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Delta Officially Confirms New Revenue Based Medallion Program

by on January 17, 2013 · 167 comments

in American Express, Delta

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Delta just published a press release that confirms what I wrote about yesterday: starting in 2014, US based Medallion members will need to buck up and either spend $25,000 dollars a year on a Delta American Express credit card or spend the following amount of money in addition to accruing regular Medallion Qualifying Miles / Segments:

MEDALLION QUALIFICATION
Silver Gold Platinum Diamond
MQDs $2,500 $5,000

$7,500

$12,500
and and and and
MQMs 25,000 50,000 75,000 125,000
or or or or
MQSs 30 60 100 140

“These changes are a result of considerable research that we’ve conducted including conversations with hundreds of customers, many of whom expressed a desire to see the Medallion program truly target our best customers,” said Jeff Robertson, vice president – SkyMiles. “Adding a revenue component to the SkyMiles Medallion program ensures that our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience.”

My Thoughts
$2,500 in spend for Silver is reasonable, but $12,500 for Diamond is crazy for those of us who don’t fly paid business class. While Delta is trying to attract high-value customers, I don’t see the addition of real benefits (like valuable systemwide upgrades, for example) to actually attract those customers from other airlines.

I personally don’t think making someone get a credit card and spend $25,000 is the kind of “exclusivity” that high value customers want. I think the real impetus about this move is to encourage more Delta Medallions to carry a co-branded American Express credit cards so they can hit the $25,000 spend threshold to be exempted from MQDs. The exclusivity comment is also interesting, because last year Delta gave away 25,000 MQMs (enough for silver status) during several different promotions last year, so this new move to cull the elite ranks is interesting. Clearly they’ve crunched the numbers and calculated that the increased spend (and money from American Express) will outweigh the “cheap elites” that jump ship to another airline. Before I make a final judgement about this new set-up, I want to know how the SkyMiles redemptions will change as well. If they force their elites to accrue SkyMiles via credit card and then in turn devalue those earned redeemable miles, I think this whole plan will backfire stupendously. I personally don’t like using an airline co-brand card, because I don’t like to put all of my miles and points in one basket. I may fly American, but I accrue tons of Chase points, which I can then redeem on United, Hyatt, Southwest, etc. That way, I have lots of options when it comes time to redeem.

It takes a big commitment to an airline to double down and focus all of your flying and credit card spend on that airline- especially when its Delta, who notoriously blocks partner awards (whether intentionally or not) and doesn’t even allow first class redemptions on partners. While I do think their in-flight product is among the best of domestic carriers, with generally pleasant flight crew and in-flight wifi, that isn’t enough for me to stay loyal. American, United and US Airways miles are just so much more exponentially valuable, that I could never justify focusing almost exclusively on Delta. American and United are both improving their products and adding wi-fi, so more than ever I am going to move my business to American and possibly United if they ever get their act together from a customer service perspective.

So basically, the biggest question remaining is what will happen to redeemable Skymiles accrual and redemption? If it doesn’t improve, then I certainly think Delta will cull more than just “cheap” elites as savvy travelers take their business to other airlines that provide real and transparent value through their frequent flyer programs.

What are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://twitter.com/TallTravels Andrew Fielding

    I’ve loved Delta, but the majority of my spend has been with partners on expensive international flights to places Delta doesn’t even market flights to, that’s what is so annoying about this. They don’t provide any options to the expensive destinations I go to.
    They’re likely losing my family’s three Medallion members because Delta doesn’t market flights to the destinations we pay high fares for. Kind of annoying since I do pay a premium to fly Delta domestic, a $500 premium for one itinerary last year.

  • http://twitter.com/Goat__Rodeo Goat Rodeo

    They’re going to gut their top ranks with this; unless you fly alot of international (and specifically international business) – its going to be hard to hit diamond.

  • Carl

    And their systemwides are basically useless and no elite upgrades to Hawaii.

  • mwilson77

    as someone who routinely puts 60K+ annually on my reserve card for the MQM kickers, this is actually a good thing for me in that it will hopefully thin out the diamond herds a bit.

    Further – if you are using Vanilla Reloads/Bluebird properly, how hard would it be to hit 25K in spend in a year? Seems the only ppl this is affecting are low spend plats and diamonds who don’t own an Amex or don’t use it exclusively.

  • http://twitter.com/robbyshields Robby Shields

    Annoying. I was planning on using a credit voucher on a $525 RT ticket from ORD-IST. Do you think vouchers count towards spend? I was looking forward to getting 10K MQMs, but won’t help me much if my flight was $125!

  • Cocoisthecat

    Delta stinks — always has, always will

  • http://twitter.com/annabelleblue Annalise Kaylor

    I’ll definitely be focusing on another airline now, which is a shame, because I fly so much between Delta hubs (ATL – MSP – DTW) and am based in ATL. I spend enough to continue my GM status with them, but until the award redemptions get better, I like other credit cards for redemption.

  • http://twitter.com/davidrae David Rae

    so annoyed was going to actually go for status this year (my partner already has it, if all goes well flying United to the inauguration this weekend will be switching airlines.

  • thepointsguy

    These changes don’t get into effect until 2014 but I don’t imagine voucher usage to affect mqm accrual

  • kimpossibble

    I already aim for the $25K spend on my Platinum SkyMiles Amex for the 10K MQM bonus, which I usually need to requalify for status, so this isn’t a huge deal for me. If it thins the elite herd and makes it easier for me to get upgraded, then all the better!

