Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Easier To Earn In 2021

Filed Under: Delta

Delta is revealing quite a few updates today — the airline will stop blocking seats and will start restoring inflight service. On top of that, the airline has just announced how it will be easier to earn SkyMiles Medallion status in 2021, which is what I wanted to cover in this post.

Delta SkyMiles Medallion updates for 2021

As was the case with all major US airline loyalty programs, Delta SkyMiles extended Medallion status in 2020. The airline rolled over elite miles and segments to 2021, but hasn’t otherwise announced plans to make it easier to earn status. That has finally changed.

As Dwight James, Delta’s SVP of Customer Engagement & Loyalty, describes these updates:

“Our customers supported us through the most difficult year in our history, and as we welcome them back, we want to help their travel count for even more. We sincerely appreciate how much our customers value their Status, and these industry-leading offers will ensure Medallion Members can continue to enjoy those benefits for flights now and in the future.”

Let’s go over the details of what’s changing.

Award travel will qualify towards status

Between April 1 and December 31, 2021, Delta award travel will qualify towards SkyMiles Medallion status. In other words, if you redeem miles for a ticket (including Miles + Cash tickets), you’ll receive Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) for those flights.

How are the MQDs earned, since there’s no revenue associated with award flights? MQDs will be earned at the rate of one cent per mile. In other words, if you redeem 20,000 miles for a ticket, you’d earn 200 MQDs (however, you’d end up earning 300-350 MQDs thanks to the 50-75% bonus, which I’ll talk about below).

There are a few things that make this interesting:

  • Virgin Atlantic started counting all award flights towards Virgin Atlantic Flying Club status last year as a permanent perk; Delta has a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic and owns a 49% stake, so my money is on this being a permanent benefit
  • With the way that Delta has tried to turn SkyMiles into a revenue-based currency and allow members to redeem SkyMiles for virtually all Delta purchases, there’s no reason award flights should be treated differently than revenue flights for these purposes
  • I’m impressed that Delta SkyMiles is even awarding MQDs for award flights, which isn’t something I was expecting

Delta will count award flights towards Medallion status

Flights count towards status 50-75% faster

Rather than lowering SkyMiles Medallion qualification requirements, Delta will make it easier to earn status by flying for the rest of the year. Between April 1 and December 31, 2021, members will earn MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs, at an accelerated pace:

  • SkyMiles members will be rewarded a minimum of 50% more MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs, for all flights, including award flights
  • SkyMiles members will be awarded 75% more MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs, when purchasing a premium fare product, including first class, Delta One, Premium Select, and Comfort+; this is 25% more than economy passengers receive
  • That 75% bonus applies to whatever class of service bonuses you get; in other words, if you book a discounted first class fare that offers 150% MQMs, you’d earn 262.5% MQMs

Just to give an example:

  • Diamond Medallion status ordinarily requires 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs in a year, plus 15,000 MQDs
  • Discounted first class ordinarily earns 150% MQMs, so with a 75% bonus you’d earn a total of 262.5% MQMs based on the distance flown, plus 175% MQDs based on the amount paid
  • In other words, you could earn Diamond Medallion status by flying ~48,000 miles in discounted first class, and you’d “only” need to earn ~8,600 MQDs

Delta flights will qualify towards status 50-75% faster

Delta Amex benefits also being extended

For those with co-branded Delta American Express cards, several perks are being extended further. These extensions will happen automatically over the coming weeks. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Those with the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex who earn a $100 Delta flight credit from January 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, will have the expiration date extended to June 30, 2022
  • Those with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex or Delta Reserve Amex with unused companion certificates as of March 31, 2021, or companion certificates issued from April 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021, will have the expiration date extended to book and fly by June 30, 2022
  • Those with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex with Delta SkyClub one-time guest passes issued from January 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, will have the expiration dates extended to June 30, 2022

Select SkyClub one-time passes will be extended

My take on Delta SkyMiles Medallion changes

I’ve written about how I think most airlines should extend status in 2021, given everything going on. At a minimum, they’re going to have to make some signification changes to elite qualification.

Where does that leave us with Delta SkyMiles’ program updates? Here’s my take:

  • It’s interesting to me that Delta is basically declaring coronavirus over when it comes to travel; Delta CEO Ed Bastian recently said that Americans are ready to “reclaim their lives,” and all of these initiatives reflect that, from requiring flying in 2021, to stopping seat blocking
  • I think Delta is being fairly reasonable here — between rollover miles from 2020, 50-75% bonus elite qualification, award flights counting towards status, and the ability to earn status through credit card spending, this should be reasonable enough for most (of course some will be left behind, like business travelers who may not be traveling much for the rest of the year)
  • Delta SkyMiles now has the most reasonable elite requirements for 2021 of the “big three” US carriers; compare Delta to American, as American AAdvantage has only lowered elite requirements by around 20%, with nothing further; something’s gotta give there

Also, totally unrelated, but do we think Delta’s motivation for today’s news dump is to:

  • Try to out shadow and take attention away from Alaska Airlines joining oneworld
  • …or to try to out shadow the bad publicity Delta is getting regarding the whole Georgia voting laws thing, which greatly backfired for the airline
  • …or both?

