(OK. I’m done with the Delta negativity for a while after this post. At least through the weekend.)
We expected September 14 to be the day Delta would announce major changes to the Delta SkyMiles Medallion program.
We weren’t even supposed to know September 14 was anything special. (No offense to anyone whose birthday or special anniversary was yesterday.)
It seems someone at Delta corporate accidentally published them a little early and the September 14 news turned into the September 13 news.
Thus, our waiting game was trimmed by a day. How fitting it was the 13th when we found out the news. You know, 13 being an unlucky number and all.
Some of the news could’ve been worse.
But a lot of it is pretty ugly.
Buckle up. And if someone could find a screwdriver, that’d be great: I’m a little unhinged.
First Things First
If you’re not familiar, please read this quick, down-n-dirty primer about the Delta Medallion status changes.
MQD will be the only status metric you can earn starting January 1, 2024. (Whatever status you earn in 2023 covers you for 2024, don’t worry.)
Here are the spending requirements for Medallion status.
- Silver: 6,000 MQD
- Gold: 12,000 MQD
- Platinum: 18,000 MQD
- Diamond: 35,000 MQD (about 234% higher than just two years ago)
Spending on Delta Amexes
You have to admit that the Delta and American Express juggernaut partnership is amazing. Delta says the spending on their cobranded Amex cards accounts for about 1% of the entire United States’ GDP.
Say what you want — but that’s impressive.
And Delta wants to go even further. The airline understandably wants people to spend a bunch of money on the cobranded card.
But what I find so confounding are the insane levels of spending needed to earn Medallion status.
Spending $10 on the big ticket Delta Reserve cards will earn a whole 1 MQD. Again, that’s for the airline’s premier credit card. It’s $20 to 1 MQD on the Delta Platinum Amex cards.
That ain’t moving the needle, chiefs.
This tells me Delta doesn’t need any of us Middle-Class folks and below to spend money toward status on our Delta Amexes. And they sure don’t want us rubbing elbows with the business travelers whose employers shell out for their Delta tickets. Delta earns enough money from major, six- and seven-figure Delta Amex spenders that they don’t need us.
I’ll be blunt: There is no way in Hell my wife, our company, or I will spend as much as we did in the past on our Delta American Express Cards.
I don’t know if we’ll even spend anything on our Delta Amex cards outside of the odd Amex Offers or various promotions here and there. We might keep our Reserve cards because of the Companion Certificates and lounge access (more on that later).
We both spent well over the $25,000 Delta Amex MQD Waiver each of the past several years (except for the 2020 COVID year) across several Delta Amex cards.
I told my wife that what we spent on her personal Delta Reserve Card (linked to her SkyMiles account) and our company’s Business Reserve Card (linked to mine) will now barely get us halfway to Silver.
Her response? Unprintable. It would earn this blog an automatic R-rating.
For us to both earn Platinum status, we’d have to spend about $350,000 across our two Reserve cards in addition to paid flying on Delta flights.
If I had that kind of money to spend earning status, I’d just buy first class tickets on whatever airline and call it a day.
We already stopped spending on our Reserve cards several months ago because we hit our MQD Waivers. Plus, their points earnings are a non-starter. So, we’ll continue what we’re doing now: spend on cards with flexible points (i.e., Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards®, Capital One Miles, Citi Thank You, etc.).
I really wish Delta would’ve kept the MQM system in place — and moved the MQD Waiver goal posts to something like $30,000 for Silver, $40,000 for Gold, and $50,000 for Platinum.
Partner Runs for the Win?
I was pleasantly stunned that Delta partner flights will still earn MQD based on a combination of distance flown and fare class.
However, the key to those are discounted business class tickets. Throughout the rest of the year, most Delta partner discounted business class tickets earn 40%. That got slashed to 30% starting on New Year’s Day 2024.
But it’s still an option. The Mileage Run Department at point.me will come in quite helpful for you. Before you forget, here is a direct link to their mileage run request form. Click on that link, visit the page, and bookmark it for safekeeping.
Sky Club Admission Changes
Delta Reserve Card holders will have only 10 complimentary Sky Club visits per Medallion year. Want unlimited visits for the Medallion year? Put $75,000 in spending on your card. (You know, the one that earns 3X on Delta purchases and 1X on everything else. Hey, that’ll earn you Silver status and get you more than halfway to Gold!)
That takes effect on February 1, 2025. So, we still have a long time to enjoy our favorite Sky Clubs.
This is long enough for Delta to learn if they royally screwed up and need to make adjustments.
The visit limits are ludicrous. I sometimes go through four or even five visits during one roundtrip if I have a connection or want to use the lounge upon arrival.
Neither United nor American limit lounge visits on their top-shelf credit cards. So, why is Delta punishing its SkyMiles members who fork out hundreds of dollars each year on Reserve cards?
I get that overcrowding is an issue. But you know what? United and American don’t let non-cobranded card users into their lounges. I wish Amex would’ve first cut down the Platinum Cards instead of screwing the Reserve cardholders at the same time.
How Many “Thin the Herd!” Folks Are Being Culled?
I’m genuinely curious how many Diamond Medallions who constantly scream “thin the herd!” will be a victim of the huge MQD-only movement.
$25,000 in Delta flight spending and $60,000 on a Delta Reserve suddenly makes you shine less in Delta’s eyes. Spend more — or enjoy the exit rows and Comfort+ seats.
My Family’s Plan
My wife and I will use our Medallion status and Sky Club visits for the next 15 or 16 months. Our daughter just got her passport and is eager to use it. (“Do I need my passport in New York City, Daddy?” she asked. I told her only maybe in the Bronx.) We’re thinking of a trip to London and Paris in early- or mid-December. Our Comfort+ upgrades will come in handy for those long flights.
But our Delta trips won’t seem as fun. We’re disappointed in Delta.
We’ll likely be free agents in 2025. We live in Los Angeles and have a bajillion airlines and a couple of different airports from which we can choose.
(I genuinely feel bad for the hub-captives, such as folks in Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Detroit, and Minneapolis. I can only imagine the dirty looks you’ll give Sky Clubs after your visit allotment is exhausted. And you have to trudge back to your non-preferred seat because earning status is ludicrous.)
That said, Mrs. Carley and her mom recently took United home separately and on different days from a funeral on the East Coast.
They both asked something along the lines of, “Does United always suck that much or did we just get unlucky?”
We like Delta’s hard products: planes, service, etc. We’ll still fly them occasionally after 2024 — but when it meets our requirements (or we’re forced to because they have a monopoly at a particular airport).
I’m a pretty loyal guy. (I’ve been a Minnesota sports fan my entire life. If that’s not loyalty, then I don’t know what it is.) But when someone crosses me or a company to whom I’ve been loyal screws me over, they lose me.
Sorry, Delta. It’s not me. It’s you.
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