Delta Air Lines has just revealed changes to Delta SkyMiles and Delta Sky Club access. Delta describes these changes as being “based on customer feedback to remain the industry’s premier loyalty program.” These changes are absolutely massive. Let’s first cover the Delta SkyMiles changes, and then we’ll cover the Delta Sky Club changes.
Delta SkyMiles simplifying elite status as of 2024
As of January 1, 2024, Delta is changing the way that members qualify for Medallion elite status. Delta claims that these changes are intended to preserve the exclusivity and experience of the carrier’s most loyal customers. So, what’s changing?
Starting as of January 1, 2024, all SkyMiles members will exclusively earn toward status through Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs). SkyMiles members will no longer earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs). With the new program, status will have the following requirements (this would be when qualifying in 2024 for the 2025 program year):
- SkyMiles Silver Medallion status will require 6,000 MQDs (compared to 3,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Gold Medallion status will require 12,000 MQDs (compared to 8,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status will require 18,000 MQDs (compared to 12,000 MQDs currently)
- SkyMiles Diamond Medallion status will require 35,000 MQDs (compared to 20,000 MQDs currently)
In early 2024, SkyMiles members will have options for converting any rollover MQMs that have already been accrued — you can either convert rollover MQMs into MQDs at a 20:1 ratio, or into redeemable miles at a 2:1 ratio. That doesn’t seem particularly generous.
With these changes to how status is earned, SkyMiles members can earn status through spending on Delta Amex cards, through rental cars and hotel stays booked through delta.com, and through Delta Vacations. So, at what rate will members earn MQDs?
- You’ll earn one MQD per dollar spent on Delta flights; for flights on partner airlines, you’ll continue to earn MQDs based on a percentage of the distance flown and fare class
- Those with the Delta Amex Reserve Card will earn one MQD for every $10 spent, while those with the Delta Amex Platinum Card will earn one MQD for every $20 spent
- You’ll earn one MQD per dollar spent on Delta Vacations packages, rental cars, and hotels booked through Delta
There will be no changes to how SkyMiles members can earn and redeem miles, so all that’s changing is elite qualification methods and metrics.
New Delta Sky Club access restrictions as of 2024
Delta Sky Clubs have had serious crowding issues in the past year or so, with there frequently being lines to enter lounges. We’ve seen Delta make changes to Sky Club access, though the changes haven’t moved the needle much when it comes to crowding.
With that in mind, Delta is introducing even more changes:
- As of February 1, 2025, those with a Delta Amex Reserve Card (personal or business) will receive 10 Sky Club visits per Medallion year; members who spend $75,000 on their eligible card in a calendar year will receive unlimited club access for the remainder of the current Medallion year, plus the following Medallion year
- As of February 1, 205, those with the Amex Platinum Card (personal or business) will receive six Sky Club visits per Medallion year; members who spend $75,000 on their eligible card in a calendar year will receive unlimited club access for the remainder of the current Medallion year, plus the following Medallion year
- As of January 1, 2024, those booked on a Delta basic economy fare will no longer have Delta Sky Club access, regardless of the entry method
- As of January 1, 2024, the Delta Amex Platinum Card (personal or business) will no longer provide Sky Club access for a $50 fee
Note that you can only use the visit allotments for yourself (as the card member), so you can’t bring guests, unfortunately. Furthermore, visits are additive, so if you have multiple cards offering lounge access, you could use the allotment on each card. Furthermore, the Medallion program year won’t follow the traditional calendar year, but rather will run from February 1 until January 31 of the following year.
My take on these major Delta changes
Not surprisingly, these changes seem heavily geared at increasing the amount that SkyMiles members spend on Delta’s co-branded credit cards.
The “big three” US carriers generate a large percentage of their profits from their loyalty programs, and particularly from their lucrative credit card partnerships. Earlier this year, Delta’s SVP of Loyalty said that Delta expects to earn $6.5 billion from its Amex Express credit card agreement in 2023, and hopes to grow that by roughly 50%, to $10 billion per year, by 2028.
Delta has already done an amazing job building up its Amex card portfolio, and consumers charge nearly 1% of the US GDP on Delta’s co-branded credit cards. But if Delta wants to increase its credit card revenue by 50%, the airline is going to need people to spend more money on its co-branded credit cards.
That’s exactly what these changes seem geared at. When it comes to the SkyMiles changes, Delta is clearly copying American AAdvantage’s successful switch to the Loyalty Points concept, whereby you can easily earn status through credit card spending. It’s rare to see Delta copying American, but as I’ve said all along, the Loyalty Points concept is brilliant from the perspective of airlines. With the new program, spending $350K on a Delta Amex Reserve Card would earn you top-tier Diamond Medallion status.
As far as the Sky Club access changes go, I don’t think they’ll do much to actually help with crowding, though I think they’ll do a bit to get people to shift even more spending to Delta Amex cards. Sure, we’ve seen all kinds of incremental changes and Sky Club access cuts that could eventually lead to slight reductions in crowding, but the latest changes don’t seem much different to me than the previous ones.
We’ve seen Amex Centurion Lounge access restrictions based on needing to spend $75,000 per year on an eligible card, and that doesn’t appear to have done much in terms of crowding.
Delta is making huge changes, and we now know what the changes entail.
For one, Delta is completely changing how SkyMiles elite status is earned, as Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) will be the only metric by which members qualify for status. It’ll be possible to earn status exclusively through credit card spending, and $350K of spending on the Delta Reserve Card will do the trick.
Furthermore, we’re seeing new Sky Club access restrictions, which impact those on basic economy tickets, and which also add limits to access for card members, unless they spend a certain amount.
What do you make of these Delta changes?