  • http://twitter.com/TallTravels Andrew Fielding

    I didn’t think about it that way, but that may mean higher upgrade %s as a platinum (go from 90% to 100%) which may make it worth it to stay…but EXP on AA isn’t that hard to get.

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  • Bgriff

    I don’t think these spend levels are that unlikely, unless you are really gaming the system to spend the absolute minimum required to hit a higher status level–people flying coach to MNL, for example, might come in under the required MQDs, but anyone with some mix of domestic flights included should easily hit the dollars.

  • Sfobuddy

    The biggest issue is that you have to spend $12,500 AND fly 125,000.
    One could easily spend that amount domestically, but it won’t yield that many miles.
    I flew 180,000 last year, but I have no idea how much I spent ;-)

  • Guest

    If you live in a hub city, I think it’s much more palatable to use airline co-branded cards and put all your eggs in that one basket.

    Also, I havent seen a post about it yet but US Airways is apparently testing a new boarding order a la United. I ran into it at LAX. They said they are testing it in “select cities.”

    Basically, they were letting Charimans board with first class and US Airways silver were dropped from that second group which is now just Star/USAir platinum and gold. I dont know what other groups were lumped in with USAir silver (and whether Star Silver means anything to them).

  • http://twitter.com/CUBuff01 Dannon Shiff

    For someone living in a Delta hub, does it make sense to look at accruing miles with a SM parket like Korean or KLM while still flying Delta?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612676111 Tarun Tejpal

    My company used to allow the use of our personal cards to pay for business travel many years ago – after 2008 we switched travel policies and all airfare billing goes to the company corporate account – in fact, this is how it works at all major companies now – the use of personal cards is not allowed anymore – which sucks since you don’t have the extra insurance and mileage points – NOW – wth Delta requiring such stringent standards – all they are doing is screwing people even more by having to force the use of an Amex account – I am Million Miler with Delta and now I am going to send them a letter – Silver status is basically useless as well for $2500 in spending PLUS 25,000 MQM – you will never get upgraded and you do not even get into Economy Comfort for free – you still pay for it. WTF? Well the only choice now is to used DELTA Amex Reserve for all spending I guess. I don’t like being bullied and this is what this feels like. I am going to redeem all Delta Miles and move on to another Loyalty Prorgram.

  • VeritasIII

    From what I can see, they are giving us two years of advanced notice before this would eliminate our Medallion status (in January 2015). I don’t know what people want, but this seems very generous to me. The spend thresholds look pretty easy to make, if you actually fly for your status like I do. I’m looking forward to fewer Medallions and maybe more upgrades?

  • Carl4949

    The only problem here is that it does not credit dollars spent on partner tickets. My most expensive tickets tend to be international partner flights, where I’ll pay for business class and rack up massing elite qualifying miles.

  • Joh

    So I assume the $$$ clock actually starts 1/1/14 and thus goes into effect the 2015 calendar year? Just curious since they’re announcing in Jan if the $$$ clock starts now.

    Also, I assume tix bought on partner airlines and miles credited to Delta don’t count? There goes all my Alaska flight $$$.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jlbdmz Jason Lee-Bakke

    So is this the revenue-based program, or is another major change coming to SkyMiles?

  • kc55419

    As someone who flys soley domestic out of an expensive hub (MSP) I don’t think it will make much of a difference. I can’t imagine flying 50k miles without spending $5,000.

    I look at it as:
    - Average roundtrip flight = 2,000 miles
    - 25 roundtrip flights per year to get to Gold
    - Each roundtrip ticket must average $200 to hit MQD threhold.

    Am I missing something?

    Now when you consider carryover miles it does get harder but not significantly with the mid-week fares I see out of MSP. I also book through a corporate travel agency so I also don’t have a good AMEX option and I can see potential problems arising in crediting MQD’s properly.

  • Santastico

    Do you have to spend the $$ on a Delta Amex card or any other card? Also, does the credit card has to be on the same name as the Medallion member? I usually travel a lot on Delta for business so the $12,500 threshold can be easily attained by couple international business class paid fares. However, as others mentioned here, the card won’t be under my name not it will be a Delta Amex since my company will pay for my trips and they will use their own credit card. On the other hand, since I am the one flying and getting the miles it is actually me spending that much money to buy Delta tickets. If it has to be on a Delta Amex card under my name, this is a no go and I will try to move all my flights to another airline since I don’t spend $12,500 per year on personal trips for family vacation.

  • Joseph M

    As a Delta GM with an Delta Platinum card soon to be FO, I can certainly live with the program revisions. That is provided that the mileage redemptions don’t change. I was certainly expecting something much more Draconian. In all honesty the fear of the changes had made me start exploring other loyalty programs. I’m glad I don’t have to do that for now.

  • http://twitter.com/Drew1980 Andrew Amador

    Not terribly surprising… Southwest was the first to switch to a revenue-based program. Before that, I was redeeming free flights on them all the time; so this will probably become industry standard especially since Airlines are squeezing every penny they can out of their rewards programs. Oil is going up, and even Delta is considering purchasing their own oil refinery. The sad part is, this will eventually force us to choose 1 or 2 airlines and lower our options UNLESS they don’t change their redemption policies. Kind of like the British Class system… you can be at the top, but it will cost $$$

  • HikerT

    Re: “I personally don’t think making someone get a credit card and spend $25,000 is the kind of “exclusivity” that high value customers want.”