Bottom line

Delta has announced a series of initiatives today that will make it easier for SkyMiles members to earn Medallion status in 2021. In addition to counting award flights towards elite status, flights between April and December will also count towards status at a significantly accelerated pace.

What do you make of these Delta SkyMiles Medallion updates for 2021?

  1. @Lucky — This post is confusing/wrong. Delta said award travel also counts for MQD at a rate of 1 MQD per 100 miles (which is then bonused by 50% for main cabin or 75% for comfort plus/first class, just like regular tickets). So the suggestion that award tickets don’t help with MQD doesn’t seem to be right for this promotion.

  2. Yeah Lucky, as AG says, award tickets do earn MQD at a rate of 1 cent per mile, plus the multiplier – you spend 50,000 miles on a domestic round trip coach ticket, you earn $750 MQD. Also, if you spend 10,000 miles to upgrade a flight to first, you also earn MQD on that mileage spend.

  3. I’d like to welcome the entire Medallion program to the Platinum level where upgrades will now be even more difficult to obtain. Upgrade inventory will drop dramatically because more will buy a FC ticket. Upgrades will be more difficult to score because so many will qualify for PM status in 2021. Regional upgrade certs are now diluted because they’ve increased supply with added number of Plat medallions and the lack of breakage due to the extended exp dates.

  4. One correction: Award tickets (1 cpm) & Pay with Miles (full ticket value regardless of increment paid with miles) do earn MQD plus the bonus

  5. @ AG @ Anthony @ Alex Diaz — My mistake, thanks for the correction. Has been a wild news day, and I got that detail wrong. The post is fixed now.

  6. Thanks Ben – Your correction needs a correction – If you redeem 20,000 SkyPesos for a flight, you get $300 in MQD because of the 50% bonus.

  7. Truly a WOW from Delta. Here’s hoping they keep with Virgin’s lead on this and retain the benefit on award redemptions beyond 2021!!!

  8. Personally I think this is great. Found a nice Delta One points airfare (41k r/t) which will net me 8500+ MQMs. Normally I’d only book a cash fare to earn those MQMs but now I can burn some skymiles and earn them. Great!

  9. Lucky – one mod re your calculator on first class MQM bonus. I think it should be 262.5% – Delta’s example says 75% bonus is on “base MQM’s for flown cabin” i.e. the base MQMs for first are already 150%, so the bonus makes it 262.5%?

  10. Minor additional correction – redeeming 20k miles could earn you between 300 and *350* MQDs 😛

  11. It is 50%+25% bonus, or 75% bonus overall for flying in premium cabin, not a x75% on top of the 50% bonus.

    Sounds like a whole lot of people about to put a lot of value in them “skypesos” also.

  12. I’ve got this picture in my head of Oprah Winfrey going “You’re a PM, and you’re a PM and you get a PM” because the elite glut is going to be pretty huge for 2022- this, the big MQM rollover and generous credit card MQM bonuses last year and now and it’s likely never going to be easier to get relatively high status with Delta.

  13. @beachmouse but it IS easier to get top elite status. For all those whining about PM being “easy” to get, why don’t you actually spend PM MQD equivalent ($8600-$10000) and get DM?

  14. @ Ben — For first class, MQMs are earned at 2,625x (1.75x x 1.50x). This is detailed in Delta’s examples in its FAQs.

  15. I really appreciate them doing this but wish they’d recognize the significant pricing and yield “delta” between C+ and F with a larger F multiplier.

  16. Came to say what @Gene said.

    It’s pretty generous, although with Delta’s generous MQM rollover policies (both regular rollover and special last year), limited international travel this year, and low fares in a lot of markets, a lot of people will be more constrained on MQDs this year than on MQMs already, and this will only make that worse. So it will be interesting to see if they do anything more to bolster the MQD side of the equation.

  17. @Jan- definitely. I’m a leisure flyer looking at PM for 2022 because of Delta’s retention offers when under normal circumstances I’d be lucky to hit GM. So yeah, I’m taking advantage of what’s being offered right now in hope that 2022 will be largely reopened and I can make an epic travel summer more comfortable.

  18. Delta is Setting the bar high for other airlines. They’ve been awesome through COVID in keeping air travel safe, trustworthy and disciplined.
    Proud to be a loyal Delta flyer.
    Their political stance has also been spot on inspite of what’s written in this article… keep it up!

  19. Just wish they started this from Jan 1, as I already have 53 MQSs, $7900 MQDs (have enough MQMs from last year’s rollover that I have 133k, so enough for Diamond). But I’m good with this, even taking 2 months off from flying due to my son’s birth soon, I’ll hit Diamond by August/September. And the fact that coffee and cocktails are coming back in two weeks, things are looking better.

  20. Allowing medallion qualification on award flights will substantially reduce miles hoarding from those who requalify without a lot of extra travel above qualification levels. This takes liabilities off the books for the airline. It’s a win-win. I think it has been an effective change for hotels, as back in the dark ages, award stays didn’t count for requalification and since that has changed they have taken some points liabilities off their books.

    I do hope this positive change sticks around — along with no change fees. Watch out and airline travel might get civilized… but no… they’re not going to stop cramming economy pax in like sardines.

  21. With DL and VS going down the path of award flights being elite qualifying, you’d have to think that Flying Blue will follow suit, especially if DL makes this permanent.

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