Earning and Redeeming Delta SkyMiles on Non-Alliance Partners

Aug 20, 2015

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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains which carriers you can lean on to earn Delta SkyMiles and Medallion elite status outside of the SkyTeam alliance.

Airline alliances have been around since the 1990s, offering travelers streamlined travel experiences across multiple carriers. Many airlines also have agreements with partners outside of traditional alliances to offer passengers even greater flexibility when it comes to booking flights. However, these partnerships often have a variety of restrictions when it comes to earning and redeeming miles in your preferred frequent flyer program. Last week I wrote about the AAdvantage program’s non-alliance partners, and today I’ll continue the series by taking a close look at similar partnerships in the Delta SkyMiles program.

I’ll start with a chart that provides a high-level overview of the SkyMiles program’s non-alliance partner agreements, including the following aspects:

  • Earning miles
  • Earning elite-qualifying miles
  • Redeeming miles
  • Enjoying elite benefits

I’ll then go into detail for each one so you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time you want to book a revenue or award ticket on a Delta partner airline that doesn’t belong to the SkyTeam alliance.

You can leverage existing airline status to attain status on other carriers.
Finding low-level Delta awards in business class can be next to impossible, Fortunately, you have a variety of non-alliance partners to choose from.


As the key US member of the SkyTeam alliance, Delta has gotten its fair share of black eyes over the last few years. However, there are a number of ways to earn and redeem SkyMiles on non-alliance partners:

Airline Earning? Elite-qualifying? Redeeming? Elite benefits?
Air Tahiti Nui No N/A Yes No
Alaska Airlines Yes Yes (but not MQDs) Yes Yes
GOL Yes Yes Yes Yes
Great Lakes Airlines Yes No Yes No
Hawaiian Airlines Yes (inter-island flights only) No Yes (inter-island flights only) No
Jetstar No N/A Yes (only for Asia residents on certain routes) No
SkyMark Airlines No N/A Yes (only for Japan residents) No
Thai AirAsia No N/A Yes (only for Asia residents on certain routes) No
Virgin Atlantic Yes Yes Yes Yes
Virgin Australia Yes Yes Yes Yes
WestJet Yes No No No

As you can see, there are a number of ways to earn and redeem SkyMiles outside of SkyTeam partners. Just be sure to look at each partner’s page to identify how the Medallion Qualification Dollar requirement works for that specific carrier. Generally speaking, if you ticket a revenue flight on a non-alliance partner through a Delta channel and your ticket begins with “006,” then you will earn MQDs for your flight (Alaska is a notable exception, as you can’t earn MQDs on any Alaska flights). However, you can also earn MQDs for flights booked directly with many other partners; these will generally be awarded as a percentage of the distance flown, with higher amounts awarded to higher fare classes. Again, look at each partner’s page for more information (links below).

Let’s take a closer look at the policies of each carrier:

Delta allows you to redeem miles for flights on Air Tahiti Nui (though you can’t earn SkyMiles for paid flights).

Air Tahiti Nui

Delta’s partnership with Air Tahiti Nui is essentially identical to that of American, as you can only redeem your SkyMiles on Air Tahiti Nui’s flights.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska and Delta are currently in heated competition for the Seattle market, yet still extend a variety of reciprocal benefits to travelers. You can earn SkyMiles and Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) on Alaska-operated flights, though the rates for discounted economy tickets were lowered as of April 1st. You can also redeem SkyMiles on Alaska Airlines, but sadly, Alaska flights don’t earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs), even when booked as a Delta codeshare.

In addition, Delta elites (Gold Medallion and higher) receive a number of benefits when traveling on Alaska:

  • Medallion bonus miles
  • Priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling
  • Lounge access (with same-day boarding pass for international travel)
  • Preferred seats
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades (though you will be prioritized behind all Alaska elites)

I actually cleared into first class on a flight from Los Angeles to Anchorage a few years ago as a Diamond Medallion (though I missed the upgrade flying from Anchorage to Chicago on the same trip). It was a really nice flight, so I can see why TPG was crushing on Alaska last year! Still, given the ongoing fight for control of Seattle and other routes, I wouldn’t count on this partnership being around indefinitely.

