Delta is doubling down on the requirement that you not only fly a minimum amount to earn elite status, but spend a minimum amount with the airline, too. There are no changes to how much you need to fly – just how much you need to spend. And they’re updating choice benefits for Platinum and Diamond members.
Big Increases In Spending Required
Here’s how status-earning is changing.
|Silver||25,000||30||$ 3,000||$ 3,000||None|
|Gold||50,000||60||$ 6,000||$ 8,000||$ 2,000|
|Platinum||75,000||100||$ 9,000||$ 12,000||$ 3,000|
|Diamond||125,000||140||$ 15,000||$ 20,000||$ 5,000|
They’re increasing the spend requirement for status – not the number of miles flown or segments flown – and maintaining the waiver of the spend requirement for use of Delta’s co-brand American Express products. $25,000 spend on their cards in a year waives the spend requirement for status up to Platinum, while $250,000 spend on their cards is required to waive the requirement for Diamond.
Miles and segments are still earned on award travel, something that’s new during the pandemic, and Delta still has rollover miles as well as earning of qualifying miles through their premium credit cards.
Is it any surprise they call the whole thing an ‘enhancement’? It enhances the need to show them the money. Delta touts it as ‘the first change since 2015’ but there’s nothing immutable about having to increase status requirements.
Still it’s strange to see higher ticket spend requirements with business travel, especially consultant travel and international long haul business travel, still impaired.
This will help Diamonds who do still qualify with upgrades, since there will be fewer Diamonds than there otherwise would be. it won’t really help Platinums and below, since Diamonds who would have qualified under the old rules will scale down to Platinum, Platinums will cascade down to Gold and so on.
Pick Your Poison: Ticket Spend Or Pledge Fealty To American Express
Since you can get around minimum airline spend requirements through spending on Delta’s co-brand American Express cards, that’s a built-in incentive to adopt their co-brand. Heads they win, tails they win, except for those customers unable to get and spend significant amounts on the credit card. But then what they are really saying is that flying isn’t enough, there’s two paths to demonstrating you’re a valuable customer to Delta:
- Spending a lot on tickets
- Spending a lot on through their American Express partnership
Rejects A Broader View Of What Customer Is Valuable To The Airline
It’s interesting to see them go this direction, implicitly choosing not to follow (rejecting) the American Airlines model where most activity counts. Instead, they committed to the United Airlines high ticket spend model. Bear in mind that while Delta’s American Express co-brand is especially lucrative, other partnerships for non-flight SkyMiles earn lag.
New Choice Benefits For Platinums And Diamonds
Delta has updated its ‘choice benefits’ for Platinums and Diamonds with the following new options.
- Diamond and Platinum Members With Delta Platinum and Reserve consumer or business American Express cards get a choice benefit option of a statement credit ($200 for Platinum, $500 for Diamond). That’s actually valuable, especially for Diamonds.
- More status gifts: Diamonds will be able to gift two Gold status memberships, Platinums will be able to gift two silvers.
- Delta Vacations discount on flight and hotel: $500 for Diamond and $400 for Platinum. This is useful for close-by trips you can buy for this amount, so some will find use here. But the Amex co-brand statement credit is clearly the better play for Diamonds.
- Qualifying dollar credit: $1,000 MQDs for the Diamond choice and $500 for Platinum (in the first year they couldn’t have done more to make up the difference in MQD requirement increase?)
- Increasing the Delta Travel Credit Voucher to $250
- A $250 contribution to Delta’s efforts in sustainable aviation fuel which they’re investing in anyway. So tell yourself you’re doing good by, essentially, accepting nothing as a benefit choice.
Other Changes Coming
Delta will introduce online upgrade requests for regional and global upgrades during the ticket purchase process. Global upgrades no longer support economy to business class, and rarely clear from premium economy to business class in any case. This is just avoiding a phone call (helpful with Delta’s long hold times even for top elites) not an improvement to upgrades.
They’ll also expend mileage redemption for checked bag fees, something that won’t be useful to elites and co-brand cardmembers who aren’t usually paying these fees, but that offers a new low value way to burn off SkyMiles liability.