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Big Changes for Delta SkyMiles: How the Medallions are Handling It

January 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM | by | ()

2013, man. This was to be the year we get elite status on Delta and we were just about to sign up for a Delta AMEX credit card when the airline dropped the news which has us thinking twice. Their SkyMiles loyalty program would change, transitioning from the classic distance-based mileage earning to a combination of distance and revenue.

In plainer terms, in order to get any status on Delta, a flyer would have to not only fly a certain amount of miles in a Delta seat, but also spend a certain amount on all those tickets, from $2,500 on up. The idea essentially to ensure the truly "elite" get their perks while those who gain Medallion status using super discounted fares or other incentives will drop down or out of the elite levels.

A nice grid of requirements is below...

Let us first note that all this is for earning status in 2014. In all fairness, a change like this has been expected from Delta for a while, but it still rubs us the wrong way.

So how do Delta flyers view the changes? We talked to a few friends to find out.

A Diamond Medallion (the highest tier), who most frequently flies long-haul international, says:

Every year I far exceed the current minimum requirements for Diamond, yet I can still find myself at number 26 on an upgrade list. That makes me cross. But I don't think a min spend is the solution. For example, If I fly with [Air France], [Korean Air], [Kenya Airways], etc, none of that spend is counted towards my Delta MQDs and I don't think that is entirely fair. It also cheapens it by saying that you can totally sidestep the system by charging $25,000 to a DL credit card. Anyone can spend $25,000 in a year on a card—it's hardly high roller territory. Just pay your household bills and expenses on the card and boom, you qualify.

A Gold Medallion working towards Platinum, who lives in a Delta hub city and mixes domestic & international trips, says:

I'll meet the minimum spend requirements because my trips are sometimes higher priced for last-minute departures and I don't have flexibility. What I wonder is if I hit the Diamond level of money but only the Gold level of miles. Can I argue my way to Platinum, especially when the airline hasn't yet dealt with every sort of issue under the new system in 2014? I'm just really over missing out on upgrades because I'm only Gold in a hub.

And of course we polled our bestie, frequent flyer mile guru extraordinaire The Points Guy (a former Diamond Medallion who recently transferred allegiance and made American Executive Platinum) for his thoughts:

I don't put all my eggs in one basket and that's what Delta is asking its flyers to do here. They want the elite flyers to drink the Kool-Aid even more and are now saying 'you with cards, you need to start spending y amount on them.' Delta hooked flyers in 2011, 2012 was the year to enjoy it, and 2013 is the year to focus on credit card spend. Now Delta have created an opportunity for other airlines to siphon off elites.

The Points Guy also raised another valid point in conversation and that's how Delta is only asking more and not giving more. One very nice appeasing move they could/should make is lowering the fare class requirement for using system-wide upgrades. If you want to read deeper into all that, TPG's got a whole post on the matter.

So, how can you get around the new requirements?
· Live outside the US. (The new rules only apply to Delta's US-based flyers)
· Spend over $25,000 on a Delta AMEX card each year
· Try a status match on another airline. This will depend what works best for your travels and home airport, but giving another airline's loyalty program a call and stressing your value could get results.
· If you've had it with Delta, The Points Guy recommends banking your miles to Alaska Airlines and getting elite there.

Any other thoughts, questions, concerns? Granted, there's time still before the new minimum spend levels hit, but that's also time which can be spent shopping around. View the complete terms & conditions behind the new structure over at Delta.com.

[Images: Wikimedia & Delta]

Archived Comments:

Platinum not shining

I am a platinum stepchild to Delta, having previously been a loyal customer to NWA. Delta keeps chipping away our benefits. Today, February 26, they announced their new mileage program to begin January 2015. My reward miles will drop to almost 1/3 of what they use to be. This comes on the heels of their MQD announcement a few months ago. There are a list of undesirable changes since the NWA/Delta merge. I believe the next change will likely be a surcharge for all medallions for economy comfort. At that point, medallions unwilling to pay the premium will not have access to seats near the front of the cabin. It is just a matter of time.