Delta SkyMiles change saga: Improvements made to Medallion status and Sky Club Lounge access

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Delta Air Lines is softening the blow from its recent changes to the SkyMiles loyalty program and Sky Club access policies.

Just over a month ago, Delta announced that it was making it significantly harder to earn Medallion status while also limiting the number of annual visits that cobranded credit card holders can make to the Sky Club.

These sweeping changes touched nearly every aspect of the loyalty program, and the updates were drastic (think: $35,000 in annual spending required to hit top-tier Diamond Medallion status).

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The uproar about the changes started almost immediately. It didn’t take too long for Delta’s changes to trend on Twitter and other social media channels, garnering thousands of negative comments and reactions.

Delta rationalized the updates by saying that it’s trying to balance supply and demand for elite benefits and space in the Sky Club, but many travelers weren’t having it.

In fact, the airline received thousands of letters and complaints. Now Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, has an update: The airline is making six improvements to the changes it originally announced last month.

While the changes may not be enough to win back some rankled travelers, something is certainly better than nothing.

Lower Medallion thresholds

One of the headlining updates is that Delta will lower the Medallion thresholds it announced in September. You can find the updated status thresholds in the table below.

Tier Updated thresholds for 2025 status Original thresholds for 2025 status
Silver Medallion 5,000 MQDs 6,000 MQDs
Gold Medallion 10,000 MQDs 12,000 MQDs
Platinum Medallion 15,000 MQDs 18,000 MQDs
Diamond Medallion 28,000 MQDs 35,000 MQDs

Note that Delta isn’t changing how you earn status. As announced last month, only one metric will count toward qualifying for status: Medallion Qualification Dollars.

Delta introduced MQDs in 2014 as a way to reward you for how much you spend on flights. Next year, the MQD metric will expand to include many more transactions with Delta and its partners, such as spending on vacation packages and cobranded credit card spending.

As you can see below, these updated status metrics are, at most, 20% lower than the ones announced last month. Relative to this year’s levels, the revised thresholds are still between 25% and 67% higher — one of the most significant jumps we’ve seen from an airline in recent history.

Tier Thresholds for 2023 status Thresholds for 2024 status Thresholds for 2025 status
Silver Medallion 3,000 MQDs 3,000 MQDs 5,000 MQDs
Gold Medallion 6,000 MQDs 8,000 MQDs 10,000 MQDs
Platinum Medallion 9,000 MQDs 12,000 MQDs 15,000 MQDs
Diamond Medallion 15,000 MQDs  20,000 MQDs 28,000 MQDs

To put this into perspective, top-tier Diamond Medallion status will require a whopping $28,000 dollars spent on Delta flights. Alternatively, if you want to charge your way to Diamond Medallion status, you’ll need to spend either $280,000 or $560,000, depending on which cobranded Amex card you hold.

As such, I suspect that some Delta flyers will still be pretty upset with these revised thresholds.

Note that these new thresholds begin on Jan. 1, 2024, and you’ll need to earn the aforementioned number of MQDs to enjoy Medallion status for 2025. (You earn MQDs each year between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, and your status is then valid through Jan. 31, two years after the qualifying period.)

Head start to status

To make it easier to earn status next year, Delta will give eligible frequent flyers who are also cobranded credit card holders a head start on the MQD metrics.

Bastian’s email didn’t share any more details. However, a carrier spokesperson confirmed that all members will receive details about these changes on Thursday through an email from Dwight James, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty.

For now, the spokesperson shared that members with the following four credit cards will also receive a boost of 2,500 MQDs toward status qualification at the start of the year:

We’ll update this story once all the details are live.

More annual Sky Club visits

When Delta announced its changes last month, it dramatically reduced the value of carrying some of the most premium credit cards. That’s because it added annual caps on the number of visits you can make each year to the Sky Club. (Previously, these cards included unlimited access to the Sky Club when flying with Delta.)

Now, the airline is increasing the number of annual visits that you’ll get with each card.

Card Number of annual days Previously announced cap on annual visits
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card 15 10
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card 15 10
The Platinum Card® from American Express 10 6
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express 10 6

In addition to more visits, Delta is also redefining how it classifies each stop in the lounge.

Originally, it said that each visit along a connecting itinerary would count against your annual allotment. That meant if you were flying from Phoenix to Atlanta to London, you’d need to use two of your annual visits to enter the club in both Phoenix and Atlanta.

Now, the airline will instead consider each visit in day increments. All Sky Club visits made in a 24-hour period will count as a single day, and you’ll receive the aforementioned number of days for each eligible credit card.

Furthermore, after you hit your annual allotment of days, you’ll also be able to purchase Sky Club access for $50 per day, per traveler.

As before, you’ll earn unlimited Sky Club access after spending $75,000 on an eligible card in a calendar year.

Delta will also reintroduce the ability for Medallion members to purchase an individual Sky Club membership for $695.

Overall, I’d say these changes are definitely more generous than Delta’s original plan and are in line with what I’d expect from the airline. Limiting access will undoubtedly upset some travelers, but with overcrowding becoming an included amenity in many Sky Clubs, this is likely Delta’s best way to “cull the herd.”

