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In Wake of Backlash, Delta Revises New Elite Qualification and Sky Club Policies

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Nick Ellis

Nick Ellis

Editor & Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 35U.S. States Visited: 25

Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to le...
Edited by: Stella Shon

Stella Shon

Compliance Editor & Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 25U.S. States Visited: 22

With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...

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Delta Air Lines caused an outrage among its Medallion members just over a month ago when it shared updates to its elite status program.

The airline dramatically increased the requirements to meet each of its elite status tiers — Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond — leaving many who have spent years (and tens of thousands of dollars) flying with the airline shocked and even enraged.

To add insult to injury, the airline — and its credit card partner American Express — significantly devalued one of the most valued benefits of several of their top credit cards: access to Delta Sky Clubs across the airline’s network.

It was clear from the minute the news dropped that Delta had overstepped. And instead of just a murmur of displeasure, the airline likely received thousands of emails from disgruntled customers voicing their concerns over these abrupt changes.

Soon, Delta CEO Ed Bastian publicly acknowledged that the airline had gone too far and would take another look at its plans and intended to make revisions.

Now, we know what these revisions look like. Long story short, it’s an improvement over what was meant to be, but it probably won’t go far enough to change some people’s minds regarding the sweeping changes coming to Delta’s elite program next year.

Let’s run through the new(est) changes and what it all means for you.

Delta Softens Status Requirements

Perhaps the largest change that came in the initial revamp was the fact that Delta will do away with its current structure of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) and go forward with MQDs as the sole metric for measuring progress toward status.

This means that come next year, it won’t matter how much you fly with Delta, but rather your level of elite status will depend solely on how much you spend with the airline.

Delta Medallion elite members are eligible for complimentary first class upgrades on many flights. Image Credit: Delta Air Lines

None of this is changing, and neither are the methods or rates at which you can earn MQDs. Here’s a refresher in case you missed it the first time around:

  • Earn 1 MQD for every dollar spent on a ticket for a flight that’s marketed by Delta and operated by Delta or a partner airline.
  • MQDs will be earned on flights sold and operated by partner airlines as a combination of the fare class purchased and the distance flown — this will remain the same as the current scheme.
  • Those with the following cards will earn 1 MQD for every $10 spent on their card(s), with no limit to MQD earning:
  • Those with these cards will earn 1 MQD for every $20 spent on their card(s), with no limit to MQD earning:
  • Earn 1 MQD for every dollar spent on car rentals booked through Delta’s channels.
  • Earn 1 MQD for every dollar spent on hotel stays booked through Delta’s channels.
  • Earn 1 MQD for every dollar spent on Delta Vacations packages, in addition to what you’ll earn for your flight when the package is booked directly through Delta.

In the first round of changes, Delta made significant increases to the MQD thresholds required for each level of status. Now, it’s reduced these a little bit — emphasis on the little bit. Here’s a look at what’s changing:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Medallion TierPrevious RequirementNew Requirement
Silver6,000 MQDs5,000 MQDs
Gold12,000 MQDs10,000 MQDs
Platinum18,000 MQDs15,000 MQDs
Diamond35,000 MQDs28,000 MQDs

Yes, this is an improvement, but remember that if you want to hit top-tier Diamond status, you’ll need to spend at least $28,000 on Delta flights. And if you want to take the non-flying route, you’ll need to spend a whopping $280,000 on a Delta Reserve card or a Delta Reserve Business card.

These changes will go into effect January 1, 2024, and note that Delta will still jettison the current MQD waiver for all status tiers as previously planned.

One interesting new change is that Mr. Bastian alluded to an “MQD head start” to recipients of his email today. An airline spokesperson then confirmed to Thrifty Traveler that SkyMiles members with any (or all) of the following cards in their wallet will receive a deposit of 2,500 MQDs in their accounts per eligible card:

  • Delta Reserve card
  • Delta Reserve Business card
  • Delta Platinum card
  • Delta Platinum Business card

In theory, if you have all 4 of these cards, you could automatically earn 10,000 MQDs right off the bat, enough to put you at Gold Medallion status — but that would put you on the hook for $1,600 in annual fees.

