Delta dials back some changes to loyalty program and lounge access

Responding to a backlash from elite customers, Delta has dialed back some of the loyalty program changes the airline announced last month. 

Those changes were geared toward alleviating Sky Club lounge crowding and reducing the number of SkyMiles members with Medallion loyalty status. 

“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,” CEO Ed Bastian wrote in an email. “I appreciate your opinions and understand your disappointment. Your voice matters, and we are listening.”

Among other moves, Delta has scaled back how much it will increase spending thresholds to reach the four Medallion status levels. Instead of a 50% to 100% increase (depending upon the status level), the hike will be between 20% and 60%. 

Delta also eased its planned restrictions on Sky Club access for holders of high-end co-branded credit cards and for the Platinum Card by American Express. 

However, some of the SkyMiles changes Delta announced in September remain in place. Notably, Delta will go forward with its plan to eliminate flying as a metric for obtaining status and instead base Medallion accrual solely on spending, including expenditures on flights, Delta Vacations packages and on car rentals and hotels booked via Delta channels. 

Spending via Delta co-branded credit cards will also count toward status accrual, though not at the dollar-for-dollar rate of direct Delta purchases.

Cardholders get a break on lounge access 

The SkyMiles changes Delta announced in September were aimed at bringing down the number of flyers with Medallion status following a post-pandemic increase. Too many Medallion members, Bastian said, reduces the value of status for those who have it. Crowded lounges, longer early boarding lines and few opportunities for seat upgrades are among the problems. 

One cause of the rise in Medallions should fade next year. As a pandemic-time policy, Delta allowed anyone who had SkyMiles status in 2020 to retain it through this year. 

SkyClub lounges, meanwhile, also have particular crowding pressures, in part because Delta, through the American Express Platinum Card, is the only one of the three U.S. hub airlines to guarantee lounge access for holders of a card that is not a co-branded.

Under the revisions announced in September, Delta planned to limit the SkyClub access benefit that comes with the American Express Platinum Card to six visits per year beginning in 2025. With Wednesday’s revision, that number will increase to 10. 

Delta had also planned to limit the lounge access benefit for SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business card holders to 10 club visits per year beginning in 2025. With Wednesday’s revision, that number will increase to 15. 

Currently, each of those cards offers unlimited Sky Miles lounge access. 

As announced in September, Sky Club access will no longer be a perk for holders of Delta’s lower-end SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business cards beginning next year.

Good news for customers banking miles

Delta also will look to placate Medallion elites who had built up substantial reserves of minimum qualifying miles (MQMs) or qualifying dollars during the pandemic. They were going to have the value of those reserves reduced substantially as Delta transitions away from using flight miles as a qualifying threshold for status. 

“We have heard from many members who had long-term plans for their MQM rollover balances,” Bastian wrote in his Wednesday email.

He went on to say that customers with high balances will receive multiyear options to extend their status, including the ability to choose complimentary Medallion status at their current tier for one year per every 100,000 MQMs that they have banked. 

In an additional attempt to placate members of its top two status tiers, Diamond Medallion and Platinum Medallion, Delta said that it will offer new options in its Choice Benefits perks menu. Options will include a flight credit on the private airline Wheels Up and Sky Club membership for Diamond Medallions. 

Delta also said it will increase the long-term loyalty status benefits of customers who have flown one million or more miles. For example, those who have flown a million miles but less than two million miles will automatically have Gold Medallion status rather than the entry status level of Silver. Similar upgrades will be made for customers who have flown more than 2 million miles, etc.

Not all of Wednesday’s changes, though, are geared toward high-level Medallions. 

Delta revised next year’s minimum qualifying dollars (MQDs) threshold for all status levels. For example, obtaining Silver Medallion status in 2024 for 2025 will require 5,000 MQDs rather than 6,000. 

This year, SkyMiles members can earn Silver Medallion status with 3,000 MQDs, coupled with 25,000 flight miles or 30 flight segments. 

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