Delta Extends Elite Status, Club Memberships And Rolls Over Qualifying Miles To Next Year

Everyone pauses in place and gets a do-over. That’s the message from Delta which announced an extension of elite status, club memberships, vouchers and more.

What’s Getting Extended

SkyMiles 2021 elite status is extended through January 31, 2022. Any elite qualifying miles earned in 2020 will roll over into 2021, and (combining with qualifying miles earned in 2021) count towards earning status in 2022.

Diamond and Platinum members will receive Choice Benefits they can select in 2021. Elite drink vouchers will be extended six months from their expiration date. Upgrade certificates and $200 choice benefit vouchers are exteended six months, too.

Anyone currently taking an elite status challenge can take another one again in the future, the current one won’t ‘count against them’ for status challenge eligibility.

Sky Club members set to expire March 1, 2020, or later get an extra six months of access.

Co-brand credit card holders will see extensions as well;

  • Gold Amex $100 Delta Flight Credits will get a six-month extension from their current expiration date
  • Platinum and Reserve Amex companion certificates set to expire March 1 – June 30, 2020 will be valid through December 31, 2020 and those that expire July 1, 2020 – April 1, 2021 will get an extra 6 months.
  • Reserve Sky Club one time passes are extended 6 months as well.

Anyone who purchased SkyMiles Select bundles get six more months on their priority boarding and drink vouchers.

What’s Still Missing Here

There doesn’t seem to be a reason to keep a Delta Reserve credit card that comes with Sky Club access. Even if that access is extended six months, paying the annual fee just doesn’t make sense on the current cycle, members won’t ever capture the value of that extension. American Express will need to take action on credit card annual fees for cards that are primarily delivering club lounge access.

This is something all issuers will have to do with their travel cards – whether it’s an Amex Platinum, United Club, or American Executive card.

Why Elite Status Extensions Matter Now

Elite status may seem ‘unimportant’ compared to the threats we’re facing, but members are really invested in their programs. Their identity, and sense of normalcy, is wrapped up in their airline status. Most people can’t directly affect the big problems they’re facing, but their elite status is a little problem we can all get our hands around, and loyalty programs can give customers a bit of certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.

Why It’s Made Sense For Airlines To Wait On Extensions, By Why Delta Goes First

Hilton and Hyatt have already given up on the year and extended everyone’s current status to next year. Several airline loyalty programs around the world have extended status as well. However U.S. airlines have largely been holding out, figuring that:

  • Why do they need to decide now, it’s not as though anybody’s flying now anyway
  • If they extend status for a year, customers won’t have a reason to stay loyal if they’re able to fly again later in the year
  • Better to run double qualifying prommotions and similar to use the program to incentivize travel

There’s been a game of wait and see, hoping nobody else would go first with a full extension. Now that Delta is moving, that will put pressure on American, United, and Alaska Airlines to do the same.

Hyatt and Delta both have built-in advantages with their programs, though. Hyatt gives benefits for each 10 nights stayed, which continues to offer built-in benefits for remaining with the chain when customers can travel again. Delta similarly offers roll-over miles, which means qualifying miles earned later in the year aren’t going to be ‘wasted’ – by calling them 2021 miles, they can be rolled over for 2022 status.

Delta, by getting out ahead of U.S. competitor airlines, gets good P.R. and this is an airline geared towards telling a story. Just like consumers fall back on what matters in normal times in the face of challenges, Delta’s loyalty and P.R. shop is engineered to do the same.

What Comes Next

Delta has done the heavy lifting working through what they needed to do in the current environment to keep loyal customers loyal. They will need these customers when the current unpleasantness finally subsides.

Now other U.S. airlines are likely to match, more or less – because they have to, and because they can defer to Delta (whom they usually consider to be smarter anyway).

However neither United nor American has the built-in advantage of rollover qualifying miles that lets Delta still offer value towards qualification through their elite program even while extending status. That’s a move others should consider copying, if only for this year, to give customers a reason to keep flying to keep future status and benefit the airline when that business is needed most.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I’m divided on this. I’d rather Delta give incentives with bonus MQDs or MQMs. Perhaps even revamp Sky Miles by bringing back award charts and allowing regional upgrade certificates to be used for upgrades into premium economy. Why should I fly Delta if my status has been extended automatically for another year? I might as well cheat on Delta and try American or Alaska. Just strikes me as poorly thought-out.

