Customers have been writing to Delta to express dissatisfaction with changes to their elite status program. Miles and segments don’t matter anymore – only qualifying dollars. And instead of spending a minimum $20,000 with Delta to earn top tier Diamond status, Delta now wants $35,000. Other elite levels require more spend as well.
Delta isn’t offering any more benefits than before. They’re just asking more of customers. And they’ll count every $10 in spend on Delta’s $550 premium co-brand credit card as worth 1 qualifying dollar. It takes $20 in spend on their Platinum card to earn a qualifying dollar. And every dollar spent booking hotels, rental cars, and vacation packages through Delta also earns a qualifying dollar (but you’ll give up hotel points and credit towards hotel elite status by doing so).
The airline wants customers to know that they can still earn status. All they have to do is move any ticket spending with other airlines over to Delta, and then spend more on their credit cards. Delta says that they’ll receive nearly $7 billion from Amex this year, and they have a vision to push that up to $10 billion. They need customers to do their part!
Here’s one response where Delta explains that, as a Diamond member, customers are already hitting $20,000 in spend on tickets. So just spend $150,000 on their $550 annual fee credit card and “You may not be that far off in your ability to reach Diamond status for 2025.”
SkyMiles members need to stop complaining, according to the airline, and do simple math. If they’d just see they only need to spend $150,000 on a credit card, all would be fine. Does that sound daunting to you? Just stop being poor. Delta has an American Express revenue goal to meet.
The thing is that customers should do the math like Delta says. If you put $150,000 of spending on a Delta credit card then you’re earning Delta miles with that spending. Those miles aren’t worthless, but they are worth less. Delta miles certainly aren’t worth more than about 1.1 cents apiece (a 1.1% rebate at 1 mile per dollar) and a no annual fee card can easily get 2% back.
And customers should consider whether loyalty to Delta has become too one-sided. Upgrades have gotten harder, with most first class seats being sold, and they’re expected to get harder still with the airline saying they have plans for greater ‘segmentation’ of the first class cabin, along the lines of what they did with coach (Basic Economy, Comfort+) to sell more seats and generate more revenue. Delta also says they aren’t done making changes to the program.
So even if you stop being poor, maybe you want to spend your money somewhere else? If you live in Atlanta or the Upper Midwest that isn’t easy of course. But in most markets customers have a choice. Delta is the marginally more reliable airline in most cases, but in many ways both American and United have improved. For someone that earns status purely by flying, United’s status is easier to earn. And for someone that earns status via credit card and other activity, American’s is far easier too.