Delta adds option for elite frequent fliers who pause travel

Delta Air Lines is adding an option for elite-level frequent fliers who put travel on pause due to a major life event.

Many business travelers and others covet the creature comforts of elite frequent flier benefits that make flying more bearable. Being a Medallion-level frequent flier in Delta's SkyMiles program allows access to free upgrades, waived baggage fees, priority boarding and other benefits.

But maintaining elite status generally requires a lot of flying. For the lowest Delta Medallion level of silver, for example, you must fly at least 30 flight segments in a year amounting to a total of at least $3,000 spent on flights.

That’s a difficult travel schedule to maintain after having a child, dealing with a serious illness or injury, or caring for a family member.

Atlanta-based Delta says people whose travel is interrupted for several months by such major life events or others like changing jobs can apply to reclaim their elite status.

If the application is approved, reclaiming status would mean a traveler who is about to start flying again would get three months of complimentary elite status, during which they would need to resume the same rigorous flying schedule required to retain the status. The process calls for someone who had Medallion status the previous year and is ready to resume travel to submit a request at

Not every airline has a written policy for such occasions. But some smaller carriers have more generous policies.

For example, Alaska Airlines allows new parents to apply for "elite leave" and then keep their status for another year.

Delta says it sees its policy requiring frequent fliers to earn back their status during a three-month proving period as a way to ensure travelers want to keep flying on Delta.

“Getting back into travel after a big change can be stressful,” acknowledged Delta’s senior vice president of loyalty Sandeep Dube in a written statement.

“Loyalty is a two-way street,” according to Dube, and “we are always looking for new ways to take care of our customers.”