    On the other hand, clever move, Delta. You get the huge PR props from this, but the reality is there will be as many or more diamond medallions as before with fewer flights. That’s a recipe for more PAID first-class revenue, which as we all know is Delta’s goal. When everyone is an elite nobody is an elite. That used to be Delta’s slogan.

  2. Buffett dumped Delta stock last week. Stock price has fallen since Friday close. Wonder if timing of status extension is related? You know change the narrative? Also show that Delta is the leader in the sector.

  3. Will the 2021 MQM’s include the rollover miles we started 2020 with? The letter states, “all of your 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) will be rolled over in 2021.” I started the year with ~15k rollover miles, but those are arguably 2019 miles.

  4. I suspect someone looked at the number of people who over the past few years have qualified for their individual highest status level sometime, say, mid-November through December 31 (thus implying they needed the whole year to accrue flying activity), saw that number was extremely large, and decided they weren’t willing to make the bet that that number of elites would return to flying in time to participate in bonus EQM promotions particularly with the drawdown in schedules and seats.

    In other words, too many valuable elites that spread their flying over the whole year might not have any incentive to return to flying with Delta if status was out of reach. If I’m 30,000 eqms away from my normal status when I get back on a plane for the first time in September, I might be much more price- and schedule- sensitive than I would be if I knew I had my comfy plat status secure *and* I could be building EQMs for next year.

    Yes, some people in this current scheme are more advantaged than others, and if I had to guess it’d be mostly the outliers.

  5. @ Gary — Cool. Can’t wait until AS and AA follow. I am still a bit confused by DL’s announced extensions from a couple days ago, as none of my stuff was extended.

    UA will probably raise their requirements.

  6. Rollover is appreciated. We all figured airlines wouldn’t extend status for a year, but as someone who has already flown and racked up a significant number of MQMs and MQDs through mid March before things really started shutting down, Delta needed to do something for fliers who have already met 2021 qualifications. The rollover is a nice touch. First thought was I’m not a huge fan of status extensions being provided for a year but (1) if travel kicks back up this year, people aren’t going to be flying as much anyways (Personal or business as companies likely leave their travel restriction policies in place for an extra period) and (2) while extending status increases the number of diamond/plats which could water down the benefits, I generally expect travel to be much lower in 2021 compared to 2019.

  7. Also waiting on AA and AS. Then, as of next year, there will be little reason to requalify for both of these individually going forward. Once they match (even status if not rollover), life gets simpler 🙂

    Then, with a single end-of-year trip that gets just about all of our BA Silver status renewed for 2 years,we’re all set.

    Cheers.

  8. Pretty soon everyone will be complaining when they don’t get upgrades because of all the fake diamonds and platinums on the upgrade list.

  9. Nice touch to still award the Choice Benefits in 2021. That wasn’t mentioned in the press release so I figured they were cutting corners in that regard and I wouldn’t blame them for it. It is announcedf on the full Delta SkyMiles up on their site, as you note.

    Since I started paying attention to Delta with the NWA merger, Delta SkyMiles has seemed to best have the pulse of how far they can squeeze travelers and still entice them to chase elite status. Now it operates in reserve that if they feel this level of generosity is needed, their outlook for the business is dire indeed.

  10. I have been quite critical of Delta on this blog and Ed Bastion in particular for basically thumbing their noses at their best customers. (ex-Diamond, currently EP (Key) on AA). But they deserve a hat tip here for going first. Is it a bit self-serving? Of course it is, but it’s also the right thing to do.
    I appreciated how Hyatt made this move, too.
    Currently waiting on AA — and how they respond will definitely impact my spending post-coronavirus. Also waiting on Marriott as I have points expiring in days and no hope of using them. Personally, Marriott seems to be the laggard in the travel industry when it comes to treating their customers right.

  11. Delta, here’s what else I want:

    My June conference in Mexico City is going virtual, and I’d like to cancel my award flight without the $150 fee to redeposit my miles. Currently, the no-fee exception only extends to May 31, but the exception should be extended through June 30 at the least.

  12. anyone know about delta skyclub one day passes. i have several that expire june 2020 and i will not be able to use them. i was going to…but i have cancelled all those applicable flights.

    thanks!

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