Delta has finally come out of the closet with phase one of its long-rumored revenue-based SkyMiles program. Luckily, we are getting a full year’s notice. For travel this year, you will continue to earn status for 2014 as before. However, beginning with flights in 2014, status for 2015 will be based miles flown and dollars spent.
First off, the same segment and Medallion Qualifying Mile (MQM) requirements will remain in place. But starting next year, you will have meet a new MQD (Medallion Qualifying Dollar) threshold.
To achieve Silver Medallion, you must fly 25,000 miles and spend at least $2,500 on Delta. If both are not met, you will not earn status. For Gold Medallion, you must spend at least $5,000; for Platinum, at least $7,500; and for Diamond, you must spend at least $12,500.
MQDs are based on money spent on Delta-marketed flights only (taxes and fees excluded)—this does NOT include money spent on ancillary fees for bags, upgrades, in-flight food/bev, etc. Spending on Delta-marketed flights will include partner and code share flights– those tickets with an 006 prefix. So, for example, dollars spent on a Delta-marketed Alaska Airlines flight will count. Delta says that passengers will be able to track their MQDs on the new SkyMiles dashboard introduced as part of its recent website redesign.
Delta is still mum on how SkyTeam flights will be handled under the new scheme.
One way around the new rules: Spending at least $25,000 miles in a calendar year on any Delta SkyMiles American Express card exempts you from the spending thresholds (but not the mileage/segment requirements).
Meeting or beating these new spending thresholds may be easy for some, but for others, not so much. For example, to attain or maintain Gold status (50K miles + $5K spend), you would have to buy an average of ten $500 Delta tickets over the course of a year. How easy or hard do you think this will be? Please vote in our poll!
Delta is betting that this will weed out the flyers that “game the system” for status or simply buy the lowest fares. In the end, the new spending thresholds are going to hurt leisure travelers (who bring Delta the least revenue) most. Big spending business travelers might find that with fewer Medallions to compete with, it’s easier to board early and upgrade.
As usual with SkyMiles changes, Delta says that we’ve been asking for this– here’s a line from the press release announcing the changes: “These changes are a result of considerable research that we’ve conducted including conversations with hundreds of customers, many of whom expressed a desire to see the Medallion program truly target our best customers,” said Jeff Robertson, vice president – SkyMiles. “Adding a revenue component to the SkyMiles Medallion program ensures that our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience.”
Stay tuned to The TICKET for further updates about SkyMiles changes—these new spending thresholds are rumored to be only the first step toward a full transition to a revenue-based program.
What do you think about the new rules? Please leave your comments below.
A few good comments from our Facebook page about these changes:
>Vicky: “It’s a sign that frequent travelers/fliers are not as important as frequent spenders. It’s no longer a frequent ‘flier’ program.”
>Steve: “Delta is the best at making these kind of changes, calling them improvements and saying that we, their most frequent and loyal travelers, asked for/demanded them. Yeah, uh-huh, dat’s right.”
>Mike: “I think if they are going to make the program revenue based they should remove the mileage component altogether. Status should be completely based on spend not on miles in a seat.”
>Paul: “No impact for me, or most of the other Medallions I know– if you travel frequently you’ll probably hit the spend threshold easily unless you’re making status purely on MRs.”
>Lynn: “I agree with Paul…. there won’t be any impact for most people I know – $12,500 is peanuts for most diamond medallions!”
>Ed: “Will silver medallion status continue for million milers? I am retired and don’t travel as much any more. Will I lose my silver medallion status in 2014?” (We are awaiting an answer from Delta on this one…)
EARNING MQMs TO CHANGE. As if the Medallion Qualifying Dollar requirement were not enough, the ability to earn MQMs will become more difficult for some folks. M fares will no longer earn 150% MQMs, dropping instead to 100%. The Y and B fares still earn 150%. Luckily, all other economy fares earn 100% MQMs. If you are privileged to purchase first or business class tickets, you will soon earn 200% MQMs. Reinforcing the revenue-based trend, Delta’s incentive is to reward the flyers that bring Delta the most money, which makes sense. But, it is tough price to pay for of those who have learned to love the older, easier way.
COMPETITIVE RESPONSE? While low fare carriers such as AirTran, Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America have embraced the revenue-based trend, it is yet to be seen if American, United, or US Airways will follow along. Since most other legacy carriers are in varying states of uncertainty or disarray compared to Delta, it’s unlikely they will enact such changes in the near future. However, if you are ready to bail on Delta, United will be happy to match your Delta status—but you must act fast. This offer expires on Jan 31. The deal requires you to fly United for a pre-determined number of miles within 90 days. Your new United status will be instant allowing you to enjoy upgrades and other perks during your qualification flights.