It’s become a tradition for this blog: we look back at the year that was for our usual airline of choice: Delta.
What are “#KeepClimbing” and “#KeepDescending”?
Many of our blog’s readers are Delta loyalists (for better or worse).
We at Eye of the Flyer believe in giving credit when it’s due — but also dishing out criticism when we feel that’s warranted. (Some people think we’re on Delta’s payroll. That’s hilarious.)
Delta introduced a slogan several years ago: “Keep Climbing.” It’s upbeat, inspirational, and very appropriate for a company in the airline business. So when Delta does something we find admirable, we tag it “#KeepClimbing.”
But when Delta makes a move unfriendly towards its customers or employees, we flip the slogan around — and smack a “#KeepDescending” on the issue.
- #KeepClimbing = Good
- #KeepDescending = Bad
With that, please fasten your seatbelts. There’s are some steep climbs and descents coming our way.
#KeepClimbing: Award Travel Counts Toward Elite Status
This one was a blockbuster.
Delta announced on March 31 that award travel — including SkyMiles award redemptions and Miles + Cash tickets — would earn MQM, MQS, and MQD. That originally was to expire on December 31, 2021.
But then they shocked us again — and extended that feature through 2022. Then they made it permanent.
#KeepClimbing: Delta Introduces the Status Accelerator
Man, I loved this 2021-only promotion and really wished Delta kept it for 2022. (Maybe they’ll surprise us and reintroduce it next year?)
Delta gave MQM, MQS, and MQD boosts of 50%-75% with its Status Accelerator promotion. The promotion is valid for flights with scheduled takeoffs no later than 11:59 PM on December 31, 2021. (Please note: MQM and MQS earnings will no longer be available as of January 1, 2024. There will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the Card. Learn more at delta.com/
#KeepClimbing: Delta Again Extends Medallion Status and Rolls Over Everyone’s MQM to 2022
Delta dropped a mid-summer surprise on July 27: it announced Medallion members would automatically have their elite status extended for another year (through January 2023). Plus, any and all MQM will roll over into 2022 — giving everyone a jump start on Medallion status for 2023.
#KeepDescending: Awful Customer Service
I called the Medallion desk in mid-August. The automated attendant told me the wait time to speak with a rep would be several hours. So I requested an automatic call back.
I’m still waiting for that return call — and hardly the only one with such a story.
Delta’s phone center ranks were drastically reduced during the first COVID surges. From what we hear, some took early retirement or voluntary leave.
And there simply weren’t enough employees to handle the influx of calls when travel resumed en masse. Some of those phone reps still there didn’t really know what they were doing.
For example, Diamond Medallion phone reps were some of the best of the best, pre-pandemic. But they became unicorns after their herd was thinned. Diamonds were passed off to new hires or reps who weren’t entirely up to speed. Medallions had to give lessons to some Delta employees as to how the SkyMiles program works.
It’s not that the reps were rude or inconsiderate. Many just didn’t know the score yet.
After Delta ditched its Twitter-based customer service and phone queues grew long, Delta CEO Ed Bastian grumbled to USA Today’s Dawn Gilbertson that people could send him an email and he’d help them. (Apparently, people did. Lots of them.)
Customer service is starting to catch up again — at least in that respect. But the airline is like many other businesses and struggling with staffing shortages.
#KeepClimbing: Upgrade Certificates Valid on Award Tickets
Delta announced in March that Global Upgrade Certificates and Regional Upgrade Certificates may now be applied to SkyMiles award travel and Miles + Cash tickets on Delta-operated flights. This was a very Medallion-friendly move on Delta’s part.
#KeepClimbing: Delta Allows Medallions to Use More Than Two Upgrade Certificates
In the past, Upgrade Certificate itineraries could have only two people: the certificate holder and one companion. But Delta axed those restrictions and now allows a Medallion to use multiple certificates on a reservation or linked PNRs. This is great for people who want to take their loved ones on an extra memorable trip. For example, I snagged Delta One for my traveling group of five passengers.
#KeepClimbing: Upgrade Certificate Availability Added to Delta.com
Many of us experienced the frustration of finding trips we wanted to take — and then spending a bunch of time on the phone with Delta, asking if various flights had any confirmed Upgrade Certificate availability. Only the reps could tell us if there was any available inventory.
Well done, Delta. Thank you.
#KeepClimbing: Delta Extends Existing Upgrade Certificate Expiration Dates
Delta extended unused Upgrade Certificates’ expiration dates to January 31, 2023. This shouldn’t be confused with —
#KeepDescending: Delta Limits Upgrade Certificate Usage to Your Medallion Year
This change kicks on February 1, 2022. Diamond and Platinum Medallions must fully use (claim, book, fly) their Upgrade Certificates all within their applicable Medallion Year. In the past (and I guess until January 1, 2022), you could deposit the certificates into your account and have up to a year to use them — regardless of your Medallion status.
#KeepDescending: Upgrade Certificates Valid Only for One Cabin Higher
Wow. What a gut punch.
One of the fantastic perks Global Upgrade Certificates offered was the ability to buy a Main Cabin ticket, apply a GUC, then enjoy Delta One on a transoceanic flight.
But that all changes on February 1, 2022. At that time, certificates can be redeemed only for an upgrade to the next cabin.
For example, applying a Global Upgrade Certificate to Main Cabin or Comfort+ bookings may score you a confirmed seat in Premium Select. (inventory permitting.) You’re then waitlisted for Delta One — which will clear upgrades within 24 hours of that flight. If you want a better shot at Delta One, buy a Premium $elect $eat and apply your Global Upgrade Certificate to jump up to D1.
