Delta Medallion members should be interested in changes to the 2014 SkyMiles Medallion program announced today. I think it’s an actual net positive change to the program, although it may be a net negative for some people.
Here are the biggest changes:
Diamond/Platinum upgrade certificates eligible on most (almost all) fares
Delta has decided to United-ify their program to nix Systemwide Upgrades and instead have Global Upgrades and Regional Upgrades.
The former Systemwide Upgrades were useful only on Y/B/M fares internationally, which are pretty cost-prohibitive. Domestically, they were good on Y/B/M/H/Q/K fares, but when Delta introduced low-tier X/V/E fares for economy class, it silently increased the cost of K+ fares.
Platinums could get up to 4 SWUs per year and Diamonds could get 6 SWUs as one of their benefits, so while a Diamond could have 10 SWUs, they were useful only on some fares.
Instead, the new Global Upgrades and Regional Upgrades can be used on all classes except E fares. While there is a restriction, I’ve found that E fares tend to be offered in markets where Delta needs to battle with Ultra Low Cost Carriers (like Spirit). It’s worth noting that small restriction, but this is a HUGE POSITIVE CHANGE for Delta.
Diamond Medallion members get 2 choice benefits when they hit 125,000 Medallion Qualifying Members. Starting March 1, 2014, they can choose either 4 Global Upgrades or 8 Regional Upgrades as one of their Diamond choice benefits.
Platinum Medallion members get 1 choice benefit, and can choose 4 Regional Upgrades. While Platinums lose out on international upgrades, it’s not as big of a loss considering the old fare requirements.
A Diamond Medallion can select 4 Regional Upgrades at 75,000 MQMs when they qualify for Platinum, and then 4 Global Upgrades at 125,000 MQMs. While there is a reduction in the number of upgrade certificates, the loss of fare restriction makes up for this reduction.
On the other hand, mileage upgrades will face the same restrictions they do now in terms of fare class.
I achieved Platinum Medallion earlier this year but have kept away from choosing my Choice Benefit. I have a while to select them, so I was ecstatic about the non-restricted Regional Upgrades available on March 1, until …
Loss of Complimentary Upgrades on JFK-LAX/SFO/SEA Transcons
In my opinion, this is a net negative for members. Up until now, Delta has allowed complimentary upgrades for BusinessElite transcon flights, and it was possible for lower tier elites to be upgraded if they flew a very light load flight (like a Saturday night redeye).
What’s dumb in my opinion is that Delta will now require Global Upgrades and not Regional Upgrades for these domestic flights. I know Delta thinks Westin bedding and flat-beds are soooooo amazing, but a 5-hour flight is not worth a Global Upgrade, especially when United allows Regional (Premier) Upgrades on their routes. I sense a lot of people may try to route New York to the west coast via Detroit, Minneapolis, or Atlanta to keep upgrade possibilities alive.
Changes to Hawaii Upgrade Program
It used to require mileage or systemwide upgrades to upgrade flights between the mainland and Hawaii, even for elite members. Beginning March 1, 2014, flights to Hawaii from Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City will be eligible for Complimentary Medallion Upgrades.
Atlanta to Honolulu, which is flown on an internationally configured aircraft, will require Global Upgrades, just like the transcon flights.
In addition, those without elite status actually see a devaluation, as Hawaii now requires Y/B/M fares to upgrade with miles. Hawaii used to fall under the Y/B/M/H/Q/K group for mileage upgrades.
Considering what was required early, this is still a net positive change for elites, and a net negative for general members.
Additional Choice Benefit Options
Global Entry application vouchers will be added as choice benefits – 2 for Diamonds and 1 for Platinum Medallions. These are worth $100 each, so while not necessarily a great deal, it’s still something that wasn’t offered before.
Diamond Medallions can also select 2 Tiffany & Co. premium luggage tags beginning in March as one of their benefits. In case you don’t like the current cowbell metallic ones …
Shortened Membership Year
For this year, and in previous years, Delta’s membership year lasted through the end of February. If you earned status in 2013, you would have that status immediately throughout 2014 and then through February 2015.
With Rollover Miles, this made it easy to keep an older status and use those 2 months to try to re-qualify for a higher status if possible.
Starting in 2016, the membership year will last only 1 extra month into the year, until the end of January. When you achieve status in 2014, it’ll be good immediately throughout the end of 2015 and then only one extra month in 2016. A net negative change, but one that matches other airlines.
I’m happy about the mostly-unrestricted upgrade certificates and think it’s a huge coup for Diamond and Platinum Medallions.
The loss of complimentary upgrades on transcontinental flights between JFK and LAX/SFO/SEA is understandable given the market, but I simply don’t understand the requirement of Global Upgrades rather than Regional Upgrades for that route. Delta is quite arrogant about their transcon service, and I’m hoping that American’s upgraded planes in 2014, United’s allowance of Regional Upgrades on ps flights, and JetBlue Mint’s $600 advance purchase fares show them that there are other choices for consumers.
That said, Diamond Medallion is still attainable for people like me. While United 1K will require $10,000 of spending on United tickets, Delta still allows an American Express spending waiver for the Diamond Medallion level (and Amex cards are generous in awarding MQMs through spending). You would need to earn 125,000 MQMs, but it’s still doable. You just have to deal with redeeming SkyMiles.
Lastly, I think this is good news for people like me who are American Airlines Executive Platinums, who get 8 systemwide upgrades that can be used on any flight/any fare. The SWUs are a key thing that many of us are worried about losing in the merger with US Airways. This move by Delta might convince American not to devalue their systemwide upgrades.