Delta to boost top frequent flier threshold

Delta Air Lines plans to raise the requirements to reach top levels of frequent flier status, a bid to restore the sense of exclusivity for its most lucrative customers.

Under the new plan Delta will require U.S. resident frequent fliers to not just fly thousands of miles but also spend thousands of dollars annually on Delta tickets to reach elite levels in the SkyMiles frequent flier program.

It takes effect in 2014 and will count toward elite status for 2015.

On many flights, first- and business-class cabins often are as jammed as coach these days, in part because of the growth in the ranks of top-level frequent fliers who use upgrades.

Particularly at large hubs like Atlanta, some of Delta’s most frequent fliers grumble about dozens of elite “Medallion” members competing for a handful of upgrades. Elite frequent fliers also elbow each other for space in priority boarding lines, Sky Club airport lounges and queues for other perqs.

The new plan will require $2,500 of spending to reach Delta’s silver status, $5,000 for gold, $7,500 for platinum and $12,500 for diamond — in addition to existing requirements to fly 25,000, 50,000, 75,000 or 125,000 miles to reach those levels.

Adding the spending requirement “ensures that our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience,” Jeff Robertson, vice president of Delta’s frequent flier program, said in a statement.

The ticket spending requirement will be waived for those who spend $25,000 a year on a SkyMiles American Express card.

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