Delta’s New Program Helps Elites Earn Back Status After a Major Life Event

May 8, 2019

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Earning airline elite status is a bit like an obsession. You do crazy things to maintain it, and when you lose it, you have serious withdrawals when you don’t get that first class upgrade or see a comparatively low number of miles in your account after a flight. There are times when a major life event causes this loss, and few programs have safeguards in place for this. However, Delta is announcing a progressive new program for its loyal members that will allow them to maintain — and easily earn back — Medallion elite status after a life event takes them off the road.

Today, the airline is introducing a program called “Reclaim My Status” that all elite members are eligible to apply for if they have a qualifying life event, preventing them from dealing with the stressors of leaving behind Medallion status.

Here’s how the program works. If a Delta Medallion member — be it Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond — either loses their status or it drops to a lower level because of a major life event like becoming a parent or switching a job, they can submit a request to reclaim their old status at this link once they’re ready to start traveling again. If approved (which should happen within five business days but could take up to two weeks), Delta will give the flyer his/her old status back for three months and the opportunity to earn it back for the rest of the year and the following Medallion year by meeting certain travel and spending thresholds.

Complimentary first class upgrades are one of the many benefits Delta elites enjoy when flying on the carrier. (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

To do that, those flyers will have to travel at a prorated pace that would meet their old status requirements. Since you get a quarter of the year to get back your status, you’ll have to hit 25% of the normal elite requirements over the the course of the year.

For example, if you were a Delta Gold and trying to reclaim that status, you’d have to meet 25% of the normal MQD and MQM requirements. Normally, Delta flyers have to earn 50,000 MQMs and $6,000 MQDs in a calendar year to hit Gold status. With Reclaim My Status, you’d need to earn 25% of the normal elite requirements over the course of three months, or 12,500 MQMs and 2,000 MQDs.

Delta provided two examples of how the timeline could work in practice:

  • If a member enrolls in Reclaim My Status on or before December 31, 2019 and meets the thresholds, Medallion status will be extended through January 31, 2021.
  • If a member enrolls in Reclaim My Status between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 and meets the thresholds, Medallion status will be extended through January 31, 2022.

The airline has listed the following reasons that can make one eligible for the program. However, Delta tells TPG that it will be reviewing situations on a case-by-case basis and that you shouldn’t be afraid of applying if your exact situation isn’t listed below:

  • Becoming a parent, including maternity, paternity, adoption or foster leave
  • Recovering from serious illness
  • Sustaining serious injury
  • Changing jobs or careers
  • Caregiving for a family member
  • Getting a degree

A number of other frequent flyer programs have clauses in place for frequent flyers to pause or extend elite status when welcoming a child, but Delta’s program uses a much broader definition of who can reclaim their status. It is one of the only major airlines to have any sort of formal, published broader policy.

You can participate in Reclaim My Status once every three years, but if your situation needs an exception please let us know. For example, if you’ve gone on maternity leave multiple times within the last three years.

Delta says you can participate in Reclaim My Status once every three years, although it notes that they’re willing to make exceptions for certain situations. So every time you have a child, or if you’ve switched jobs a few times, you may be able to reclaim your status (as long as Delta approves your case, that is). While it’s designed for members who lost status in the previous year, the FAQ section of the Reclaim My Status page indicates that the carrier “will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis” for longer absences due to specific life events; you should include your specific circumstances in the free response section of the request form.

Delta also said to only apply once you’re ready to travel at your old pace again, as the clock will start ticking once they approve your case.

“It’s very generous, it’s very flexible in covering the kind of life events it covers, and to me it’s nothing but clearly industry-leading,” Sandeep Dube, Senior Vice President — Customer Engagement & Loyalty for Delta told TPG. “We wanted to ensure that the life events we cover, cover the needs of all Medallion members and not just some.”

The program comes after significant customer requests, said Dube. He acknowledged the stress of traveling, and those stressors can become exacerbated after a serious life event. Dube hopes that those participating in the program will have an easier time when they get back to their normal travel schedule.

Delta highlighted two stories of Medallion members who requested status extensions after having to pause travel: one after becoming hospitalized and another after having a child. 

While Delta’s redeemable SkyMiles are one of the least valuable airline currencies according to TPG’s most recent valuations, the airline is known to have a strong set of elite benefits and was voted best airline loyalty program in the inaugural TPG Awards. It recently added the ability to upgrade with miles and runs seemingly continuous award sales. This move adds to the program’s strength and can help ensure that when an elite temporarily leaves Delta, they have one more reason to come back and stay loyal with the airline.

Featured image by Darren Murph / The Points Guy.

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