The program change is effective for all accounts as of January 1, 2011 and Delta Air Lines says the move makes it the only...

Delta Air Lines has eliminated the SkyMiles mileage expiration, creating a new benefit for all members of its frequent-flyer program.

The program change is effective for all accounts as of January 1, 2011 and Delta Air Lines says the move makes it the only major U.S. carrier without mileage expiration. Previously, miles expired 24 months after a member’s last qualifying mileage activity, which required a member to earn or redeem miles within that period.

“Now that our massive frequent flyer program integration is complete, we are focused on smart ways to improve the SkyMiles program for all members,” says Jeff Robertson, Delta’s vice president – SkyMiles. “We know how much customers value their miles, so eliminating mileage expiration is a major win for them. This is yet another benefit that sets us apart from the pack, making Delta a clear leader in loyalty program benefits.”

Delta Air Lines inherited a fleet of 16 Boeing 747-400s from Northwest Airlines upon its merger with the Minneapolis/St. Paul-based carrier and in its summer 2010 schedule is using them to increase capacity on a number of transpacific and transatlantic routes. In 2011 and 2012 the airline will outfit all its 747-400s with new flat-bed BusinessElite seats and new seats in Economy class

This change is the latest of several enhancements that Delta Air Lines has made to the SkyMiles program in the last year, including the new Diamond Medallion tier with complimentary lounge access and Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles. Delta says these features complement other recent changes, such as the elimination of all award redemption fees and a free first checked bag on Delta flights for Gold, Platinum and Reserve Delta SkyMiles credit card holders from American Express.

According to Delta, SkyMiles members can expect enhancement in 2011, including improvements to such as an upgraded award travel calendar, improved booking process and better flight information displays.  Additionally, Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members can expect several new benefits when flying select alliance partner airlines – including Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Alaska Airlines.

Now in its 30th year, SkyMiles is one of the longest-running loyalty programs in the travel industry. Last year, frequent flyers redeemed more than 264 billion miles in the SkyMiles program for more than 12 million award redemptions. In 2010, 8.3 per cent of revenue miles flown on Delta were for award travel.

Delta claims to offer more ways to redeem frequent flyer miles than any other airline, including airline tickets, mileage upgrades, car rentals, hotel stays, Delta Sky Club memberships, merchandise and more than 30 types of gift cards.

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