    Except they aren’t doing that. They are simply providing another option for those who aren’t high value customers, but game the system with spend generated MQMs. I think this is best outcome anyone could have ever dreamed of.

  • Kgraham648

    So if you spend 25K on your Delta Amex, you’re exempt from MQD req’s, but you still have to hit the MQM and MQS req’s for each status level…

  • MarkJ

    As a Delta Diamond I was fearing much worse. Mileage gamers and flyers just running off their carryover miles will be hurt. I actually view it as a positive if we lose a few Diamonds over this and the upgrade fight won’t be so bad.

  • Adpage

    Will this include spend on Skyteam Partners?

    I can hit the spend thresholds while getting my status, but I rack up a ton of my MQM and spend by purchasing and flying on Aeroflot and Alitalia.

    PS- I would LOVE to see American stop redesigning their logo and take advantage of this to pump new features into AAdvantage to try to steal elites

  • PadiThema

    Well it is more reasonable and fair for diamonds who paid to fly etc, guess most of my college buddies will lose diamond status now

  • Roaddog

    “$12,500 for Diamond is crazy for those of us who don’t fly paid business class”

    Really? If you fly 125K MQMs, butt-in-seat, even in economy, this is pretty much done. This will help eliminate those who game the system from the higher tiers, certainly making it unpopular in these circles, but making for a better experience for those who earn their status as the airline intended.

    As a “real” DM (meaning earned via butt-in-seat, and that’s not intended to be flame-bait, honest) based out of a mega hub, I’m looking forward to less competition for upgrades.

  • Dieuwer

    Forget about spend, mileage earning rates on airline partners just have been devalued. For example, 50% for economy on KE.

  • DavidYoung2

    This is silly. I fly extensively for business — BUT — the Company makes us charge all Company-related airfare on the corporate Visa card. No exceptions. So I guess Delta will cease to be my preferred airline for business travel, which includes three international business class trips each year, plus one domestic trip per month. So long Delta……

  • DavidYoung2

    You forget that some companies require you to purchase airfare on their Company credit cards — which more likely than not is something other than a co-branded Delta / Amex card

  • G3ek

    The money requirements should be higher AND it should be you spend so much OR you fly this many miles OR this many segments.

    For me who spent $13000 last year and I don’t even have silver sucks. They need to fix this. So if you spend a ton for flights but don’t have that many miles you can still qualify.

  • DeltaATLFlyer

    As a weekly domestic business traveler from it’s main hub in Atlanta, this is more than welcome news. Delta has put together a thoughtful system that rewards the people who keep them in business the most. It’s not to say that people who fly on the cheapest fares aren’t important, but business travelers are their high revenue customers. My firm spends millions in airfare a year and $12,500 is a drop in the bucket for me. My average tickets are well over $500 each. Let’s hope more upgrades clear with a smaller Diamond pool. The other side of this argument is they could have not offered a $25k spend on Amex at all and simply required a spend on actual tickets. I’m all about the points game, but when it comes to status, let’s reward those who rightfully earned it first.

  • Roaddog

    Nowhere that I’ve seen does Delta have a requirement that the MQDs are spent via a cobranded Amex. As an alternative to MQDs, you can have the MQD requirement *waived* by hitting a $25K minimum spend on a Delta Amex. Please read the release before freaking out.

  • http://redmonk.com/dberkholz Donnie Berkholz

    Doesn’t seem like a big deal to me for anyone but mileage runners. I’m Platinum and spent close to double the threshold just on domestic coach travel. My tickets aren’t unusually expensive, typically LUT fare classes — as someone else pointed out, this is something like $250/ticket for each ~2500-mile round trip.

  • Yunet002

    The major issue I see is the system wide decrease of partner MQMs earned. I think they’re trying to slip this through everyone’s radar. For example starting March 1, economy on Korean Air will only earn 50% MQMs, and Business and First vary from 50% to 100% depending on fare class. This definitely lessens my incentive to stick with Skyteam.

  • Urbanist

    This doesn’t seem bad at all. How in the world would you rack up 75,000 MQM’s without spending close to $7,500 (the same could be said for Diamond).

    Of course, the redemption is what really matters. If Delta becomes more difficult to redeem miles on, especially in the upgrade category, I’ll be gone in a heartbeat.

    It took me over an hour yesterday to book an M Class fare on a Delta flight to Berlin, which I was able to upgrade to 1st class. I called, and was quoted a fare of over $4,000, and I found the same fare online for $1,700. Delta is fine when you don’t actually have to deal with the company.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bperez1172 Ben Perez

    That was the pointguys… Point… It’s asking a lot for someone to go “All in” on a Delta Amex and spend 25k just to meet a requirement that didn’t exist previously. Besides, all of their cards don’t even give 2 points per dollar spent… I’m finding the reasons to stay with Delta few.

  • Urbanist

    Why? If you’re flying that much, then you’ll easily earn the MQD to keep your status.

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  • Cory

    I am currently GM, dropping to Silver Medallion come March 1st. I fully understand this. The amount of flying I do year to year should not make me elite but I am. I hit it once largely by flying to Australia on a paid ticket and several redemptions of vouchers and have maintained it since, in large part due to rollovers.

