Delta Backtracks on 2024 Elite Status, Lounge Access Changes. Adds MQD Boost for Select Delta Cards.

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After Delta announced changes to its SkyMiles program in mid-September, the blowback from travelers was quick, and it was fierce. Delta’s decision to skyrocket elite status requirements and slash lounge access came off so badly that the Delta CEO quickly admitted that the Atlanta-based airline “went too far” with the changes.

Weeks later, Delta has finally officially backtracked on several of the changes that it originally announced. Plus, Delta announced new elite status boosts for select Amex card members, improvements to Million Miler elite status, and new Delta Choice Benefits.

Here’s a look at what’s changed and what policy Delta is sticking to — at least for now.

Delta Backtracks on Medallion Qualifying Dollar Elite Status Requirements

The most notable changes are to Delta elite status requirements for earning Medallion elite status in 2024. Delta originally announced MQD increases as high as 100% over prior years, with the MQD requirement for top-tier Diamond Medallion increasing from 20,000 to 35,000.

Now, Delta is stepping back on these increases. Instead of requiring 6,000 MQD for entry-level Silver, Delta is now requiring that travelers earn 5,000 MQD — still a 67% increase over prior years.

Gold Medallion and Platinum Medallion elite status requirements are “only” increasing by 25% over 2023 requirements. And Diamond Medallion will require 28,000 MQD instead of 35,000 MQD:

Status TierMQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2023Originally-Announced MQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2024Adjusted MQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2024Silver Medallion3,000 (no increase from 2022)6,000 (+100% from 2023)5,000 (+67% from 2023)Gold Medallion8,000 (+33.3% from 2022)12,000 (+50% from 2023)10,000 (+25% from 2023)Platinum Medallion12,000 (+33.3% from 2022)18,000 (+50% from 2023)15,000 (+25% from 2023)Diamond Medallion20,000 (+33.3% from 2022)35,000 (+75% from 2023)28,000 (+40% from 2023)

Read More: What Is a Medallion Qualification Dollar and How Do You Earn It?

New MQD Boost for Select Delta Amex Cardmembers

To further soften the blow of the MQD increases, select Delta Amex cardmembers will get an MQD boost starting February 1, 2024. Amex provided the following statement to AwardWallet about this new boost:

Delta is adjusting the number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) required to achieve 2025 Medallion Status. To complement these changes, starting on February 1, 2024, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum and Delta SkyMiles® Business Platinum American Express Card Members will receive a head start of $2,500 MQDs per card type for the current Medallion Qualification Year. That means Card Members can start the Medallion Qualification Year at least halfway to Silver for the 2025 program year.

AwardWallet clarified with American Express that this isn’t a one-time boost. Cardholders will get a 2,500-MQD boost on February 1 of every year. Regarding the “per card type” note, Amex clarified that card members can get up to 10,000 MQD boost by having all four Delta Platinum-tier and Reserve-tier cards.

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Along with the ability to earn Delta MQDs from card spending starting in 2024, this new MQD boost makes Delta Reserve- and Platinum-tier cards that much more important to aspiring Delta elites.

If this new MQD boost has you considering these cards, here are the current welcome offers:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: 50,000 bonus miles
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: 70,000 bonus miles

Delta Reduces Sky Club Access Restrictions

In Delta’s original announcement, it severely restricted the number of times Amex cardmembers could access Sky Club Lounges. Now, Delta is walking back many of these changes. In short, Amex cardmembers still won’t have unlimited access. However, the restrictions are much less punitive.

  • More visits for cardmembers: Starting February 1, 2025, Delta Reserve-tier cardmembers will get 15 complimentary Delta Sky Club visits per program year (up from the original announcement of 10). The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardmembers will get 10 Sky Club visits per program year (up from the original announcement of 6).
  • 24-hour access, 1 entry: All Sky Club entries within 24 hours will count as one entry for the sake of this restriction. That means you can access the Sky Club at your origin, connecting point, and destination and it will all count as just one entry towards this restriction.
  • Adding the ability to buy more visits: Delta’s original announcement restricted these cardmembers from buying lounge access after exhausting their allotment. Now it’s backtracking on this restriction. Delta Reserve-tier and Amex Platinum-tier cardmembers will have the ability to “purchase Club access at a per-visit rate of $50 per person after exhausting their allotted Club visits.”

As previously announced, cardholders can unlock unlimited Sky Club access after spending $75,000 in a calendar year on an eligible card. This will unlock unlimited card access for the remainder of the program year plus the following program year.

Delta Million Miler Elite Status and Upgrade Improvements

Through this new announcement, Delta is making a significant improvement to Million Miler elite status. First, Delta notes that it is “moving Million Miler Status up in the hierarchy for Complimentary Upgrades” effective January 1, 2024. However, it’s unclear at this time how this will be implemented.

The much more exciting improvement is Delta’s increase to the elite status granted to Million Milers. After earning 1 million miles, SkyMiles members will get lifetime Gold Medallion elite status instead of Silver Medallion. And it only improves from there, with 3 million milers now earning lifetime Diamond Medallion elite status:

  • 1 million miles: Gold Medallion — instead of Silver Medallion
  • 2 million miles: Platinum Medallion — instead of Gold Medallion
  • 3 million miles: Diamond Medallion — instead of Gold Medallion
  • 4 million miles: Diamond Medallion — instead of Platinum Medallion
  • 5 million miles: Delta 360o — instead of Platinum Medallion
  • 6 million miles: Delta 360o — instead of Diamond Medallion
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These changes to Million Miler elite status will take effect on February 1, 2024.