Bottom Line:

After intense backlash, Delta has reduced the requirements for earning status under its revamped SkyMiles program. However, it’s still going to take a lot of money to qualify for even its entry-level Medallion tier.

Rollover MQMs Become More Useful on Their Way Out

One feature that SkyMiles members have loved over the years is rollover MQMs. At the beginning of each status year, Delta would roll over any MQMs earned that are in excess of the status level you achieved.

For example, if you were to earn a total of 75,000 MQMs in a given year but only qualified for Silver status due to falling short on MQDs, Delta would subtract the 25,000 MQMs required for Silver status and roll over the excess 50,000 to the next year, giving flyers a “head start” on achieving status for the next year.

Since MQMs are making their exit, so are rollover MQMs. Delta’s initial plan was to allow members to convert their would-be rollover MQMs into redeemable SkyMiles at a 2:1 rate or into MQDs at a dismal 20:1 rate.

This was not met with a warm reception among Delta loyalists, and thankfully Delta changed its mind and set forth an interesting new option.

If you have at least 100,000 MQMs to roll over at the end of this year, you can extend your current level of elite status for another year. This seems like a favorable compromise and should soften the blow for many current status holders. Every “extra” 100,000 MQMs will count toward an additional year of status, which could mean multiple years of status extension for some of Delta’s most prolific flyers.

Per Mr. Bastian’s email, “Customers with high balances will receive special multi-year options to extend their status,” so stay tuned for more from Delta on that front.

Choice Benefits Get a Minor Revamp

In the email, Bastian said members should expect further communication from Dwight James, S.V.P. of Customer Engagement & Loyalty at Delta, detailing the new Choice Benefits, but the airline confirmed to Thrifty Traveler that Platinum and Diamond members who are eligible to participate in the program can expect the following choices:

  • MQD Accelerator: Platinum members can receive a 1,000-MQD boost to start the status quest for 2025, while Diamond members can elect a 2,000-MQD boost.
  • The individual Sky Club membership returns as an option for Diamond Medallions, though it will require 2 selections out of the available 3.
  • There’s an increase in bonus redeemable SkyMiles and travel vouchers:
    • Platinum members can choose 30,000 SkyMiles or a $300 travel voucher (increased from 20,000 SkyMiles or a $250 voucher)
    • Diamond members can choose 35,000 SkyMiles or a $350 travel voucher (increased from 25,000 SkyMiles or a $300 voucher)
  • A flight credit for Wheels Up, a private jet service that has a partnership with Delta. Details on this perk are TBD.

Million Miler Program Gets a Meaningful Boost

Delta has done some work to better recognize its customers who have flown at least 1 million miles with the airline.

Come next year, Delta’s Million Miler program will change to match similar programs offered by American Airlines and United Airlines — you’ll earn lifetime miles based strictly on the number of miles you fly with Delta and its partners, which turned off many who were earning a bonus in their Million Miler balance thanks to flying on more expensive fares or in higher, more rewarding fare classes.

How mileage is added to the Million Miler balance will not change from what Delta originally stated, but it is making the program more rewarding. Note that existing Million Miler balances will remain as they are today.

Starting next year, the airline will reward higher levels of lifetime status for each milestone achieved. Here’s what that’s going to look like:

  • 6 million miles or more: Lifetime Delta 360 status (bumped up from Lifetime Diamond status)
  • 5 million miles: Lifetime Delta 360 status (bumped up from Lifetime Platinum status)
  • 4 million miles: Lifetime Diamond status (bumped up from Lifetime Platinum status)
  • 3 million miles: Lifetime Diamond status (bumped up from Lifetime Gold status)
  • 2 million miles: Lifetime Platinum status (bumped up from Lifetime Gold status)
  • 1 million miles: Lifetime Gold status (bumped up from Lifetime Silver status)

As previously reported, those with Million Miler status will leap up in the priority line for complimentary upgrades and will be in the third criteria group behind Medallion status and fare class.