#KeepClimbing: The Delta Amex Cards Were Actually Good for Purchasing Delta Tickets!
Delta and American Express teamed up for an Amex Offer allowing Delta Amex cardholders to earn 5X total SkyMiles on Delta Air Lines purchases made on their cards during 2021. (Enrollment required.)
What was so monumental about this?
Consider that the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card usually earn only 2X on Delta purchases. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card each earn only 3X on Delta spending in non-bonused years (if you will).
But 5X put it on par with The Platinum Card® from American Express (5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmexTravel.com. That’s capped at $500,000 in purchases per calendar year.) I value American Express® Membership Rewards® higher than SkyMiles — but the 5X on Delta Amexes was undoubtedly a considerate promotion. Did you take advantage of it?
#KeepClimbing: 25% Bonuses on Delta Amex MQM Earnings
Four Delta Amex cards give members to earn bonus MQM through spending.
Please note that this benefit will no longer be available as of January 1, 2024. There will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the Card. Learn more at delta.com/
In “normal” years (whatever those were or are now…), each time you spend $30,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, you earn 15,000 bonus MQM.
A maximum of 60,000 bonus MQM may be earned per Reserve card each calendar year. In other words, the benefit is limited to $120,000 in spending.
Meanwhile, when you spend $25,000 during a calendar year on one Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card you receive 10,000 MQM. If you spend another $25,000 that same calendar year on that same Delta Amex card, you receive another 10,000 MQM. So spending $50,000 total on one Delta Amex Platinum card during a calendar year typically earns you 20,000 total bonus MQM.
But Delta upped the ante by 25% for each card this year. The 15,000 MQM bonuses on each Reserve card became 18,750 each. So big spenders could earn 75,000 total bonus MQM this year per eligible Reserve card. The Platinum cards earned 12,500 on each boost or a possible 25,000 MQM total.
#KeepClimbing: Delta Extends Delta Amex Card Perks and Benefits
Unused Companion Certificates as of July 31, 2021, or Companion Certificates issued between August 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021, can be used to travel through January 31, 2023.
Plus, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members with unused SkyClub guest passes can use them through January 31, 2023.
#KeepDescending: Delta Eliminates Basic Economy SkyMiles Earnings
On December 9, Delta quietly announced that Basic Economy tickets would no longer earn redeemable SkyMiles or MQM, MQS, or MQD. The rule took effect for tickets purchased that day apropos of flights departing on or after January 1, 2022.
#KeepClimbing: SkyBonus Points Extended and Requalification Requirements Waived
SkyBonus members were thrown a bone on July 21. Delta announced SkyBonus points, awards, and elite status were extended through December 31, 2022.
Plus, active accounts will not need to meet the program’s annual minimum requirements: five separate travelers and a minimum of $5,000 in accrued spending on qualifying flights.
#KeepClimbing(?): Million Miler Benefits
Million Milers got some extra love from Delta this year. First, some members received Delta gift cards as a reward for their loyalty.
Then, Delta announced that those who earn at least 6 million MQM can enjoy lifetime Diamond Medallion status. (Remember, you can earn 160,000 bonus MQM each year across four Delta Amex cards. And that’s without flying or receiving gift MQM from anyone else 🙂 )
And this final one almost deserves the introduction of a “#KeepLevel” award: Million Miler status is now an upgrade tie-breaker. But it’s waayyy down toward the bottom. I imagine that it’ll come in handy for some Million Milers at some point, though.
#KeepDescending: SkyRocketing SkyMiles Partner Redemptions
Remember the good ol’ days of late October 2020 when business class redemptions on Delta partner airlines were “only” 95,000 SkyMiles each way? (And that was on a good day.)
Not long after Delta mortgaged its own frequent flyer program, SkyMiles award trip prices jumped. Most Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic trips started at 120,000 SkyMiles each way. But we found roundtrips going for at least a half-million SkyMiles.
#KeepClimbing: Job Well Done Certificates Return
This was a nice Christmas present: Job Well Done certificates were mailed out to Diamond and Platinum Medallion members again.
#KeepClimbing(?): Delta Introduces Viasat for Onboard WiFi
This is another potential “#KeepLevel.”
Delta announced in January that it partnered with Viasat for onboard WiFi service. That was welcome news for many of us who suffered through the #FirstWorldProblem known as “Gogo Inflight.” The Gogo service was often slow and erratic.
Viasat rolled out to a number of Delta aircraft this year (mostly 757s, A321s, and 737s). I used it several times during 2021. One of the best features is its gate-to-gate availability. Those extra 40-60 minutes of an internet connection during boarding, taxiing, and waiting to get off the plane can be tremendously productive.
But Viasat’s speed and consistency didn’t really impress me. Never did I say, “Whoa! This is way faster than Gogo!”
And my connections were usually interrupted. In fact, I enjoyed better Gogo service on some flights than I did Viasat.
I assume these are growing pains and will eventually iron themselves out.
Overall, Did Delta #KeepClimbing and #KeepDescending This Year?
The number of #KeepClimbings far outweigh the #KeepDescendings. But some of the #KeepDescendings were rough.
However, we’re still in a pandemic — one that’s again surging. Most companies are adapting to the ever-changing landscape of a COVID world. And Delta is certainly no exception. So that — in all fairness — must be kept in mind.
What do you think of our rankings for this year? Anything major we forgot? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!
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