I reported yesterday that Delta had leaked changes to elite qualification requirements on its website and then quickly removed the information. One suspects just sticking up the details on the web page wasn’t how they wanted to roll out changes to elite qualifying mileage earning for some fares and a minimum spending requirement along with miles or segments flown in order to earn elite status.
Delta confirmed the changes today.
First, it’s true that we’re introducing a new requirement for earning status on Delta for US-based SkyMiles members. Starting January 1, 2014, Medallion status will be earned with MQMs or MQSs and a new threshold – Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). MQDs will be paired with our existing MQM/MQS requirements at each tier level and will include base fare and applicable surcharges (excluding taxes and fees) to qualify for each level.
Silver Medallion – you will need 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs and $2,500 MQDs
Gold Medallion – you will need 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs and $5,000 MQDs
Platinum Medallion – you will need 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs and $7,500 MQDs
Diamond Medallion – you will need 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs and $12,500 MQDs
If you have a U.S. Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express you will have the new MQDs requirement waived each year you make $25,000 in eligible purchases using your card.
Second, starting March 1, 2013 we are changing a few of the MQM bonus levels on certain fares. F and J class fares will increase to a 100% MQM bonus and M class fares will no longer receive an MQM bonus. Y and B fares will remain at the current level, receiving a 50% MQM bonus. This change will go into effect for Delta-marketed flights for any purchases on or after March 1 and for OA with travel flown on or after March 1, 2013.
The spending requirement applies to US customers only, counts base fare and surcharges but not taxes as ‘Medallion Qualifying Dollars’, and is waived for customers who put $25,000 or more on a co-branded Delta Skymiles credit card.
What somewhat surprised me reading the FAQ is that only purchases of Delta flights or partner flights on Delta tickets count towards the minimum spending requirements. An Air France ticket, credited to Delta Skymiles, will count towards the mileage requirement but not the spending requirement. I suppose they don’t see the purchase price if it isn’t their flight or their ticket. But qualification requirements that exclude alliance activity do tend to undermine the seamlessness of the alliance concept. Although Delta is certainly not the first airline to impose requirements for elite status that cannot be satisfied through partner travel.
A Skymiles member who flies enough to achieve a md or top tier status, but doesn’t spend enough, has an interesting situation with rollover miles. Fly 75,000 miles but spend only $2500? You’re silver. With 50,000 rollover miles, the excess miles over the status level qualified for.
One question in the FAQ I found interesting was,
WHY DO THE MEDALLION QUALIFICATION DOLLARS (MQDS) REQUIRED VARY BY MEDALLION TIER, BUT DELTA SKYMILES CREDIT CARD SPEND IS A FLAT AMOUNT ACROSS ALL TIERS?
They don’t give a real answer to this, but my reaction was whomever is writing these questions please don’t give them any ideas!
Ultimately though I don’t think the requirements are that onerous, especially with the choice to spend with Delta or on the co-branded credit card. T
There are plenty of ways to manufacture spend, and those who aren’t buying expensive enough tickets will have to decide whether status with Delta is important enough to shift Amazon Payments, Vanilla Reloads, funding Kiva accounts, or all fo the other things folks do onto a Delta credit card (with concomitant loss in value of the points earned compared to the points they could otherwise be earning putting that same spend on a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, American Express Membership Rewards card, etc).
The thing to remember here is that changes at Skymiles likely are not over. They leaked early so have made official the announcement of changes to their elite program.
But there may well be adjustments to redeemable mileage earning, and to mileage redemption, and we’ll have to wait and see over the coming months.
Still, getting some advance notice — considering the airline has of late eschewed the notion of providing their members with any advance notice, even insinuating that advance notice of changes to their award chart is illegal — is a positive step. And the changes so far are ones that many members will be able to live with.
I like marrying a minimum spend level with miles flown. It still emphasizes the loyalty concept, it still requires spending a good deal of time with the airline. And the credit card component really underscores that they’re still going after wallet share rather than just gross revenue. So the changes are even to a certain extent responsive to many fo the concerns about revenue-based programs I’ve expressed in the past.
I only hope that other changes still to be rolled out continue to be as responsive!
Final thought: until now I have focused only on the question of How Bad Will the Skymiles Changes Be? But if they are going to limit their elite ranks to only those meeting minimum spend criteria, then I think they actually need to step up the benefits. If you want high spenders, and that’s who you are giving upgrade certificates to, you don’t need to keep low spending elites from using the upgrades. American’s top tier members get international upgrades valid on any fare. United allows their similar upgrades to be used on most fares. Delta requires purchase of nearly a full fare. A revenue-based elite level needs to eliminate that restriction.