    So, I don’t mind that I’ll likely be losing my status. I was re-assessing my flying habits as is, especially given how much value AA or UA miles have relative to DL. This will probably mean that within the next year or 2 I will be without status anywhere, and that’ll be fine. I won’t be putting money on Delta cobranded cards to try and requalify. The value in status just isn’t there for me. I’ll focus on RDMs over EQMs and see where things fall.

  • Guest

    Reading comprehension isn’t in the job requirements for a lot of the business travelers who are pissing and moaning here.

  • Roaddog

    My point is that Delta is not asking you to go “all in” with their Amex. This is just an option that you can use to waive the MQD requirement if you’re earning a lot of non-flying MQMs. If you earn your MQMs by flying, it’s going to be tough to NOT hit the $12.5K MQDs. If you are truly a loyal Delta frequent flyer, you get the rewards. If you’re gaming the system, it’s harder to do so now.

  • Roaddog

    Not if you want upgrades and top-tier treatment. As a Skyteam Elite flying Delta, you’ll get some benefits… SkyPriority (bags, check in, boarding), lounge access (elite plus only), extra baggage, and that’s pretty much it. https://www.skyteam.com/en/Why-SkyTeam/SkyTeam-Benefits/

  • Roaddog

    Exactly. Nowhere in te Delta materials does it say that the MQDs must be charged to a cobranded Amex. Is this a mass hallucination?

  • taraj

    I am w/ you that I spend the $10K to requalify. But on the new system you will NOT requalify. Why? You HAVE to fly 25K miles AND then spend the $25K, not one or the other. So those who used the bonus MQM miles from Amex to help re-qualify, this wont be there anymore. I am thinking Amex will loose tons of customers, b/c the bonus MQMs wont help anymore, which is why most people use the card to begin with (not the actual miles, but the bonus MQMs…)

  • kimpossibble

    That is not the way I understand the new system to work. Before, to qualify for Gold, I had to somehow collect 50,000 MQMs, 10,000 of which I earn by spending $25k on my Amex card.

    Under the new system, I still have to collect 50,000 MQMs, but have the additional requirement of spending $5k in airfares. However, the $5k requirement is waived if I charge $25k on my Amex, which I was going to do anyway to get the 10,000 MQMs. So its a wash. Someone correct me if I am wrong about this.

  • kimpossibble

    The way I understand it is that if you are the one flying, you get the MQD credit for the price of the ticket, regardless of who pays and how.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7547UCMYJAYJUKJTKLC6CEIIFU Matt

    Here’s my question…when do the MQDs count? For example, if someone purchases a ticket in November, but doesn’t fly until January, do the MQDs accrue on the purchase date or on the travel date? I’m assuming it would be on the travel date, don’t you think?

    I just checked my spending/miles for 2012. If this new policy had been in effect then, I would still keep my lowly FO status, but just barely. I paid for $2,556.36 in airfare (including a $600 voucher). Whew!

  • AKold

    You also get MQMs when you hit $25K spend.

  • Guest

    As a senior citizen who flies “cheap” this is a killer. Goodbye Delta.

  • Hess

    I have been thinking for some time that it would be so much easier to just get the American Express Centurion Card which comes with Delta Platinum elite status. The annual fee of $2500 is probably worth it when I look at being able to then use a non-Delta card for the majority of my spending and get points in other programs for hotels, etc. Currently I do most of my spending on an Amex Delta card to get the 20,000 MQMs. I have no choice but to pick Delta because they really are the only airline with service from our town. When I applied for the Amex Platinum card 2 years ago I asked about the Centurion Card and the agent said Yes, I would be approved for it if I wanted it instead. If they just didn’t charge $7500 to get the card it would be an easier decision, and then if they dropped the Platinum status later I’d be one unhappy flier!

  • http://www.hundredandonethings.com Thomas C.

    I’m an American Exec. Plat. who just did a status match/challenge to Delta Platinum. My travel is likely to decrease substantially next year, and I’ve got lifetime Platinum with American, so my thought was that by getting 2nd highest tier in a 2nd Airline (with better routes out of NYC), I’d have better options — second highest tier on two different airlines sounded like a good idea. Now, it looks like I’d be unlikely to keep even Platinum on Delta. Coupled with the nominal value of a SkyPeso, compared to an AA Mile, I’m wondering whether I made a bad decision…

  • thepointsguy

    Correct.. It has to be $12,500 spent on fares.

  • Dewhit6959

    All of these types who keep moaning about having to use their company credit cards to charge their airfare are the same type of shrills that use to scream about having to use their personal credit card for travel expenses and wait for their expense reports to clear and the check cut.
    I know that some companies would be glad to be rid of the admin involved in corporate cards if all their road people would pay their bills and maintain enough credit to cover their expenses.

    If it’s not this…it’s that. Quit making travel more of a job than the actual job.

  • Dewhit6959

    Oh yeah….the new Delta plan is good for Delta. Is that illegal or immoral?

    The rewards schematic is being rewrote so the occasional or status chaser will have to choose which aspect of travel bonus you want to go for…airline miles, hotel points, car , etc. etc.

    Regular week in/week out business travelers shouldn’t have any problems with the spend.

  • Shaneous

    Those don’t count. Only Delta flights using Delta ticket stock count. That was the other killer

  • Shaneous

    No. Skyteam partners don’t count

  • http://travelbloggerbuzz.blogspot.com/ TravelBloggerBuzz

    The point is that the taboo has been broken…A legacy airline has started it and the others will follow. Expect continued “enhancements”. The redemption enhancement is coming, I say 2015. The end…

  • Flt

    So last year I flew three times to Singapore from NYC, and that got me gold status. Each flight cost ~$800. I guess new rules will “force” me to fly 7x to Singapore at that cost, even though I would be making 140k MQMs. Not quite sure how that’s an improvement.

