Delta Air Lines was the first major U.S. carrier to add a revenue component to earning elite status, something that has traditionally been based on the distance flown (albeit with some loosely applied fare multipliers). For travel in 2014 — to earn status for 2015 — members of its SkyMiles program are required to spend between $2,500 and $12,500 for elite status. It calls these “Medallion Qualifying Dollars” and United quickly followed with a version of its own. American continues to hold out.
Apparently this requirement has not driven enough customers away from Delta because they have decided to raise the requirement by 20%. For status earned during 2015 and which lasts throughout 2016, the following thresholds will apply:
According to my Airline Elite Status Comparison Table for 2014, I argued that the best tradeoff between benefits and expense for Delta SkyMiles is in the Platinum and Diamond tiers. It’s simply too easy to replicate the benefits of Silver and Gold with a credit card. Now that the total cost of flights required to earn status is going up, it’s possible that Platinum is no longer justifiable, either. But there’s a long tail of people who are spending $15,000 or far, far more.
Fortunately for the other 99% of us, you can get a MQD waiver by spending $25,000 on a Delta co-branded credit card. Some credit cards also earn elite qualifying miles. The takeaway message is that fewer people will be earning status, and of those who do, more will be earning it without actual travel. But maybe the credit card waiver won’t be carried over to next year. I’m also interested to learn if United will raise its requirements. I have a feeling their shift has been less successful.
Although I tip my hat to The Points Guy and View from the Wing for bringing this to my attention — and they’re of high enough profile that I don’t doubt they have good sources — I found it interesting that there was no evidence of where they obtained this information. There is none that I can find, either. They did, however, manage to provide links to credit cards for an airline that is “undermining its frequent flyers” and “mind-numblingly complex.”
I’d appreciate it if someone could share a link to an official statement. Until then there is a chance this could be rumor. UPDATE: Delta has posted the new program rules online. HT to Amol.