And if elite status at Delta and United are based on minimum revenue as a proxy for your value to the airline, why have distance flown requirements at all?
Reader Andrew runs into another rather vexing paradox of revenue-based frequent flyer programs: the infant fare.
On domestic flights a lap infant under 2 is free. Internationally most airlines charge 10% of the prevailing fare. Different airlines handle that different for award tickets, some charging additional miles and others charging 10% of full fare.
But if you’re going to pay a fare for the infant, who then is issued a ticket, why shouldn’t they earn miles?
I have flown on a number of flights with my infant daughter internationally, for which Delta charges 10% of the adult fare. She receives a ticket in her own name with a Delta ticket number.
Delta ticket plus fare paid should equal 5 miles per dollar spent, right? Not according to Delta agents. Though they can’t point to anything on the Delta website that says this, they keep saying that infant tickets aren’t eligible for mileage accrual. I get that she shouldn’t get any MQMs, but 5 miles per dollar is 5 miles per dollar whether the fare is $1 or $1,000. Further, on an upcoming flight the infant fare (10% of the adult fare) still came to $116, yet Delta says that still isn’t eligible for earning miles. The Skymiles terms and conditions state (in part):
“For Delta-marketed (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code) or Delta-ticketed (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) flights, SkyMiles members will earn miles based on ticket price, at the rate of 5 miles per U.S. Dollar (USD) spent, including base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges, but excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.”
She’s got a ticket number beginning with 006 and paid a base fare. Further, the exclusions state:
“Mileage credit will not be given for the following: (…) Infants (under age two) traveling without paying an applicable fare. Mileage will be credited to the accounts of infants traveling on a ticket purchased at the applicable fare.”
She paid an applicable fare so the exclusion doesn’t apply.
While the mileage numbers aren’t huge, they’ll add up to a few thousand by the time she’s 2 and needs her own seat. I’ve submitted a complaint through delta.com and if that is not successful then I plan on submitting a complaint with the DOT. If frequent flier programs are now just refund programs then I want my refund.
I suspect there will be a disagreement as to the meaning of ‘applicable fare’ – Andrew has paid the fare that applies to the infant, but Delta may say ‘applicable’ encompasses ‘eligible’ and they have determined infant fares not to be. Or Delta could just repeat what they told the Supreme Court:
You could also conceive of it as basically being a premium that’s offered by the company to reward your loyalty, but you’ve already gotten full performance.
In other words, they owe you nothing.