If this move translates into a more pleasant club experience, then I’m personally on board.

Rollover MQM adjustments

Delta Boeing 757 LAX

As part of Delta’s transition to awarding status exclusively via MQDs, the airline is phasing out its other two elite metrics: Medallion Qualification Miles and Medallion Qualification Segments.

In the past, MQMs earned above your highest Medallion threshold have rolled over to the next year to give you a head start on earning status. Because Delta is phasing out MQMs, the airline is instead offering several one-time conversion opportunities.

Originally, these options included converting MQMs into redeemable miles and/or MQDs, but now the airline is adding a third option. If you have a large balance of rollover MQMs, you can choose complimentary Medallion status at your current tier for one year per every 100,000 MQMs. Expect to receive a specially targeted email from Delta about your options if you qualify for this offer.

New Choice Benefits

When Delta originally announced changes to the SkyMiles program, it promised to debut new Choice Benefits for Platinum Medallions and top-tier Diamond Medallions.

While I would’ve expected some serious improvements to compensate for Delta’s drastic changes, what we’re getting is anything but that.

Delta will officially publish the new and enhanced Choice Benefits on Thursday, Oct. 19, but here’s a preview of what you can expect for the 2025 program year:

  • MQD accelerator: You can get a jumpstart on next year’s status qualification with a 2,000 MQD bonus as a Diamond Medallion or a 1,000 MQD bonus as a Platinum Medallion.
  • Delta Sky Club individual membership will be available for Diamond Medallions in exchange for two Choice Benefit selections.
  • Increased number of bonus miles: 35,000 miles for Diamond Medallions and 30,000 miles for Platinum Medallions, which represents a 10,000-mile increase across the board.
  • Increased Delta travel voucher: $350 for Diamond Medallions and $300 for Platinum Medallions, representing a $50 increase for Platinum Medallions and a $100 increase for Diamond Medallions.
  • A new (undisclosed) Wheels Up flight credit.

As you can see, these updates are an improvement, but they almost certainly won’t make Platinum or Diamond Medallion status much more attractive than it was in the past.

In my mind, these updated benefits don’t do enough to compensate for the increased thresholds. After all, getting a 2,000 MQD head start on status still means that top-tier status will require 6,000 more MQDs than last year — a 30% increase.

Note that Delta won’t be changing any of its other existing Choice Benefits for the 2025 program year.

Revamped lifetime status

Delta A220-300 Zach Griff - 40

Delta has long awarded lifetime status based on how many MQMs you earn, but now that MQMs are being retired, the airline is revamping how you earn lifetime status.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, Million Miler earnings will be based on how many miles you actually fly with Delta and its partners — no more bonuses for more expensive fares or higher fare classes. (All existing Million Miler balances will convert 1:1 into the new miles flown metric.)

Of course, this change frustrated many frequent flyers who thought they were well on their way to lifetime status only to have the goal posts changed on them in the middle of the game.

Though Delta isn’t budging on how you earn lifetime status, it is significantly enhancing the status you earn at each level, as you can see below:

  • Six million lifetime miles or more: Delta 360 status (from Diamond Medallion)
  • Five million lifetime miles: Delta 360 status (from Platinum Medallion)
  • Four million lifetime miles: Diamond Medallion status (from Platinum Medallion)
  • Three million lifetime miles: Diamond Medallion status (from Gold Medallion)
  • Two million lifetime miles: Platinum Medallion status (from Gold Medallion)
  • One million lifetime miles: Gold Medallion status (from Silver Medallion)

This is the first time that Delta has publicly offered invite-only Delta 360 status to Million Milers, and it certainly makes earning lifetime status much more compelling.

In fact, this change really benefits those who’ve already achieved lifetime status.

Travelers nearing the next threshold may still be bitter about these changes, even if it means that the goal at the end of the field is more exciting than the previous one.

In addition to the upgraded Medallion levels, Delta will also improve the complimentary upgrade priority for Million Milers.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024 — one month later than originally announced — Million Miler status is moving into the third position behind Medallion status and fare class. This is a notable update that’s sure to help some long-time Delta flyers beat newer travelers to the coveted seats at the pointy end of the plane.

Bottom line

For weeks, Delta has been teasing that it’ll make adjustments to the SkyMiles and Sky Club updates it announced last month. Many frequent flyers have been eagerly awaiting the details, and now that they’ve been announced, it’s time to see how travelers react.

On the surface, Delta’s changes are still pretty drastic. The increased Medallion thresholds are still raised by as much as two-thirds of what they were last year. Plus, the additional Choice Benefits might not be as exciting as some travelers hoped.

While Delta is undoubtedly making some welcome updates to the revised Sky Club access policy, we’ll need to wait and see if these changes actually help reduce overcrowding.

Regardless of how you feel, it seems like Delta is done making changes at this point.

“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,” Bastian’s note to customers reads.

Will customers still promise to cancel their credit cards and ditch Delta for its competitors? That’s still a million-dollar question that Delta hopes flyers will answer “no.”