  • Jc2884

    I think the real downside of this announcement is for the skyteam partnership. When flying internationally on a delta skyteam partner, you can earn MQMs, but not MQDs for delta. This effectively means that your partner flights don’t count towards your status. Yes codeshares count, but so many partner flights are not available as code shares. Since one of the main benefits of the alliances is the ability to fly on multiple allied carriers while earning status on your home carrier, this diminishes skyteam as a choice for U.S. flyers. I am probably going to start banking with U.S. Air and hope that it and American merge their programs under oneworld.

  • Benthelefty

    Maybe my company is an anomaly but we can use personal cards for airfare/hotel purchases…fortune 200

  • Anthony B

    Another major issue everyone should be concerned about is that the new qualification rules with MQDs is ONLY based on revenue on DELTA coded flights. So if you buy flights with Sky Team partners now, you get no credit in the MQDs department towards your elite status. Someone like myself who flys around Europe and has become used to using the Sky Team network will now have little benefit when it comes to my Elite Status on Delta. I was also told that United has been working on a similar program ever since Southwest came out with theirs. I am sure it will be revealed soon.

  • http://brianherbert.com brianherbert

    I’m living abroad (Korea) and rarely fly Delta anymore. As a Diamond now, if I can’t count flights on partners towards my MQD’s then I’m done flying Delta altogether.

  • http://brianherbert.com brianherbert

    I’m in the exact same boat as you. They’re willing to lose us as customers to add these spend requirements and that makes me sad :(

  • JoeS

    This will change very little for me in my situation. I spent over $2,500 on flights last year and just hit silver with the standard MQMs. I mostly fly domestic from NYC to places like Chicago and Atlanta, so I’m not really raking in the MQMs here. I am nervous about the redemption changes so I’m going to do my darnedest to get enough miles to go to Europe, Morocco, or South America this year.

    One question I do have: it seems like people who will be affected by this are those who either get (a) incredibly cheap, long (high MQM) flights, or (b) those who get lots of MQMs from sources other than butt-in-seat flying.

    For (a), I am not even sure such a thing exists. For (b), I imagine this is mostly done on Amex co-brand cards, meaning that you are likely exempt from the MQD question anyway. Is there something obvious I’m missing with all of these complaints?

  • Tomaphone

    Not sure if I’m missing something, but do MQD roll over like MQM? If not, this new change would seem to make rollover miles far less useful. There’s not really any point in rolling over 20,000 miles towards next year’s silver or gold if I’ll have to spend $2,500/$5,000 next year, which is basically enough to get silver or gold without the rollover.

  • http://brianherbert.com brianherbert

    It’s a big deal for people who fly mostly on partner airlines and still spend a lot of money since they will no longer accrue MQDs.

  • http://brianherbert.com brianherbert

    I just spoke with Delta regarding MQDs. Since I fly mostly on partner airlines, I cannot accrue enough dollars spent on Delta coded flights to maintain Diamond status.

    I told them I would leave for another airline. They responded telling me to buy tickets for other people on the Delta coded flights flying with me to hit my spend requirement. That still isn’t good enough.

    Sorry, that’s not a good way to keep my loyalty. I fly Delta whenever I have the chance and I usually end up paying a premium to do so. I also evangelize their product any chance I get and you can bet I won’t be recommending their program in the future. I understand they need to do whatever they can to make a little more money but they should be looking for ways to improve their products, make spending time with them more enjoyable and provide premium levels of service to people who shell out more cash, not penalizing those that are still loyal customers.

    It’s all a sad reminder that we’re just numbers on a spreadsheet.

  • newlimos

    I heard that there is a group locally of people here in Metro Detroit researching a possible class action against Delta for possible anti-trust based on the devalue of skymiles and some other issues. A person showed me some of the old award charts and they did a graph on the value of a skymile correlated with the merging of airline companies creating less competition. It was a rather interesting conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/benbrooksny Ben Brooks

    A few thoughts:
    -Airline FF programs are meant to drive loyalty not just serve as a rebate program. To this end the best customers to an airline aren’t those who fly the most miles (the programs are structurally flawed in this regard) but those who help them generate the most profit. Even if you simplify to just revenue, it is a far superior measure than miles flown. In fact, the MORE miles you fly the MORE an airline’s costs go up (fuel, crew time, a/c utilization) so the ideal situation is maximum fares with minimum input costs (in this case miles as a proxy for cost).
    -In terms of all of your points in same proverbial basket, this is ideal for the airline. If you think of other industries the strategy is to entangle customers (Wells Fargo does this well in retail banking and Apple in consumer electronics). It is all about maximizing share of wallet from the customer. DL is clearly trying to do that here.
    -I’m not sure what my conclusion is about the alliance implications here. The point of global JV’s with carriers like AF/KLM is a “metal neutral” operation. I assume codeshare tickets bought from DL but flown on AF metal count towards MQD?
    -I almost wish DL went hole hog and just moved to revenue like hotel programs, but I do think this is a nice way to weed out Expedia fliers from truly loyal biz travelers.
    -25K in spend in a year on a CC isn’t that much (SPG Amex gives Gold status with 30K in spend)
    -There is A LOT of analysis done (and likely management consultants) behind the scenes and I’d bet that frequent use of DL Amex influences flight buying patterns
    -The dollars seem reasonable to me (KC55419 does the math below) even if flying coach at all levels. In fact, DL and UA both do a good job of costing out each elite perk at each tier, and comparing that with the revenue potential for that customer (my friend does this for one of them) so frankly having a Diamond that doesn’t hit 12.5K could mean they are negative contribution to the loyalty program.
    -If you think of game dynamics (just think of that November anxiety we all get when we think of qualification by YE) this will just add another dynamic that people will focus on throughout the year and drive people to fly DL when in doubt, potentially even when it is more expensive. That’s the ideal customer for DL and often how I buy with UA, frequently paying more but getting to go n/a and enjoying elite benefits and a superior flight experience in return.