Delta MQM Rollover Improvements

Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) are being eliminated in Delta’s new elite status program. Previously, Delta allowed travelers to rollover MQMs earned in excess of prior Medallion requirements. So, Delta originally announced two options for accumulated MQM rollovers: Convert to MQD (20:1 ratio) or convert to SkyMiles (2:1 ratio).

Now, Delta is improving the options. Delta SkyMiles members with MQM rollovers can choose between converting them to:

  • SkyMiles at 2:1 (same as before)
  • MQD at 10:1 (double what was originally announced)

Say you have 50,000 rollover MQMs. In early 2024, you’ll now have the choice between converting those to 25,000 SkyMiles or 5,000 MQD (instead of just 2,500 MQD).

Even better, Delta will give SkyMiles members with more than 100,000 rollover MQMs special offers to extend the elite status that they earned for 2024.

Related: 7 Best Ways to Use Delta SkyMiles

New Delta Choice Benefits

Lastly, Delta is offering new Choice Benefit options for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members, including:

  • An MQD Accelerator for the next Medallion Qualification Year: $2,000 for Diamond Medallion Members and $1,000 for Platinum Medallion Members
  • Re-introducing the Delta Sky Club Individual Membership for Diamond Medallion Members, in exchange for two Choice Benefit selections
  • Increased amount of bonus miles: 35,000 for Diamond Medallion Members and 30,000 for Platinum Medallion Members
  • Increasing Delta travel voucher to $350 for Diamond Medallion Members and $300 for Platinum Medallion Members
  • A new Wheels Up statement flight credit

What Delta Hasn’t Changed

Not every negative change is being walked back. Two Delta Sky Club restrictions will still be in place:

  1. Effective February 1, 2024, Delta basic economy flyers won’t be able to access the Delta Sky Club, regardless of the card they hold.
  2. Effective January 1, 2024, Platinum Delta Amex and Business Platinum Delta Amex will no longer be able to purchase a pass to the Delta Sky Club.

Related: More SkyMiles Changes: Delta Takes Aim at Partner MQD Earnings

Delta’s CEO Letter to SkyMiles Members About The Changes

Concurrent with the new changes, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastain penned a letter to Delta SkyMiles members thanking them for the feedback about the proposed changes. Here are a few excerpts:

Over the past few weeks, many of you have shared feedback about the changes we announced to Delta’s SkyMiles Program.

I have read hundreds of your emails, and what’s been most clear to me is how much you love Delta and the disappointment many of you felt by the significance of the changes. I appreciate your opinions and understand your disappointment. Your voice matters, and we are listening.

It’s been a challenge to balance the growth of our membership with our need to deliver premium service experiences. We made some difficult program decisions to address this issue and ensure we are delivering elevated service to our Members. But your response made clear that the changes did not fully reflect the loyalty you have demonstrated to Delta. Based on your feedback, we are making program adjustments and adding new benefits to begin earning in 2024 toward your 2025 Status.

I know the modifications we have made won’t solve for every disappointment. Our goal is to do our best to ensure we deliver the service and benefits your loyalty deserves.

Pretty cut-and-dry statement. But what’s telling is what’s missing. Despite making significant reductions to the previously announced rates and policies, Bastain doesn’t apologize to travelers for his airline’s massive overstep or even admit fault. Instead, there’s a sense of blaming SkyMiles members for complaining about there being too many elites and then complaining about the changes Delta made to address those issues.

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Moreover, the letter doesn’t address the fact that Delta has shown where it intends to take the SkyMiles program eventually. While walking back some of the most egregious changes may placate travelers temporarily, there’s no guarantee in this letter that those same changes won’t be added in a year or two. The question is how many “I’m leaving Delta” customers can be retained from this change and whether they’ll stick around if (or when) the original changes are implemented in the future.

Final Thoughts

In mid-September, Delta announced dramatic changes to elite status requirements and lounge access. Now, Delta is walking back many of these changes. That’s no surprise after seeing how many Delta flyers looked for options to flee for competitors in the wake of the original announcement.

One sign of just how bad Delta’s changes were: Interest in matching Delta elite status to another airline climbed sky-high after the originally announced changes. Mark Ross-Smith of Loyalty Status Co. noted that “recent Delta SkyMiles program changes have increased status match demand to other airlines by up to 8000%.” Competing airlines fell over themselves to lure valuable flyers away from Delta, with Alaska and JetBlue both launching targeted elite status matches for Delta elites.

Another canary in the coal mine: At this weekend’s Chicago Seminars, only around 10 of the 300+ attendees chose to attend the Delta breakout session. Previously diehard Delta flyers instead sat in on sessions strategizing how to maximize earning and redeeming through other airlines, as many weighed which airline to switch their loyalty to.

It seems that Delta felt this pressure and reversed course a month later. The question now is: Is this too little too late? Or will Delta be successful in preventing a mass exodus of valuable elite flyers? Time will tell.

Do you think these changes are enough to win back Delta elites?

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