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March 25, 2013

One Way Fare to Heaven Gets Costly for Delta Frequent Fliers

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

A couple of weeks ago, Consumer World brought you a story suggesting that savvy travelers shouldn’t let their frequent flier miles die with them. The miles can be inherited and transferred to an heir in many cases.

Delta Airlines must be a regular Consumer World reader, because last week they changed the rules of the game for holders of Delta SkyMiles.


Here are the 2012 rules for the Delta SkyMiles program:

Transfer upon Death of Member

Upon the death of a Member, the Administrator or Executor of the Member’s Estate may designate one or more other Members to receive a transfer of the mileage credit in the deceased Member’s account. Only whole number amounts of miles may be transferred. The required form and other instructions for requesting a transfer of mileage under these circumstances is available on delta.com/skymilesaffidavit.

On March 20, 2013, however, Delta changed their SkyMiles rules for 2013.


Restrictions on Transfer

Miles are not the property of any Member. Except as specifically authorized in the Membership Guide and Program Rules or otherwise in writing by an officer of Delta, miles may not be sold, attached, seized, levied upon, pledged, or transferred under any circumstances, including, without limitation, by operation of law, upon death, [emphasis added] or in connection with any domestic relations dispute and/or legal proceeding.

Delta dropped the whole paragraph about the procedure for transferring miles on death, and substituted the above new “no transfer” rules. Now Delta says that your miles are not yours, you can’t take them with you when you die, and you can’t give them to anyone else in your will.

Thanks to John Materese, the consumer reporter at WCPO in Cincinnati for the story idea. Here is his video of this story.

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  1. This is just another good reason I don’t fly Delta…

    Comment by Dick Sullivan — March 25, 2013 @ 9:49 am
  2. I don’t get it. Why allow miles to be transferred in the first place if the policy would be so quick to change when someone pointed out that it could be done?

    Personally, I would never expect that my frequent flier miles would be transferable to a relative upon death. The frequent flier miles are a loyalty program between the customer and the company. Unless frequent flier miles count as actual currency or property that can be added to the value of an estate then there is little reason to expect that a company should do so.

    It seems like Delta initially volunteered to add the miles to the value of an estate so maybe there was a hint of customer service there for good PR. Not so much anymore though.

    Comment by Wayne R — March 25, 2013 @ 9:55 am
  3. re: Wayne R

    Do you think maybe that someone had enough saved miles to actually be considered a problem to their estate? How would you split them up? Would they be taxable? Previously, did Delta give the estate administrator a hart time transferring the miles?

    Comment by blasher — March 25, 2013 @ 10:39 am
  4. How can these not be the property of the “member?” They have been paid for over the course of the flier’s life, accumulated in exchange for “loyalty.” And what has happened retroactively to points accumulated under previous rules?

    But really, the first line says it all: “miles are not the property of any member.” That should be posted as a banner on every Delta ad that offers you these wonderful imaginary points in exchange for your real dollars.

    Comment by Noni Mausa — March 25, 2013 @ 10:56 am
  5. A Big brawl occurred today at the reading of a will for a really rich man over the dead person’s frequent flyer miles. Cops were called at the seen of the fight. Film at 11…..

    Comment by Richard Ginn — March 25, 2013 @ 3:41 pm
  6. It’s not unusual for someone to have millions in accrued frequent flyer miles, worth tens of thousands of dollars in services and products. Miles are earned for lots of activities besides flying: hotel stays, car rentals, credit card purchases, mortgage closings, etc. The airlines have let people transfer miles in their estates forever. It may be Delta’s right to make this change to their program, but it is a big change in policy nonetheless. It’s just more proof that the airline industry has become one of the scummiest groups of companies in existence.

    Comment by Richard — March 25, 2013 @ 4:55 pm
  7. Didnt miles used to expire not but a few years ago? Now that deltas never expire I can see why they changed it…

    Comment by me — March 26, 2013 @ 11:40 am

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