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Delta SkyMiles Rollbacks: A Step in the Right Direction, but Is It Enough?

Last month, Delta Airlines made some significant changes to its SkyMiles program that left many frequent flyers less than pleased. The alterations included a shift to fully revenue-based status, imposing steep thresholds for Medallion status, and severe restrictions on SkyClub access. Unsurprisingly, the blowback from Delta’s loyal customer base was swift and severe, with many elites defecting to rival airlines; American reported record cobranded card signups on their earnings call, while requests for United status matches have gone up “dramatically,” presumably driven by disgruntled Delta elites abandoning ship.

CEO Ed Bastian’s Acknowledgment

In the midst of this intense backlash, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, now often not-so-affectionately referred to as “Fast Eddie,” admitted that the airline might have gone too far. He hinted at potential rollbacks to the contentious changes. While these changes didn’t come to light during Delta’s recent investor call, it turns out that my predictions about some adjustments were quite accurate.

Adjustments to Elite Status Requirements

One of the most significant SkyMiles changes was the switch to a fully revenue-based system, with Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) as the sole qualifying metric. However, Delta has now reduced the initially announced steep thresholds for the 2024 membership year, though they’re still a far cry from what customers were used to:

  • Silver Medallion: Reduced from $6,000 to $5,000 (compared to $3,000 in 2023).
  • Diamond Medallion: Reduced from $35,000 to $28,000 (compared to $20,000 in 2023).

SkyMiles Credit Cardholders Catch a Break

While the MQD earn ratio on co-branded AmEx cards remains unchanged, SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve cardholders (both personal and business variants) will benefit from a $2,500 MQD boost per card. Holding two of these cards is now an efficient way to attain Silver Medallion status immediately, and holding all four would grant Gold Medallion (though the opportunity cost would be significant, taking most of your “slots” with AmEx). Those signing up for new Delta AmEx products should be aware of new “waterfall” restrictions and plan application strategies accordingly.

SkyClub Reprieve for AmEx Cardmembers

SkyClub access for AmEx cardholders will still transition from unlimited access to a capped system, but the caps on visits have been raised slightly:

  • Delta Reserve cardmembers now get 15 visits per year, up from 10.
  • AmEx Platinum members now enjoy 10 visits annually, up from 6.
  • After reaching the visit limit, travelers can purchase additional visits for $50 per day. Previously, this was not an option.
  • A subtle yet significant change is that a subsequent same-day entry to a club no longer uses up a “visit.” Instead, each visit allows unlimited entries for 24 hours after the initial entry, a boon for those on connecting itineraries through multiple airports.

Enhancements to Lifetime Status

To retain lifetime status members, Delta is improving lifetime status-earn and making it a more significant upgrade tie-breaker. The new thresholds for lifetime status now align more closely with United:

  • 1 Million Miles: Lifetime Silver (matching United).
  • 2 Million Miles: Lifetime Gold (matching United).
  • 3 Million Miles: Lifetime Diamond (matching United).
  • 5 Million Miles: Lifetime 360 Status (United offers Global Services at 4 million).
  • Million miler levels will be calculated using flight miles going forward, but they’ll honor existing totals earned via qualifying miles.

Looking Ahead to 2025

For 2025, Delta has announced new Choice benefits, including the ability for Diamonds to pick $2,000 MQDs and for Platinums to choose $1,000 MQDs. This should make earning status a little easier in the absence of other benefits. Additionally, Diamonds can again select Sky Club membership for two choice selections.

Assessing my Predictions

Many of my predictions about the SkyMiles rollbacks were quite close, with MQD thresholds dropping between 16.67% and 20% (I predicted between 20-30%) and visit allowances increasing by 50% and 66.67% (my prediction was 40-60%). As predicted, the $75,000 spend threshold for unlimited visits remains intact. While I partially got it wrong about the MQD earn ratio on cobranded AmEx cards being upped, cardholders of select cobranded products are getting a flat boost of 2,500 MQDs annually.

Delta’s Uphill Battle

Despite these rollbacks, Delta still faces an uphill battle to win back the trust of its elite customers. CEO Ed Bastian even hinted when the initial changes were announced that more could be on the horizon. Many have already jumped ship to competitors American and United. As the future remains uncertain, loyalists to the airline will continue to closely watch the evolving landscape of Delta’s SkyMiles program.

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