Delta Award Tickets Count Towards Elite Status For Rest Of 2021, 50% – 75% Bonus On All Travel

Delta is offering at least a 50% elite qualifying bonus on all travel for the rest of 2021, and a 75% bonus for premium cabin travel, under the banner of Medallion Accelerator. For the first time at Delta award travel will count towards earning elite status from April 1 through December 31, 2021 as well.

  • Bonus applies to qualifying miles, segments, and qualifying dollars

  • 50% bonus for coach

  • 75% bonus on premium cabin travel (including extra legroom ‘comfort+’, as well as upgrades purchased after initial ticket purchase (whether paid in cash or miles)

  • Bonus may not post right away – the bonus for travel taken April 1 – May 15 will thus be credited by May 31, 2021.

  • These bonuses count towards elite status challenges and towards million miler status.

Delta operated and marketed flights only, partner travel isn’t eligible, and neither are partner-issued award tickets for travel on Delta. Mileage upgrade awards don’t count, and neither do bulk or exception fares other than those purchased through Delta Vacations. Upgrades purchased at checkin or at the gate don’t count either.

Qualifying dollars for award travel treat each mile redeem as worth a penny, plus the bonus. So a coach award ticket that costs 30,000 miles earns 450 qualifying dollars.

Delta vassal Virgin Atlantic announced award travel counting towards elite status last summer. That’s a new permanent feature of the Virgin program. Delta’s move is merely temporary.

Air Canada Aeroplan is the gold standard. They’ve extended everyone’s elite status for 2022 already. American and United reduced qualification requirements and have run offers of one sort or another to accelerate status earning. But Delta had been silent about how status would be earned in 2021 until now (aside from full qualification rules, which wasn’t ever going to be a possibility).

If this is all Delta does this year I don’t think it’s enough: business travel won’t really restart until sometime in the third quarter. And borders remain generally closed. Long haul premium cabin travel just isn’t an option towards elite status, which represents the profile of many of Delta’s best customers. A 50% or 75% bonus doesn’t keep those members at their expected level.

Nonetheless I appreciate award travel counting towards elite status, which makes sense given Delta’s revenue-based program where each mile is worth (just and about) a penny.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As a DL platinum, this is a good start. I have ~26K rollover miles from 2019, so that means just 32K butt-in-seat main cabin miles will, with the bonus, allow me to achieve the MQM threshold. Where I expect to struggle is with the MQD threshold – fares are so low (I am flying transcon for $200 next week on DL…) that spending $6K by end of this year will likely prove difficult, especially with my business travel greatly reduced. Hoping they kill MQD requirements or “forgive them” for this year, then I could live with this adjustment quite nicely.

  2. Same here. Im fine or over on Miles already. The Dollars are where I will struggle because flights are so cheap. Unless they do something on Dollars, a lot of elites will fall out next year.

  3. The MQD isn’t a show-stopper for me, so at first glance I was loving the idea of this.

    I still like the idea of what DL is doing on this; however, whatever long-haul international award flying I may end up doing this year on DL-issued award tickets is likely to be heavily stacked toward using DL partner airlines instead of sticking to DL metal itself. And so this inclusion of DL award ticket travel doesn’t really do me as much good as if I were to be flying around the US on DL award tickets.

    DL really should consider scrapping or otherwise watering down the MQD requirements, as DL’s going to be heavily reliant for at least the next few months on leisure travel, since leisure air travel is going to have a faster, fuller recovery than business travel.

  4. The MQDs is a challenge for people like me working at a nonprofit on international development. I can easily hit the 125k MQM a year to make Diamond, but could only buy the lowest fare economy. I was able to get in through the AMEX card spend waiver of 25k a year. Until they changed it to $250k a year to get a waiver into Diamond! I had to think, really – is your service going to get 10x better?I

  5. I do see the flights award ticket for delta in 2022 counting toward stAtus . Did not see about the accelerator such as first class and comfort counting an additional 50 or 75#?

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