Delta’s Decision to Eliminate SkyMiles Expiration Seems Goofy

By now you’ve probably heard that Delta has decided that its SkyMiles will no longer expire. There have been plenty of stories reacting positively to this move, but to be quite honest, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.

In the past, legacy airline frequent flier miles never expired. You could keep them until you died if you felt like it, though I have no idea why you’d want to do that. Then a few years ago, somebody (can’t remember who) started to slap an expiration date on the miles. But the miles didn’t have hard death dates as in many of the low cost carrier programs. The key was having activity in the account in order to keep the miles alive.

Delta SkyMiles No Longer Expire

Before Delta’s decision to eliminate the expiration date, here was the airline’s policy (direct from its website before the change):

Currently, miles will not expire as long as you participate in one of the following activities at least once every two years; mileage expires midnight Eastern time (-5 GMT), 24 months from the date of the last activity:

  • Earn miles for travel on a qualifying Delta, Delta Shuttle®, SkyTeam, or other SkyMiles airline partner flights.
  • Earn or redeem miles with one of the SkyMiles program partners including hotels, car rentals, Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, international credit card partners, SkyMiles Dining & Hotels by Rewards NetworkSM,, mortgage lenders, CAP magazine subscriptions, real estate, or telecommunications partners.
  • Purchase miles through SkyMiles Buy Miles.
  • Receive miles through SkyMiles Gift Miles.
  • Transfer miles (or receive transferred miles) through SkyMiles Transfer Miles.
  • Redeem miles on Delta, Delta Shuttle, a SkyTeam partner, or another SkyMiles airline partner.

In other words, you had to really try hard to get your miles to expire. It’s not like you had to actually even fly on the airline within the 2 year period. You could do anything that caused a changed in your mileage balance. This is something I’ve dealt with before. I’ve had miles on some accounts that I hadn’t used and the expiration date grew near. I could either let them go, or I could buy my wife flowers for $25 and keep them alive. But I didn’t even have to spend anything to keep them alive. There was one time, I just got an insurance quote and that was enough to keep the account active. This isn’t hard.

But the bigger question is this – if someone can’t be bothered to have any activity in their account within 2 entire years, then does Delta really care about that person as a customer anyway? I mean, anyone who flies that infrequently is either already devoting travel to another airline or flies very infrequently. Either way, the chance of Delta wooing that person to the airline simply because the miles don’t expire is slim to none.

So that brings up the question . . . why the heck are they doing this? I suppose it’s an easy way to get a positive PR hit since most of the articles I’ve seen have been gushing about the restoration of the way things used to be just a few years ago. I mean, if there isn’t too much of an accounting hit by keeping those miles on the books, the PR boost isn’t a bad plan. I’m sure Delta has done the math and this works for the airline. Still just seems goofy to me.

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