Amex and Delta Tweak New Sky Club Access Rules

Perhaps most infuriating of all was how drastically Delta and American Express reduced Sky Club access for cardholders with some of their most expensive credit cards.

Delta and American Express tweaked their new Sky Club access policies for eligible cardholders. Image Credit: Delta Air Lines

As it stands now, those who have the following credit cards can access Delta Sky Clubs when flying with Delta on a same-day ticket or with WestJet on a Delta-marketed ticket starting in 006:

Under the initial round of changes, cardholders were going to be capped to a certain number of distinct visits per year, according to the following structure:

  • Delta Reserve card: 10 annual visits
  • Delta Reserve Business card: 10 annual visits
  • Amex Platinum card: 6 annual visits
  • Amex Business Platinum card: 6 annual visits

After what was surely sustained and vocal outcry, Delta and American Express have revised their policies concerning Sky Club access. There will still be a cap on visits, but the way it’s distributed is undoubtedly more generous, as you’ll see below.

Hot Tip:

One way to guarantee Sky Club access is to purchase a business class ticket with Delta (known as Delta One) or its partners. Learn all the best ways to book a Delta One seat with points and miles in our complete guide.

Beginning February 1, 2025, those who have the cards mentioned above will be allotted a certain number of days to visit Sky Clubs every year. This is more generous than what was previously announced because if you live in a city that requires connections, you could easily burn 4 Sky Club visits (or more) in a single round-trip journey.

Now, however, your visits will be measured by a 24-hour period, so if you visit a Sky Club at your origin airport and your connection airport, that will only count as 1 day’s worth of visits.

Cardholders will be allotted days according to the following structure:

  • Delta Reserve card: 15 days annually
  • Delta Reserve Business card: 15 days annually
  • Amex Platinum card: 10 days annually
  • Amex Business Platinum card: 10 days annually

In another change, Delta will allow cardholders of any of the aforementioned cards to purchase Sky Club access for $50 per entry if their allotment is used up. And, if you have more than 1 card, you can “stack” your days. For example, if you have the Amex Platinum card and the Delta Reserve card, you’ll have 25 total days in the year to visit Sky Clubs.

Also, Delta plans to make annual memberships available for purchase once again for any Medallion member. This will cost $695 for an individual membership or $1,495 for an executive membership.

Finally, as previously announced, cardholders can spend $75,000 annually on any of the cards mentioned above to earn unlimited Sky Club access for the year in which the spending threshold is met, plus the following Medallion year. Delta will begin tracking spending on these cards on January 1, 2024, for the 2025 Medallion year.

Final Thoughts

The last month has been an emotional journey for anyone loyal to Delta Air Lines. The original changes were so drastic and different that many felt like the airline didn’t value their intense loyalty over the years.

Delta recognized this after receiving what we have to imagine was a lot of backlash, so it’s made some changes to soften the blow for SkyMiles members. Taken together, it’s a mixed bag.

We weren’t expecting the airline to reinstate its old program by any means, but the Medallion thresholds, especially as you work your way up the ranks, are still quite steep, and there’s no change to how you can earn MQDs by spending on the airline’s co-branded credit cards.

On the other hand, the airline’s Million Miler program is getting more generous, the new option to extend status with rollover MQMs is certainly nice, and the way Delta and Amex reworked the Sky Club access policies seem more reasonable, though the jury’s still out on whether they’ll do anything to help combat overcrowding in Delta’s airport lounges.

Regardless, it’s going to be a whole new world in “Delta land” come January 1, 2024, and it remains to be seen whether these revisions will help dissuade people from jumping ship or if the damage has already been done.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

About Nick Ellis

Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to leverage the perks of each.

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