  • thepointsguy

    Agree that the advance notice is nice.. very uncharacteristic of how they usually make SkyMiles changes

  • thepointsguy

    Well what if your flights are on Skyteam partners that don’t accrue any MQDs?

  • thepointsguy

    Well this new system isn’t going to make every Diamond a “real” DM, because you can still bypass BIS by spending $25k on any Delta cobrand card.

  • thepointsguy

    Not on Delta Gold or Reserve cards..but I see your point

  • thepointsguy

    But what is partner flights don’t count towards MQDs?

  • thepointsguy

    The foreign SkyTeam partner programs are much less lucrative and if you lose Delta elite status by banking miles elsewhere, you probably won’t get upgraded- ever

  • thepointsguy

    Shaneous- do you see that specifically stated anywhere? I haven’t seen anything saying MQDs are only on Delta operated flights

  • thepointsguy

    What makes you think that they are going to change the Medallion program, but not the regular SkyMiles program? Stay tuned…

  • thepointsguy

    I haven’t heard anything about MQDs rolling over

  • thepointsguy

    I think you have a lot of valid points.. I’m sure a lot of consultants and accountants have crunched the numbers, but you never know what will actually happen until it is rolled out. You can’t model what your customers will do- especially when your competition offers better loyalty programs.

    I wouldn’t have minded these new spending “enhancements” if they actually came along with increased perks.. like usable Systemwide Upgrades and a more sane/usable redeemable SkyMiles program.

  • thepointsguy

    Anthony- have you seen the MQDs only awarded on Delta operated flights quoted anywhere?

  • thepointsguy

    It’s an improvement for the Golds that spend twice that.. in the new model you’d be dropped down and their upgrade percentage would improve.

  • thepointsguy

    Oh, TBB don’t be SO doomsday!

  • thepointsguy

    If you aren’t going to be able to maintain status on Delta or spend on their credit card, in my opinion you might as well just remain AA Plat and accrue miles that are exponentially more valuable than Delta SkyMiles

  • MKLC

    The curious thing is that it is possible now to spend $25K AND have it translate to 10K MQM. That will not be possible under the new system starting in 2014, when you will have to fly more AND spend more just to stay in place…not a good deal!

  • CMH322

    I have been Diamond since late 2010. All I have noticed is that my upgrades clear at the gate, if at all, anymore.

    My status has always been attained on the MQS requirement (161 in 2012). Since I connect every week, I am looking at $12,500/35 round trips for an avergae ticket of $357. Pretty much all tickets on my routes in the high-400 to low-500 dollar range. So, if I am going to keep flying enough to keep the status, it will not impact me.

    For all of the doom/gloom I have heard leading up to this, I am actually quite happy. Maybe I’ll start to see upgrades clear at my window again!

  • Roaddog

    Yep. So you can still game the system, you just need to devote more spend to doing it.

  • Roaddog

    In the scenario you’ve described, yes, it’s a wash. The members upon whom this is likely to have the most impact are those who reach high status via low-cost, high-mileage discount fares AND can’t or don’t devote $25K of spend to a Delta Amex. If you pay average prices for your tickets and hit the MQM thresholds, you will likely also hit the MQD thresholds as well.

  • Roaddog

    This is actually a really good question. Tickets purchased with vouchers are considered paid/revenue tickets and thus earn MQMs. The voucher is essentially a gift certificate and form of payment for the normal, revenue ticket. Will the dollars paid via voucher count toward MQDs? This is a question I’d be curious to hear Delta’s answer on. I expect the answer to be yes.

  • http://twitter.com/darrinearl Darrin Earl

    Isn’t that one of the two major points on this?
    1) Please spend $$$ with DL, not SkyTeam (in order to hit MQD)
    2) Alternatively, please spend $25k with the DL AMEX

    I’m also guessing that these apply to folks who may be “mega-rolling” over a ton of SkyMiles and actually need to spend now to keep status.

    As Roaddog said, as someone who flies DL primarily for work, these requirements are a non-event… as long as they post properly from our travel agent (big if!)

    The big question is… so…. how does this help? Will it really “cull” a noticeable # of “undeserving elites”?

    Last week I was on an RJ flight out of DFW that had 43 people on the upgrade list… on a plane with 64 economy seats.

  • http://twitter.com/darrinearl Darrin Earl

    One thing missing here – what happened to the upping of the F/J paid class bonus from 50% to 100% that was reported earlier?

  • Joeschmo

    How do they determine the amount spent? Is it by the cost of the ticket linked to the skymiles number? If I book a ticket for myself and my wife on the same itinerary can the cost be applied to one of us or will it be split? I will hit diamond and the spend level with no problem and pleant to spare. My wife wiil be silver or gold but has no chance of hitting the spend limit.

