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This year I switched the bulk of my flying to Delta Air Lines. Although I find myself connecting more often, I have found the experience to be elevated. Service is better, flights are on time (and in many cases early), Wi-Fi is fast and reliable, food is better, and the Sky Club® lounges are also nicer. A Reddit post yesterday has started much discussion around potential changes to the Sky Miles® program coming on September 14th. We’ll have to see what actually changes, but here is what is being speculated.
A Move to A Single Point Metric
Currently, Delta requires Medallion members to earn both Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) to earn status with the airline. The levels require different amounts of both of these qualifiers unless one has the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card and spends $25,000 to waive the MQDs for Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion status or $250,000 to waive this requirement for Diamond Medallion. One point of discussion on FlyerTalk is the possibility of raising the MQD waiver for Gold and Platinum members above $25,000 or creating a specific waiver amount for each tier.
Rumors seem to center on Delta getting rid of one or both of these metrics and moving to a single point system. It could be that Delta just keeps Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) similar to how United Airlines now lets its elite members qualify through Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), but at a higher threshold if the other metric, Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) is not met. Delta could also switch to a system like American Airlines has moved to where various activities (shopping, credit card spend, etc.) earn Loyalty Points and it’s possible for someone to earn top-tier elite status without ever stepping foot on a plane.
Sky Club® Changes Will Make Entry More Restrictive
Delta Air Lines offers some of the best lounges in the United States. The food and beverage offerings are elevated and the carrier has invested a ton in opening new lounges and remodeling its existing ones in the past few years including Newark, Boston, New York JFK, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and more. The biggest issue that Delta has faced has been the demand for these lounges. Lines often snake well down the exterior hallways of the lounges and Delta has tried to control this over crowding.
It banned employees from using the Sky Clubs® back in February even after it coerced many of them into getting the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card for lounge access. Over 7,100 of them protested, but that did not go anywhere. It also restricted access only to those traveling in premium cabins internationally. Delta also added grab-and-go areas to motivate travelers to take food and drinks with them without occupying space in the lounge. None of these changes have made enough of an impact to minimize crowding and waits.
Rumors have been circulating since last month that access will be further restricted and the new rules will be severe. Last month, these were the most discussed rumors:
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve cardholders would be limited to ten Sky Club® visits per year (unless they spend over $75,000 on the card each year). This is similar to the guest policy that was instituted on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Cardholders are not allowed to bring in guests for free unless they reach that spend threshold.
- Those with The Platinum Card® from American Express will be limited to six visits a year and they will not be able to buy guest passes.
- Annual fees will be increased and these announcements are rumored for October/November.
If these changes are made, they would severely limit the appeal of both The Platinum Card® from American Express and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card. Both of these cards carry high annual fees (that have been increased through the years) and telling people that they can no longer access lounges as frequently as they wish will cause many cancellations.
Lucky at One Mile at a Time reported:
Delta’s SVP of Loyalty said that Delta expects to earn $6.5 billion from its Amex Express credit card agreement in 2023, and hopes to grow that by roughly 50%, to $10 billion per year, by 2028…Consumers charge nearly 1% of the US GDP on Delta’s co-branded credit cards.”
That is not something that Delta can just walk away from and if too many people cancel their cards then those goals will never be met. I would not be surprised to see some further restrictions, but the limited visits above seem pretty draconian.
Anthony’s Take: Nothing more than speculation is available at this point. The internal memo above leads one to believe that changes will be pretty notable, but we’ll have to wait until September 14th to see what actually happens. What do you think Delta will do?
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