Delta CEO Ed Bastian has promised Delta Air Lines will make “modifications” to the SkyMiles program, but what will those changes be?
My Predictions For Latest “Modifications” To SkyMiles Program
Earlier, I wrote about an appearance Bastian made yesterday in which he said there is “no question, we probably went too far” in making medications to the SkyMiles program and in access rules for Sky Clubs. While the end goal has not changed (“Our team wanted to kind of rip the band-aid off, and didn’t want to have to go through this every year. I think we moved too fast”) there will be “modifications” made in the “next few weeks” to lessen the immediate blow.
I thought it would be fun to predict what those changes will be. I do foresee a number of changes that will loosen the requirements for 2025 such that fewer Medallion elites who may already spend $20-25K on Delta tickets and are threatening defection will do so.
Convert Lounge Visits To Day Passes
Delta is faced with constant crowding of lounges at certain key hubs like New York JFK, while other clubs seem to experience little crowding at all (for example, the satellite lounges in Detroit DTW). Its previous approaches to lounge crowding have not solved this problem, but reducing lounge visits to only six per year for American Express Platinum cardholders or 10 visits for Delta Reserve cardholders is a pill too harsh to swallow.
Rather than increase the number of passes, I could see Delta modifying the pass itself. Rather than the “visit” being a single visit, I could see it being valid for a specific day. That way, say you are flying from Los Angeles to Indianapolis via Salt Lake City. Under this approach, you could use the lounges in all three places (or at least in LAX and SLC) and only use one pass.
Making passes good for the entire day instead of just a single visit could be a straightforward way to lessen the blow of the new lounge restrictions.
Theoretically, there could be a system where additional lounge access is available when lounges are not crowded, but that becomes too difficult to enforce and would lead to conflict if such decisions were made arbitrarily by lounge agents.
Reduce Diamond Medallion Tier Requirement By 20%
Delta raised Medallion tier requirements for its Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels by 20% but for its top-tier Diamond status by over 45%. Delta reasonably wants fewer Diamonds, but this is likely too much…it will cause Delta elites who already are rarely upgraded to defect. But increase it by 20% and it still represents a steep increase, but not one that is totally unreasonable if demand is really as strong as Delta insists.
Increased Earnings On Co-Branded Credit Card Spending
Under the new program passengers can earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) at the following rates via credit card spending:
- Delta AMEX Reserve Card – 1 MQD for every $10 in spending
- Delta AMEX Platinum Card – 1 MQD for every $20 in spending
Such spending is foolish considering the opportunity cost of using this card is so high when that spending could be redirected to other sources like cashback cards or flexible currencies which provide significant more value than SkyMiles.
And yet Delta won’t give away elite status to those who put spending on cards.
So I predict a slightly better earning rate with a cap.
Return of MQM + MQS…For Now
Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs) are gone under the new program, but I think we may see them return…just for another year or two.
While Delta wants to look only at MQDs, incentivizing those travelers at the margins to shift travel to Delta…but requiring a lot…is a great way to build and maintain loyalty.
So say instead of just $30K for Diamond you have a path in which if you fly 100 segments and 150,000 miles and still somehow come out under $30K, you can still earn top-tier status for spending $20K.
That’s just one approach, but the point is that totally abandoning distance or segments flown does not properly account for loyalty. Certainly, upgrades for those flyers could be ranked lower than for the big-spenders, but flying that much on Delta does show loyalty and should be recognized.
Bastian has promised some rollbacks of the recent SkyMiles changes and I think we could see more flexible lounge passes, reduced earning requirements for Diamond members, increased earnings on co-branded credit cards, and a temporary return of MSMs and MQSs.
What “modifications” do you think Delta will make to its SkyMiles program to make it ever-so-slightly more attractive?