A pleasant surprise in my inbox this morning: a notice from Delta titled, "Say goodbye to mileage expiration" announcing the immortality of SkyMiles in my frequent-flier account.
The e-mail, "signed" by SkyMiles vice president J.W. Robertson, went like this:
You now can earn miles without worrying if and when they will expire as we have eliminated our mileage expiration policy - no asterisk, no fine print, no ifs, ands or buts.
So regardless of your future SkyMiles activity, redeem your miles whenever you want for Award Travel to 350+ worldwide destinations, car rentals, hotel stays, newspapers, magazines and one-of-a-kind auction packages.
We are proud to be the only major U.S. carrier without mileage expiration.
Visit delta.com to learn more about your SkyMiles benefits and explore the many ways you can earn and use your miles.
You're the reason we fly.
Last year, Delta eliminated award-redemption fees, but this? This is unprecedented. No other airline has, to my knowledge, made such a drastic (and welcome) move, even in the fiercely competitive environment they're all struggling with. Every program change I've seen in recent years has tightened the rules, making mile redemption more difficult.
The best part about this, aside from the obvious for SkyMiles members, is that typically in the industry, when one airline so much as sneezes, all the others follow suit in a rapid, "you-can't-one-up-me" succession. Usually, this involves fare hikes and sales, but with the competition for passengers being what it is today, this could bode very well for mileage collectors on any airline. And we won't likely have to wait very long to see how the effects will ripple through the field.
As of today, this is the shelf life your miles get before expiring in some of the most popular programs:
American Airlines AAdvantage: 18 months*
Continental Airlines OnePass: 18 months*
JetBlue Airways TrueBlue: 12 months*
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards: 24 months
United Airlines Mileage Plus: 18 months*
US Airways Dividend Miles: 18 months*
(* In the absence of account activity, which could include flight activity, purchases on mileage-accruing credit cards or redemption of miles, which reset the expiration date to the specified time period from the last activity posted to the account.)