  • Guest

    I spent over $5k each for me and my wife to qualify us as golds- but that included AirFrance and Korean- I could switch to FlyingBlue but what about domestic flights.. sad to say byebye Delta and Skyteam .. was great while it lasted no longer can I recommend you. Now to decide Oneworld or StarAlliance

  • Jc2884

    The FAQs from delta state:

    “MQDs are the total of the SkyMiles member’s spend on Delta-marketed flights (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code), inclusive of the base fare and applicable surcharges, but exclusive of government- imposed taxes and fees.

    Flight spend for travel on other airlines ticketed through a Delta channel (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) will also be included in MQDs. ”

    That pretty much kills skyteam for anyone who wants to bank miles with delta. Sure NYC – CDG will always have a delta code share available on AF/KLM, but there are so many international flights that won’t, especially when you get away from Europe. Plus delta is reducing the mileage earning levels for flights on skyteam partners.

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  • DB

    I’m banking all miles to Alaska – still get most of the dellta Medallion perks without the spend requirement and mileage from sky team partners!

  • Subnubs

    I’m right there with you, I’m an American expat (and DM member) living in Germany and have switched 100% to Lufthansa. Auf wiedersehen Delta!!

  • Subnubs

    The Skymiles program is garbage already! I was cheated out of 6,000 MQMs earlier this year because Saudia, the most recent Skyteam member, doesn’t honor code-share flights with miles. I appealed to both Skyteam and Delta directly and they both told me to take a hike, Delta added “read the fine print on the Saudia website next time!” Just aweful!!!

  • exwannabe

    If you live ex-US you are not subject to the MQD spend rules.

  • http://brianherbert.com brianherbert

    That doesn’t help if you maintain an address in the US though. They can’t make exceptions.

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  • Jim875

    I am with others here who feel that this is not at all a difficult requirement for those that actually fly on delta flights, not code-shared. If you don’t fly a lot of actual BIS on Delta, but generally qualify through code-share, than does it really matter if the few flights a year you actually fly BIS on Delta you don’t have top-tier status?

    I wish the spend requirement was higher or you could somehow hit the Diamond with more spend and not segments. As a purely domestic traveler, it is very difficult to get 140 segments unless you literally travel every single week of the year, but $25k in spend is very easy to hit!

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  • Red G.

    Hmm, that’s fine. I’ll eventually drop Delta and keep my AF-KLM Flying Blue. Flying Blue has easier requirements to satisfy (such as only 15 segs toward Silver – and that’s on ANY SkyTeam flight). Generally, status and benefits are good across carriers within the alliance.

    So think about joining Flying Blue and just reciprocate the perks on Delta flights!

  • Red G.

    Yup. Hey, meet halfway and join (then become elite at) AF-KLM Flying Blue instead. You’d still be spending money and flying Delta or Alaska locally but then earning miles/segs toward Flying Blue. 15 segs on Delta gets silver elite status. Alaska earns miles only.

    Something to think about!

  • Red G.

    And you know what else? Delta doesn’t even allow for one-way redemption! Oh, but KLM does…on Delta flights. Exactly, thank you!

  • Roaddog

    The Flying Blue option works if your goal is redemptions. I fly 2-10x a month for my job. I’m more concerned with upgrades. You’re not going to get upgraded on DL metal with non-DL Skyteam Elite+.

  • Red Guevarra

    Who says you can’t? Flying Blue is ideal for both redemption AND reaching upper tiers faster/easier, which is then good for you in terms of upgrades alliance-wide and even on AS metal. Go to their website and just give them a try.

    Like I said on another comment, just 15 segs on DL gets you silver at FB. And so on. So even starting from zero this year is fine.

  • Red Guevarra

    Right on! MP lets you earn, for example, on DL and then redeem on AA. And vice versa. It’s a little known trick people should know. And non-AS segs still count toward MVP status.

  • Red Guevarra

    You can redeem domestic on FB – in fact, only 30K r.t. mainland to Hawaii. Go ahead and join!

  • Red G.

    Also on FB, their standard 25K r.t. “within North America” award includes Mexico and the Caribbean. Only AA’s off-peak awards match this – but FB’s is standard.

  • Red G.

    Hi Joe – there are are a couple of options: bank all your Delta-flown miles into either Alaska Mileage Plan or AF-KLM Flying Blue.

    (Alaska is more advantageous if you travel a lot domestically and are open to flying AS and AA as well, because you can bank those other miles into it.)

    Read about Alaska’s award chart from their website, usually 40K for off-peak Oct-May travel to Europe (compare with 35K on US Airways, but it’s only Jan-Feb), and you’d be on AA or BA flights.

    As for Flying Blue…occasionally, and depending on your originating airport, AF-KLM releases promotional award seats NoAm-Europe for just 25K! However, watch the fees. Their standard anytime NoAm-Europe is 50K. Still better than DL’s 60K, though.

    Compare then choose :)

  • Red G.

    …and hello Alaska OR Air France-KLM. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to stop flying Delta – just put those flown miles into either Alaska or KLM.

    If brand flexibility is important, go with Alaska, where you can earn miles flown on Delta and American, among others. If faster status and alliance-wide perks are key, then KLM it is.

  • Red G.

