six months, as well as giving current elite members the ability to select new Choice Benefits next year (even if they don’t technically re-earn the status by flying).

Platinum and Diamond Medallion members who chose these benefits for 2020 will get to select a new Choice Benefit on Feb. 1, 2021, or earlier if they requalify for Medallion status on their own:

  • Upgrade Certificates.

  • Delta Sky Club Memberships.

  • Delta Sky Club Guest Passes.

  • Delta Travel Vouchers.

  • Give Medallion Status.

How Delta’s new policies compare

If it’s hard for you to keep up with all of the changes, you’re not alone. So, let’s take a look at how Delta’s new policies stack up to other airlines.

Award change/cancellation fees

Delta’s elimination of change and cancellation fees on domestic non-basic economy awards is an improvement. However, Delta certainly isn’t leading the way in making this change. As you’ll see below, Delta is playing catch-up with policies other major U.S. airlines already have in place.

  • Delta still charges a $150 change or cancellation fee on basic economy award tickets, while other airlines don’t charge a cancellation fee on any domestic awards.

  • Delta’s $150 fee still applies to all international award tickets. American and United allow free changes or cancellations on international awards up to 60 and 30 days before travel, respectively.

Vs. American Airlines

American Airlines is waiving change and cancellation fees on all award flights ticketed by Dec. 31, 2020. For awards ticketed starting in 2021, there are no change or cancellation fees for award flights within North America. For long-haul international award flights, there are no fees for changes or cancellations made 60 days or more before travel — but within 60 days of travel, AAdvantage charges a fee of up to $150 per person for changing or canceling awards.

Vs. United Airlines

United introduced a much simpler award change fee policy when it eliminated change fees at the end of August 2020. United no longer charges a change or redeposit fee for award flights within the U.S., as well as flights between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean. In addition, United won’t charge a fee if you make a change or cancellation to an award at least 30 days before departure, no matter the destination.

Vs. Southwest Airlines

Famously, Southwest doesn’t charge change or cancellation fees on any tickets, including Rapid Rewards award tickets. Even if you don’t show up for an award reservation, Southwest will refund your points and hold the taxes/fees for future use.

Lounge memberships

While Delta is playing catch-up on award fee changes, it’s taking the lead in extending lounge memberships. After originally announcing a six-month extension in April, Delta is now extending all Sky Club memberships active as of March 1, 2020, until June 30, 2021.

American Airlines extended the expiration date of all Admirals Club memberships valid as of March 1, 2020, by six months. New lounge memberships purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020, were also extended for six months. Similarly, United extended United Club memberships by six months.

Considering we are more than six months into the pandemic, these six-month extensions are starting to look a bit short. So, Delta’s extension of Sky Club memberships through next summer is a straightforward and generous extension.

The bottom line

The extension of benefits and the elimination of change and cancellation fees on some awards are sensible changes.

As you can see, Delta is mostly playing catch-up when it comes to waiving fees on award flights, and Delta isn’t going as far as its peers in eliminating fees and restrictions. Still, the airline is being proactive about extending Sky Club memberships and credit card benefits, which loyal Delta travelers may appreciate.

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