Delta Reverses Controversial SkyMiles Program and Lounge Access Changes for 2024
Delta Reverses Course on SkyMiles Program and Lounge Access Changes Here's how it impacts frequent fliers. In mid-September, Delta unveiled a significant overhaul of its SkyMiles loyalty program and the policies governing access to its exclusive Sky Club lounges, set to take effect in 2024. The proposed changes, which would have made it more challenging to attain elite frequent flier status and access the airline's airport lounges, sparked a considerable backlash. Delta's CEO, Ed Bastian, subsequently announced that the company would backtrack and make "adjustments" to these changes.
Here's a breakdown of the revised plans for both SkyMiles and Sky Clubs, beginning in 2024.
Revised Elite Medallion Status Criteria with Delta At present, Delta's SkyMiles loyalty program is based on three metrics for achieving elite status: Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). Earning elite status requires a combination of actual flight miles (represented by either MQMs or MQSs) and specific spending thresholds on Delta.com, Delta-operated flights, and partner airline flights (reflected in MQDs).
In the originally proposed changes, Delta planned to transition to a single metric, Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), as the primary basis for achieving status in 2024. While spending would still be the exclusive method for reaching elite status, Delta reduced its initial spending requirements to the following:
- Silver Medallion: $5,000 MQDs (reduced from $6,000 MQDs)
- Gold Medallion: $10,000 MQDs (reduced from $12,000 MQDs)
- Platinum Medallion: $15,000 MQDs (reduced from $18,000 MQDs)
- Diamond Medallion: $28,000 MQDs (reduced from $35,000 MQDs)
These changes represent a 16.67% reduction in the spending requirements for achieving Silver, Gold, or Platinum status and a 20% reduction for attaining Diamond status.
Additionally, Delta announced that cardholders of Delta SkyMiles Platinum, Platinum Business, Reserve, and Reserve Business American Express cards would receive a head start of 2,500 MQDs per card for the Medallion Qualification Year. With this head start, Delta SkyMiles Platinum cardholders can achieve Silver Medallion status after spending just $2,500 MQDs. This is more accessible than the current path to Silver, which necessitates $3,000 MQDs and either 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs.
Furthermore, eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders will be eligible for MQD boosts when they make purchases using their cards. Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card Members will earn $1 MQD for every $10 spent, while Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express cardholders will earn $1 MQD for every $20 spent.
This new boost structure will replace the current program for Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders, which granted an MQD waiver after making $25,000 or more in eligible purchases during the calendar year. This new structure ensures that Reserve cardmembers will attain at least Silver status after spending $25,000: $1 MQD for every $10 spent, totaling $2,500 MQDs, in addition to the head start of $2,500 MQDs, reaching the required $5,000 MQDs for Silver status.
Revised Delta Sky Club Access Changes Starting in 2024 Delta also reevaluated the adjustments to Sky Club access, easing the long-term changes for Delta SkyMiles Reserve, Reserve Business, and the Platinum Card from American Express cardholders.
Currently, individuals with an AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, or SkyMiles Reserve Business Card enjoy unlimited entry privileges at these airport lounges when flying Delta or a partner airline, regardless of their fare class. However, as of January 1, 2024, cardholders traveling on a Delta Basic Economy ticket (or an equivalent ticket with a partner airline) will no longer have access to Sky Clubs. Additionally, those with a Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Platinum Business Card will no longer be able to enter Delta Sky Clubs at all. (Currently, they can pay a $50 fee per visit when flying Delta or a SkyTeam partner.)
The positive news for AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, and SkyMiles Reserve Business cardholders is that the scheduled long-term changes to lounge access (commencing on February 1, 2025) are less stringent than initially proposed. While the current policy of unlimited lounge access will end in 2025, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business Card Members flying a fare class other than Basic Economy on Delta (or equivalent on partner airlines) will receive 15 Sky Club visits per cardmember year (up from the initially proposed 10). Those with the Platinum Card from American Express will receive 10 Sky Club visits per cardmember year (up from the initially proposed 6).
Delta will also consolidate all Sky Club entries within a 24-hour period as a single visit, meaning that lounge visits in a departure city and a layover city on the same day will only count as one visit. Furthermore, if and when all allotted visits have been used, AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, and SkyMiles Reserve Business cardholders can still access Sky Clubs for $50 per visit. Cardholders of all three types can gain unlimited lounge access after spending $75,000 on their eligible card in a calendar year, which is valid for the year in which the spending is achieved and the following calendar year.
Transition Plan for Delta Loyalists with Rollover MQMs For many loyal Delta customers who were accustomed to the existing SkyMiles system, the shift to a single MQD metric was unsettling. This was particularly challenging for top fliers who had accumulated Rollover MQMs, which are excess MQMs beyond the qualification for a Medallion tier that carry over to the next qualification year, providing a head start on earning status again. To address this situation, Delta is offering a one-time option for converting Rollover MQMs earned during 2023 into MQDs (at a rate of 10 MQMs to $1 MQD) or redeemable SkyMiles (at a rate of 1 MQM to 2 SkyMiles).
Members with Rollover MQM balances exceeding 100,000 also have the choice of extending their status over multiple years. These members can maintain their current Medallion Status for each year by accumulating 100,000 MQMs. For example, a Gold Medallion member with 300,000 Rollover MQMs can opt for three years of guaranteed Gold Status. However, they can also choose to exchange 300,000 MQMs for $30,000 MQDs, allowing them to experience Diamond status for one year and then plan for Gold status or higher in subsequent years. In any case, individuals with substantial MQM balances have until December 31, 2024, to decide on their Rollover MQMs conversion approach.
Changes to Million Miler Status For individuals who are close to or have already achieved Million Miler Status (lifelong elite status), Delta intends to enhance the annual complimentary Medallion status. Starting on January 1, 2024, the following Medallion status changes will apply to Million Milers:
- 2023 Medallion status
- 2024 (and beyond) Medallion status
- 1 Million Miler
- 2 Million Miler
- 3 Million Miler
- 4 Million Miler
- 5+ Million Miler
- Annual invitation to Delta 360º
Million Miler Status will be earned based on flight miles flown. Any MQMs already earned toward Million Miler Status will be retained, and all flight miles flown will continue to contribute to the Million Miler balance.