    I hear ya, dude. When SWA did away with credits in favor of that idiotic point system, I said sayonara. But you know, as soon as I get an email advertising rock bottom fares – cut to me, sitting at the airport holding an A-group card!

    In all honesty, there’s really no future luxury value in flying SWA; no matter how often you fly it and earn those points you’re still never going to experience first class cabin service there. All it does is get you from one place to another while munching on peanuts. I swear as soon as I empty up my points, I’m done with SWA.

    Then cut to me, years later – sitting at the airport holding an A-group card!

  • Bobc5635

    If I spend $25,000 on my Delta Reserve card to achieve Diamond status do all purchases count or just those for Delta flights?

  • thepointsguy

    All purchases

  • thepointsguy

    Right, but you can still spend $13,000 and if you only accrue enough MQMs for Silver, you’ll only be silver. These new changes don’t help you get higher status based on your spend

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  • Prw_glgs

    I fly business to Europe all the time through KLM. I guess it is time to switch to them to .

  • Pat

    will be interesting to see if MQD’s will roll over like MQM’s… (according to the cust service rep I just spoke w/, the current plan does not address MQD rollover yet)

  • Minneapolis Flyer

    As CEO of a large organization my husband flies Delta almost exclusively. However, the company policy is that he must use the company’s master card issued in his name to book his flights. I am a little confused as to who earns the MQD’s. Would the company earn the MQD’s or would his Delta purchases be applied to his Medallion account? hummmmm

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  • Arcanum

    What’s the incentive for Delta to give you Diamond benefits if you’re not buying their tickets and taking their flights?

  • Arcanum

    One small merchant told me she pays 7% commission to Amex on each transaction. Delta presumably gets a cut of that on the co-branded cards. One would guess the number-crunchers have decided that cut is enough to offset the cost of those DMs who bypass the MQD through spending.

  • Jboekhoud

    Then just change your address to the international one. Problem solved.

  • PayLess

    there’s no way unless her business has been flagged as a huge fraud risk and if she is she should get a Square or something similar.

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  • Lizzie

    Hi PG, I fly a lot internationally and am looking for free business upgrades from a rewards program or credit card. I see delta gives 2 free international upgrades a year for platinum members….does anyone else offer something similar? Thanks!!

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  • Jason

    I think it is very fair. The market is flooded with too many executive platinum that have achieved this status using cheap tickets and mileage runs. Want status? pay more!

  • shosh

    It’s nice to be medallion on Delta- much better flight experience!
    As far as redeeming the miles- I SOLD mine! to pay for more tickets. Does not affect medallion status and I get the itinerary I need. Award travel is OFTEN impossible to get your way, for the points you want to give up.

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  • TCK

    My question is if I am an Alaska Airline elite, will I still be treated as an elite on Delta once this kicks in? There’s no spend limit on Alaksa, so if I bank 50,000 miles with Alaska and earn Gold, will I be treated as Gold on Delta as I am now?

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  • Dnznpnda

    I hate to be so ignorant but what is the big deal on having MQ status? Priority boarding?First bag free?Posible upgrades? Lounge room access?Whats the “big” plus?

  • http://rfreeborn.blogspot.com/ rfreeborn

    With Delta Reserve you get 15k MQM @ $30k then another 15k MQM @ $60k in annual spending. When travelling for business, that’s *not* too hard. I’m on the road every other week or so and am pushing ~ $52k spend so far. All in, every year I’m falling into that horrible 50k miles between PM and DM. This change will mean nada in my book.

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  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    Mileage runners, cheap promotion seekers, low budget travelers: they will all be hit.

    Overall, I think this is a very good program.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    Not sure which dollars count as revenue, but United, for example, excludes taxes and fees. And taxes and fees are a lot. But the gist of your message makes sense.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    I agree. If you pay less than 10 cents per actual flown mile, than perhaps you don’t deserve to be Elite.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    Think of it this way. Years of business travel used to give nice perks. Now these perks might be over.

    Someone ELSE is paying for that travel, and that someone else can optimize whatever metric they want (but not your ability to get an Elite status).

    Don’t like that? Quit that job and get a local, non-traveling job.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    That small merchant needs to change their merchant processor.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    Think of it this way: the world is changing.

  • http://www.lmfao.ss/ Willie The Shake Speare

    Good riddance to both of you.

  • Rich

    I feel like I’m missing something here. I’ve been a Diamond/Platinum member with Delta for years. I pretty much alternate every year. This year I reached Diamond and went a bit over. I have a Delta Reserve so the MQD doesn’t really apply to me. But if it were in effect for 2014 (and it is not) I am at $21k MQD for 2013. You say that it’s not at all practical to hit $12.5 if you’re not flying international. I have two international flights for the year. One I paid for a business class ticket, one coach. Am I doing something completely wrong? Why would $12.5 be hard to hit? I agree with you that the partner flights policy is a gigantic rip. But I in no way believe that $12.5 is “crazy.” I’m also a $60k a year Reserve spender so none of this really impacts me. I too say “Thin the herd. Bring it on.”

  • Travis

    After they coupled this with the latest changes awarding diamonds with only 4 global upgrades a year and taking away complimentary coast to coast upgrades I cancelled my delta reserve card and left delta. I’m now most likely going to status match American where their top tier require 25k less miles and better rewards. I’m 1k with united and would stay there but for my hatred of EWR. American and united mikes are much more valuable when booking award travel too. Delta is completely out of touch. They are scrambling to update their program to look more like the others but not coming close to offering the same value.

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