As expected, Delta Air Lines is radically changing the way SkyMiles elite status is earned and also further restricting Sky Club access to credit card holders who fail to spend big on their cards.
Big Changes Coming To Delta SkyMiles Program, Sky Club Access In 2024
News leaked early via what appears to have been an inadvertent posting of the press release (since removed) that was quickly picked up by One Mile At A Time. Let’s examine the changes and then I will offer my analysis on what these changes means for you.
Delta SkyMiles Elite Status Will Become More Difficult Through “Simplification” That Encourages Significantly More Credit Card Spending
Effective January 1, 2024, Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) will be the sole factor for obtaining elite status in the SkyMiles program. Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs) will no longer play a role in the SkyMiles program. More MQDs will be required for elite status:
- SkyMiles Silver Medallion status – 6,000 MQDs (3,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Gold Medallion status – 12,000 MQDs (8,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status – 18,000 MQDs (12,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Diamond Medallion status – 35,000 MQDs (20,000 MQDs currently)
Delta-AMEX co-branded credit card spending will now count toward MQDs at the following rates:
- Delta AMEX Reserve Card – 1 MQD for every $10 in spending
- Delta AMEX Platinum Card – 1 MQD for every $20 in spending
- Delta flights + Delta Vacations – 1 MQD per $1 in spending
MQDs on partner airlines will continue to be calculated based on distance flown and fare class.
Rollover MQMs earned this year can be converted into MQDs at a 20:1 ratio or into redeemable miles at a 2:1 ratio. That’s pathetic.
Further Restrictions To SkyClub Access For Credit Card Holders
American Express and Delta co-branded credit card holders will see SkyClub access restricted… starting on February 1, 2025:
- American Express Platinum (personal or business): 6 annual visits for cardholders
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card (personal or business): 10 annual visits for cardholders plus two annual guest passes
These visits will go fast. If you’re traveling from Los Angeles to Amsterdam via Detroit on the same day and want to use the SkyClub in both locations, that will count as two visits.
Those who spend more than $75,000 on any one of these will be exempt from the 10-visit limit for the remainder of the current Medallion year, plus the following Medallion year.
Furthermore, effective January 1, 2024:
- No SkyClub access for Delta basic economy fares
- No $50 SkyClub access for Delta Amex Platinum Card (personal or business) cardholders
These changes will seriously throttle the value of these pricey credit cards for those who are not big spenders.
No Changes On Redemption Side…Yet
I had hoped that along with the changes above, which were largely in line with expectations, we might see an improvement on the redemption side (simply to bring Delta more in line with its competition) or at least a greater discount for those with elite status or who hold a co-branded credit card.
This announcement does not include any changes to how you can earn or redeem SkyMiles.
What I Make Of These Changes
While these changes are in line with expectations and I really don’t have a horse in this fight since I do not collect Delta SkyMiles, I think Delta has thrown down the gauntlet and it is too early to tell what long-term consumer reaction will be.
On the positive, Delta has incentivized more credit card spending on its co-branded cards and those who already spend will likely spend more.
On the negative side, I’ve already heard from many of you that you plan to cancel your Delta or American Express cards on the basis of these lounge restrictions. That certainly makes sense if you do not have a way to spend vast amounts on your credit cards each year.
Delta is not 100% wrong for targeting “quality not quantity” but I do wonder whether this will 1.) solve the lounge crowding issue (doubtful), 2.) thin the herd of elite members (maybe), and 3.) bring value to the AMEX-Delta portfolio (questionable).
I always advise caution to those making threats so soon after news like this is announced: we haven’t heard what United will do with its elite program next year yet and with elite status now easier to obtain via credit card spending, some will benefit handsomely from these changes. We’ll need to wait a bit for the dust to settle.
Once again, though, I really do not see a lot of value in the Delta SkyMiles program and will continue to credit my SkyTeam flights to Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France – KLM.
Delta seemingly accidentally published changes to SkyMiles program and Sky Club access a day early, but there really are no surprises here. I’d say the changes are most negative for most customers, but they will foster more spending on Delta credit cards for many Delta loyalists, which I suppose is the goal here.
Will these changes impact how you spend money on Delta?
image: Delta Air Lines