Delta Increasing Spending Requirements For Elite Status

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.

Or Current New
Miles Segments Dollars Dollars Change
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:

  1. Spending a lot on tickets
  2. 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.

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. Why are people still addicted to being a slave of an airline? What happened to the hype of being a “free agent”?

  2. See Gary – this shows exactly why many of us thought the article from a few days ago about 25 million elite members being downgraded was off base. Elite upgrade lists are longer than ever and seem to be growing as more people are flying today at higher ticket prices. These changes may reduce elite populations in 2024, but only potentially at the Diamond level. Check ticket prices – transcon, transatlantic, and basic flights like NYC-LAS are seeing sky high prices, not as hard to reach $15K in spend anymore.

    And there is a lot more to business travel than consultants

  3. Bidenflation!

    Unless Ed Bastian knows something we don’t know, I’m not sure raising the spend required in a recession with no sign of business travel recovering is wise. Even Marriott says business travel hasn’t come back despite their projections. Does Delta have better projections? Then again, I suppose Delta had to do something. I’ve had several flights where 50% of the passengers were on the first and comfort upgrade lists.

    I think the bigger story is Delta considered following a purely revenue model akin to American but rejected it for a partially distance-flown program. That’s significant. Hopefully, we can count on miles being miles for the foreseeable future.

    I personally would have preferred the MQM threshold for diamond increasing to 150,000 as 125,000 isn’t that low, especially with bonus MQMs through the Delta-branded American Express credit card. Still, the higher MQD threshold should help diamonds on the margins. I feel sorry for the diamonds who fly mostly domestic and have to purchase the lowest economy-class airfare.

  4. Interesting point from Anthony, but I for one am shocked by this. Many companies are still limiting business travel. I know flights are full and there are plenty of carry-over elites from the past couple years, but there really enough new diamond qualifications to justify raising the MQD threshold?

  5. AA is a zombie corp that earns LCC yields with legacy costs, so forgive Delta for not following them

  6. Now booking most flights with AA, delta has showed me since last year loyalty means next to nothing to them.

  7. New Choice Benefits For Platinums And Diamonds – is this for 2023 qualifying / 2024 selection?

  8. This is great news. Time to thin the Diamond herd and get rid of the ridiculous overcrowding in SkyClubs.

  9. Will drop to Plat this year after being a charter Diamond flyer. Was hoping to get back to Diamond next year but after this increase will stop chasing that. The miles were worth a lot less than AA or UA anyway. Thanks Delta but no thanks!

  10. Well, I guess the time has come for me to branch out. I have been diamond for a handful of years but I just don’t spend 20k. I buy coach tickets and I am 98% domestic 48 states. I realize I am not the cash cow that the international Delta One flyers may be but I am a butt in seat every week flyer that just keeps getting brushed aside. I sure hope they can continue to live on those cash cows as us little fish look elsewhere. Yes, I know a lot of people ask why be loyal in the first place. My job is equipment intensive and I often check multiple overweight bags. Being Plat/Diam waives the associated fees and saves me hundreds if not thousands a year. This is just very disappointing and makes everytime someone says thank you for your loyalty seem like they are just taunting a dying fish.

  11. @JohnnyB – This will have really 0 effect on Sky Clubs. Look at the clubs with a Diamond line and there is never anyone in it compared to the dozen or more in the everybody else line.

  12. Delta’s No. 1 selling point is its service reliability. Of the 3 majors, they historically ran their operation better and recovered from problems faster. Because of this their elite program lags behind because it could, they were No. 1 in profit for a decade.

    Over the last year their operations have eroded to be on “par” with the other carriers if not worse. At the end of the day if you’re seriously flying for business in a real way, what do you really care about how much you pay for the tickets, if its $100-150 more or less? You care about getting where you need to be when they say. If you’re a high volume flyer, you’re going to get a lot of upgrades as long as you’re not flying New York to Chicago at 8 am on Monday.

    What is unacceptable is this erosion and lack of meaningful improvement. Delta has lost my trust in the last year and it hurts me to say it because it affects my life and my time.

    On balance these revenue changes make sense, spending is up so levels go up. But holy hell, Delta rolling out even a SINGLE change to anything involved SkyMiles before fixing their operations is repugnant and that’s all I can think about at the moment.

  13. @Brian: Very valid point. I hope everyone emails Ed Bastian at .

    Delta gutted award redemptions twice during the pandemic, attempted to devalue Sky Club access by eliminating access on arrival and imposing an artificial departure access time limit that has done nothing to reduce overcrowding, was the last airline to bring back meals and drinks in first-class, devalued global and regional upgrade certificates, and now increased the thresholds for elite status with no tangible improvements. 700,000 miles for business-class to Europe? Yeah. No way.

    Meanwhile, we had 8-hour or more wait times for the Diamond Desk.

  14. I don’t care about any of y’all…I’ll gladly take your hard-earned business dollars and give you SkyPesos in return.

  15. Usually when one of the big three airlines does something, the others follow.
    This makes me think UA will change their requirements and/or won’t be offering any kind of incentives to extend status for next year.

  16. @ Brian — Reliable multi-hour phone calls for Diamonds. What a pathetic airline Delta has become.

  17. In other Delta news, Delta moves to the M concourse (terminal 5) at ORD next week and gains two gates in the process and a new, much larger Sky Club. Yet another example of DL investing not just in the infrastructure to grow but also to accommodate more premium passengers.
    The Sky Club will supposedly open directly to the boarding area for their LGA flights.
    Now the question is what new routes Delta will add from ORD. LAX?

    Brian
    Delta’s cancellation rate has improved considerably since May and June according to DOT stats; they never lost their on-time leadership among continental US airlines.- just behind Hawaiian.
    I am able to do most of my transactions online or via the app but I bet we’ll hear more in their earnings presentation next week regarding training more people for premium services.Keep voicing your concerns because I know they hear them.
    Customer service in many industries is still recovering; I am waiting for things for which I never had to wait before so Delta is not alone but they do have to keep pushing to get back to their forward service standards.

  18. Tim, 2% “lead” in on-time perf isn’t worth all the slapping Delta is handing out to its pax let and right.

  19. For July 2022, the most recent month the DOT has reported, DL had a 7% system lead over AA and a 13% lead over B6 – DL’s most competitive direct competitor.
    Even for WN, it was 10%.

  20. I’ve been Delta Diamond for ten plus years. Definitely will not qualify next year if they keep their prices ridiculously high. Detroit fares anywhere are two to three times higher than AA and others. I’ve been flying out of CLE and CHI to reach the MQ$ spend and be within companies guidelines. But no more. I’ll move over to AA next year which has significantly lower Mileage Business Class Awards and better prices out of my home city.

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