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Delta’s SkyMiles Program Takes a Hard Turn, Leaving Flyers Fuming

Well, folks, it’s official. Delta has finally pulled the trigger on changes to its SkyMiles loyalty program that many of us had dreaded for a while. The rumor mill has been churning, and it turns out the whispers were right on the money. Brace yourselves, because this isn’t a story with a happy ending.

The Unfriendly Shift: Going All-In on Revenue-Based

Let’s cut straight to the chase. Delta is ditching its old loyalty program and going full steam ahead with the revenue-based model. Forget about those MQMs you’ve been hoarding; it’s all about the cold, hard cash you’re willing to part with now. Your Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) are the new golden ticket, and it’s leaving a sour taste in the mouths of loyal Delta customers.

If the shift to revenue-based alone doesn’t alienate travelers, the new MQD thresholds might. Obtaining lowly Silver Medallion status will now require $6,000 in MQDs, with Diamond now requiring a whopping $35,000 in MQDs. For comparison, $50k is widely considered the threshold to be considered for American’s secretive, invite-only ConciergeKey status. Sure, they’re calling it “simplification,” but to many, it feels more like a cash grab.

SkyClub Access Limited Even Further

On a busy news day like today, this merits a whole separate post, but we’d be remiss not to mention the new restrictions on SkyClub access with select AmEx cards.

The Devil’s in the MQD Details

Earning that elusive Medallion Status for 2025 (not 2024, mind you) now means you’ll need to focus solely on accumulating MQDs. In other words, if you’re not spending big bucks with Delta, you can kiss your Medallion Status goodbye. Flights, spend from select Amex Cards, car rentals, and Delta Vacations experiences are your only lifelines now. Miles flown? That’s so last season.

But hey, if you’re clinging to your stash of Rollover MQMs from 2023, there’s a lifeline of sorts. In early 2024, Delta will generously allow you to convert them into redeemable miles, MQDs, or a mix of both. How generous of them!

Million Milers Get a Boost

For those who’ve put in the blood, sweat, and tears (and countless hours on Delta flights) to reach the million-mile milestone, here’s your reward: you move up a notch in Complimentary Upgrade priority, landing in third place.

RIP MQD Waiver and Status Boost

Delta SkyMiles American Express Cardholders, you’re in for a rough landing. The beloved MQD Waiver and Status Boost benefits are getting axed come December 31, 2023. Instead, members of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card accumulate 1 MQD for each $10 they spend, while those with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card earn 1 MQD for each $20 in purchases. Currently, there is no limit to the number of MQDs that may be obtained via this method, but it’s certainly not a 1:1 accumulation like AA’s Loyalty Points scheme.

International SkyMiles Members: Welcome to the Pain

For our international SkyMiles comrades, there’s no escaping the harsh reality either. Until now, you were earning your Status using MQMs or MQSs, but starting January 1, 2024, you’ll join the MQD club. Your foreign currencies will be mercilessly converted to USD at standard exchange rates and then turned into MQDs at a 1-to-1 ratio. No more gaming the system, folks.

So, here we are, at the crossroads of disappointment and disillusionment. Delta’s gamble with these drastic changes may well send a wave of disgruntled flyers to rival airlines like United and American – which while both these programs are also revenue-based, they don’t sting quite as much as the new Delta program. And while American’s switch to Loyalty Points in 2022 angered many at first, their innovative approach to revenue-based status is interesting and (dare I say) has actually put the fun back into earning status.

As the rumor mill predicted, the future for SkyMiles members is looking a lot less friendly. Keep your seatbelts fastened, folks; it’s going to be a turbulent ride ahead.

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