Gol Airlines makes South America more accessible with SkyMiles. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


Brazil-based GOL opens up a variety of South American routes on which you can earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles. In addition, revenue flights on GOL earn both MQMs and MQDs, though when you buy a ticket directly with GOL, your MQDs are based on a percentage of the distance flown. Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members also enjoy mileage bonuses, priority check-in and boarding, waived baggage fees, preferred seats and lounge access (when traveling internationally).

Great Lakes Airlines

As of January 1, 2015, you can earn and redeem SkyMiles on Great Lakes-operated flights. Unfortunately, revenue flights on Great Lakes Airlines follow the (relatively) new revenue-based system for accruing miles, and since Medallion members don’t earn bonuses on these flights, you’re stuck earning a measly 5 SkyMiles per dollar spent! In addition, you cannot earn elite-qualifying miles or dollars on these flights, even if you can book them with a Delta flight number.

Hawaiian Airlines

Delta’s partnership with Hawaiian Airlines only applies to inter-island flights, though you can both earn and redeem SkyMiles on these itineraries. Unfortunately, these flights do not count toward elite status qualification.

Jetstar, Skymark Airlines, and Thai Air Asia

I group these three together since they tend to be quite similar. SkyMiles members living in Asia (or Japan specifically for Skymark) can redeem miles for travel along select routes on these three airlines. For more information, check out Delta’s partner award travel page.

Virgin Atlantic 787-9 Dreamliner
Virgin Atlantic awards tend to be readily available using Delta miles, and you can also earn SkyMiles for paid flights.

Virgin Atlantic

One of Delta’s newest partners is Virgin Atlantic, and you can earn and redeem your SkyMiles on these flights. These trips also count toward elite status qualification in terms of miles, segments and dollars, even when you book directly with Virgin Atlantic, though MQD earnings will be tied to your fare class and distance flown. Finally, Delta elites get additional benefits for travel on Virgin Atlantic, including bonus miles, priority check-in/baggage handling/boarding, baggage fee waivers and Clubhouse access.

TPG flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class earlier this year and had a wonderful flight, and the availability of these awards is one reason why SkyMiles are far from worthless.

Virgin Australia

Another close Delta partner is Virgin Australia, as you can earn and redeem SkyMiles for these flights. You’ll also earn MQMs and MQDs, even if you book directly with Virgin Australia. All Medallion members enjoy priority check-in and boarding, complimentary checked baggage and mileage bonuses; Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallions also enjoy expedited security lines and lounge access (when traveling internationally).

This is a great way to get from North America to Australia; be sure to check out Eric Rosen’s review of Virgin Australia’s business class.


The final non-alliance carrier that works closely with Delta is Canadian-based WestJet. Unfortunately, you’re only able to earn miles on these flights (which don’t count toward elite status qualification).

How to Find Award Inventory

Since most of these airlines allow you to redeem SkyMiles, I wanted to provide a quick overview of how to find award inventory. A few of them actually appear on Delta.com, most notably Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. A couple of others show up on ExpertFlyer as well:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • GOL

Remember that ExpertFlyer allows you to set alerts that will notify you when a specific award class opens up prior to a flight.

For the other non-alliance partners, you’ll need to call SkyMiles customer service to search award inventory. Keep in mind that Delta recently pulled award charts from its website, and will make additional changes to mileage redemptions next June, so I recommend burning those SkyMiles while you can!

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many options to earn and redeem miles on Delta Airlines outside of the SkyTeam alliance. Just be sure to read through the pages linked above so you know exactly what to expect when you have a paid (or award) flight on one of these non-alliance partners.

As you may have noticed, some of these partners actually cross over between American and Delta (such as Air Tahiti Nui and Alaska Airlines). That means in some cases you’ll have even more earning and redemption options with these carriers based on which frequent flyer programs you use most often.

For more on earning and redeeming SkyMiles, check out these posts:

What experiences have you had earning and redeeming Delta SkyMiles with these non-alliance carriers?

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