After backlash, Delta alters strict elite SkyMiles status requirements

‘I know the modifications we have made won’t solve for every disappointment,’ Delta CEO says

After a torrent of criticism from some of its most valuable customers, Delta Air Lines is softening the blow of changes that will make it harder to reach elite status in its frequent flier program in the future.

But the modifications won’t necessarily assuage all SkyMiles members who threatened to switch to other airlines as a result of the stricter rules announced last month.

Atlanta-based Delta on Wednesday afternoon announced modified spending requirements to reach silver, gold, platinum and diamond elite status — making the thresholds slightly lower than what was announced in September, but still higher than the current requirements.

Elite status is coveted by frequent fliers and travel enthusiasts for the upgrades, perks and creature comforts that come with it, to smooth the stressful process of navigating through congested airports and crowded planes.

But Delta has made clear that it has too many so-called “Medallion” elite SkyMiles members to deliver the exclusive feel that the status was designed to confer. Over the last couple of years as passenger volumes have escalated, frequent fliers have complained about crowded Sky Clubs and hordes of elite members jockeying for upgrades.

In a note to frequent fliers, Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote that the SkyMiles Medallion population has grown since the pandemic, and “it’s been a challenge to balance the growth of our membership with our need to deliver premium service experiences.”

He added that he has read hundreds of emails from frequent fliers, many of them disappointed with the changes, and “your response made clear that the changes did not fully reflect the loyalty you have demonstrated to Delta.”

Bastian had signaled plans to respond to the criticism during a talk at a Rotary Club luncheon in Atlanta late last month.

Delta will maintain its new policy to begin next year of counting only how much its customers spend — and not how many miles they fly — to qualify for Medallion status.

Under the new policy announced Wednesday, travelers who want to reach the lowest tier of elite Medallion status — silver — for 2025 will still need to spend at least $5,000 a year on Delta flights or other Delta-related expenditures such as Delta Vacations packages or Delta website bookings for car rentals and hotel stays.

That’s down from $6,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) as announced last month, but still higher than the current requirement of $3,000 MQDs and miles or segments flown.

To reach the highest Medallion level — diamond — will require spending $28,000 MQDs a year on Delta flights or other travel bookings through Delta. That’s lower than the $35,000 requirement announced last month, but higher than the current $20,000 of spending and miles or segments flown to reach diamond.

“I know the modifications we have made won’t solve for every disappointment,” Bastian wrote in his e-mail to SkyMiles members.

Another way to earn MQDs toward elite status is spending on Delta American Express cards, and those earning rates aren’t changing. Spending on a Delta Platinum American Express card will earn 1 MQD for every $20 spent, while spending on a Delta Reserve American Express card will earn 1 MQD for every $10 spent.

That means to earn the lowest silver elite status through Delta Platinum credit card spending, for example, would require paying the $250 annual fee for the card and then charging $100,000 in expenditures to the card. However, travelers can combine credit card spending and flight purchases to reach elite status.

Sky Club limits

Delta also last month announced plans for a significant reduction in access to its Sky Club airport lounges. The airline on Wednesday partially rolled back some of those changes, but not all.

Those who pay a $550 annual fee for a Delta SkyMiles Reserve card or a $695 annual fee for an American Express Platinum card currently get unlimited access to Sky Clubs.

But Starting Feb. 1, 2025, those who have Delta SkyMiles Reserve cards will be permitted to visit a Sky Club 15 days per year. That’s up from the limit of 10 days as announced last month.

Cardholders who use all of their allotted days can pay $50 a day to get in the club. To maintain unlimited club access will require spending $75,000 a year on the credit card.

Those with American Express Platinum cards will be limited to 10 Sky Club visits a year starting in February 2025, up from the six previously announced — unless they spend $75,000 a year on the card.

Those with Delta SkyMiles Platinum cards still won’t be able to get into the Sky Club by paying a $50 fee as of next year, and AmEx cardholders traveling on the lowest-priced Basic Economy tickets also won’t be able to get into the club.

In other changes announced Wednesday, Delta said it will offer more flexibility for SkyMiles members to extend their elite status for multiple years in the future by rolling over the Medallion Qualification Miles they’ve accumulated, at a rate of one year for every 100,000 MQMs.

And, the airline will improve the status of its Million Miler members for complimentary upgrades starting next February.

Platinum and diamond members will see different choices of extra benefits for 2025 membership, including a credit toward purchase of a flight on Delta’s private jet partner Wheels Up and a Sky Club individual membership for diamond members who exchange two “choice benefit” credits.

New Delta SkyMiles Medallion status requirements for 2025 status

Silver Medallion Status: 5,000 MQDs

Gold Medallion Status: 10,000 MQDs

Platinum Medallion Status: 15,000 MQDs

Diamond Medallion Status: 28,000 MQDs

Source: Delta