Delta's top-tier elite status will soon be further out of reach for most travelers

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Delta Air Lines is drastically hiking the amount of spending required for one path to reach the highest elite status in its frequent flier program, making it less attainable for most travelers.

Reaching elite status in frequent flier programs is a popular pursuit for some road warriors, since such status qualifies them for more creature comforts during the many hours and days they spend in airports and on planes each year.

Atlanta-based Delta has four elite "Medallion" levels in its frequent flier program, from the lowest elite level of silver to gold, platinum and the top tier of diamond.

To qualify for diamond status generally requires flying 125,000 miles on Delta in a year, or 140 flight segments on the airline, and spending $15,000 on Delta flights in a year.

The requirement to spend $15,000 on Delta flights has been waived if frequent fliers instead spend $25,000 on a qualifying Delta SkyMiles American Express credit card.

But starting Jan. 1, 2018, Delta is increasing the amount of credit card spending that qualifies for the waiver from $25,000 to ten times that amount for diamond status. Those who want to reach diamond elite status without spending $15,000 on flights in a year would need to spend $250,000 on a Delta credit card in a year.

The stiffer requirement is set to decrease the number of people who qualify for diamond status. And that increases exclusivity of the status, another priority for Delta and some of the most frequent fliers.

That's because fewer people at the diamond level means less competition for upgrades that diamond members qualify for, and potentially less-crowded Sky Clubs, since club access is included in diamond status.

Delta said the decision to change the waiver requirement was based on feedback from diamond-level members.

"The goal is to enable those who fly and spend most with Delta to better enjoy their Diamond Status benefits including Complimentary Upgrades and the Delta Sky Club experience," Delta said in a written statement.

The airline said it is not changing the other requirements to reach diamond status, and spending $25,000 on a qualifying Delta credit card will still work to reach silver, gold and platinum status.

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Delta hikes requirements for elite frequent flier level Qualifying for Delta's diamond frequent flier status without spending $15,000 on Delta flights will now require a whopping $250,000 in spending on a Delta credit card.