Several weeks ago, Delta announced some major changes for loyal flyers, including a complete overhaul of the SkyMiles program, plus new Sky Club access restrictions. This announcement got a level of backlash that I’ve never seen before for a loyalty program change.
Recently Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that the airline would roll back some of those SkyMiles changes based on feedback, and we now have the details of what that will look like.
In this post:
Delta revises SkyMiles & Sky Club access changes
Delta has announced the ways in which it will backtrack on some of its SkyMiles and Sky Club access restrictions. The new program looks less bad than previously announced, though I fear a bit of damage has already been done. Let’s go over the details of what Delta is adjusting (Delta also announced changes to its lifetime elite status program, which I’ll cover in a separate post).
Delta SkyMiles lowers elite status thresholds
Delta SkyMiles is modifying Medallion qualification requirements for the 2025 program year (which is what you earn toward in 2024). With the new SkyMiles program, the only metric by which you earn status is through Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs), and you can earn those through credit card spending, flying, and more.
While Delta is still significantly raising elite requirements compared to current levels, the airline is lowering them compared to what had previously been announced. Specifically:
- SkyMiles Silver Medallion status will require 5,000 MQDs, compared to the previously announced 6,000 MQDs (3,000 MQDs are currently required)
- SkyMiles Gold Medallion status will require 10,000 MQDs, compared to the previously announced 12,000 MQDs (8,000 MQDs are currently required)
- SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status will require 15,000 MQDs, compared to the previously announced 18,000 MQDs (12,000 MQDs are currently required)
- SkyMiles Diamond Medallion status will require 28,000 MQDs, compared to the previously announced 35,000 MQDs (20,000 MQDs are currently required)
On top of that, those with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card (personal or business) or those with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card (personal or business) will receive a head start of 2,500 MQDs for the current elite qualification year.
So these reductions are significant compared to the planned thresholds, but the increases are still huge compared to current requirements.
Delta offers more flexibility for Sky Club access
Delta Sky Club access is being completely overhauled, with greater restrictions on access. However, the changes won’t be quite as extreme as previously announced:
- A single Delta Sky Club visit will be defined as all entries within a 24-hour period, including at different airports, rather than a single visit to a single lounge; so you can access as many Sky Clubs as you’d like within 24 hours, while using one visit from your allotment
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card members will receive 15 visits per year (compared to the previously announced 10), while Amex Platinum Card members will receive 10 visits per year (compared to the previously announced six); this assumes that you don’t spend $75,000 per year on an eligible card, in which case you get unlimited visits
- Those with any of the above four cards will be able to purchase Sky Club access above their allotment for $50 per person
More generous options for Delta rollover MQMs
Delta is eliminating Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) as one of the methods for elite qualification. This is frustrating for many members, since they’ve been earning the rollover miles with the expectation that they can keep applying them toward future status. Initially Delta stated that MQMs would be converted into MQDs at a paltry 20:1 ratio, but the airline is now adding more flexibility:
- Those who have MQM rollover balances of over 100,000 will be given the special offer to extend their 2024 status one year for each 100,000 rollover MQMs that they have
- Delta will also provide an option to convert MQM rollover balances into MQMDs at the more generous ratio of 10:1 (compared to 20:1)
- Delta will also provide an option to convert MQM rollover balances into redeemable SkyMiles at a 2:1 ratio
New Delta Medallion Choice Benefits
Delta will be debuting several new Choice Benefits options for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members for the 2025 Medallion year, including the following:
- An MQD accelerator for the next Medallion qualification year, equal to $2,000 for Diamond Medallion members and $1,000 for Platinum Medallion members
- Re-introducing the Delta Sky Club individual membership for Diamond Medallion members, in exchange for two Choice Benefit selections
- An increased amount of bonus miles — 35,000 for Diamond Medallion members and 30,000 for Platinum Medallion members
- An increased Delta travel voucher of $350 for Diamond Medallion members and $300 for Platinum Medallion members
- A new Wheels Up statement flight credit
My take on Delta backtracking on loyalty changes
Delta really did significantly and thoughtfully backtrack on its loyalty changes here, at least to some extent. A few thoughts:
- It’s rare for airlines to backtrack on loyalty changes, so I think this shows you the level of negative feedback that Delta was getting; I think Delta completely overplayed its hand here, and the airline now realizes that
- Even with these changes being scaled back, Delta is still making status much harder to earn than before, so don’t be fooled
- Bastian has been very clear that it’s not that the changes were wrong, but rather that Delta just ripped the band-aid off too quickly; so if you’re going to hop back on the hamster wheel, keep in mind that the original changes are exactly where Delta wants to be eventually headed
- The problem is that with these changes being scaled back, you can expect not much to actually change in terms of the problem that Delta has identified, with too much demand for premium products; I bet we’re still going to see lines out of Sky Clubs, so I think this accomplishes very little
- I hope that many people who were previously loyal to Delta stopped to think about their loyalty because of these changes; even if you can still earn status, is it really worth it?
I’ve written about how Delta overplays how premium of an airline it is, and how much it overstates its competitive advantage. Furthermore, what are the perks of being loyal to Delta, really? Delta sells a vast majority of its first class class seats, and the company can’t even make a good case for why you should be loyal to the airline.
Delta promised that it would revise its planned SkyMiles and Sky Club changes, and the airline has indeed done that. These changes soften the blow quite a bit, though I’d still encourage people to really think why they bother being loyal to Delta. Keep in mind that this “relief” is just temporary, and Delta still plans to eventually add additional restrictions.
If nothing else, this is a good reminder of how if the public expresses enough frustration with loyalty program changes, an airline will listen… sometimes.
What do you make of these changes to Delta’s changes? 😉