My Thoughts on Delta’s Likely SkyMiles Program Changes

Delta Air Lines published upcoming changes to the SkyMiles program earlier today. Whether it was deliberate or an error, the page has since been taken down from Delta’s website. But not before an astute Flyertalker captured the details, as shown below.

[Updated 1/17: Delta has indeed announced the MQD portion below this morning]

Earning Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)

Beginning March 1, 2013, the MQMs SkyMiles members earn on select fare classes will change.

For Delta-marketed flights, the MQM bonus for First/Business F and J fare classes will double from 50% to 100%. Economy M fare class will no longer earn a 50% MQM bonus. This change will apply to tickets purchased on or after March 1, 2013.

The above changes also will apply to F-, J- and M-equivalent fare-class tickets on Aeromexico, Air France-KLM, Alaska, Alitalia and Virgin Australia-marketed flights. This change will apply to travel flown on or after March 1, 2013.

The MQMs you earn on certain other partner-marketed flights will adjust for travel flown on or after March 1, 2013.

Please note that the way you currently earn redeemable miles is not changing.

Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) – Coming Next Year

Beginning January 1, 2014, SkyMiles members residing in the United States (excluding Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) will qualify for Medallion status based on an additional threshold – the member’s annual spending with Delta, which will be measured by Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).

Members must also meet the existing Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) qualification criteria.

The threshold ranges from $2,500-$12,500 MQDs depending on Medallion level.

Alternatively, Delta SkyMiles Credit Cardmembers can be waived from the new Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) requirement if they make at least $25,000 in Eligible Purchases within the calendar year.

First on the MQM side, it actually makes sense to me to reward full-fare first and business class fliers with large bonuses, particularly on the elite qualification side of the equation. Giving F- and J-class ticket purchasers a 100 percent MQM bonus would lead the big three U.S. airlines. United’s PQM bonus is currently 50 percent and American doesn’t give a bump in elite qualifying miles, but does provide 1.5 elite qualifying points per mile under their system.

Removing the third-most expensive coach M-class fare MQM bonus of 50 percent isn’t particularly bothersome as the airline’s main focus is predominantly on full Y-B fares in economy. I say this, of course, as someone who rarely (if ever) buys a ticket that expensive.

What’s most interesting to me is that Delta isn’t reducing either MQMs or redeemable miles earned on the lowest fare classes, if these are indeed the only planned changes for the remainder of 2013 and the 2014 program year. I would have assumed U.S. airlines would lower the earn rates there at the same time as adding an annual revenue requirement. This would bleed-out elite ranks faster for the lower-spend “over-entitled†fliers like myself.

And regarding the revenue requirement, is it time to “move†to Canada (or Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or anywhere else globally) for some Delta elites as the new MQD concept applies to only 50-stater U.S. residents? The spend threshold for each tier ranges from $2,500 to $12,500, probably something like this (my total guess) [Updated 1/17: And I was wrong on the Plat tier amount, it’s confirmed at $7,500]:

  • Silver Medallion: $2,500
  • Gold Medallion: $5,000
  • Platinum Medallion: $9,000 $7,500
  • Diamond Medallion: $12,500

United’s rumored, yet unrealized changes for the 2012 program year also had a spend requirement I blogged about in 2011. The proposed levels were:

a close-up of numbers

United Airlines Rumored Spend Requirements From 2011

Yeah, I know it’s still Premier 1K, but “Diamond†was speculated at the time as the top level.

It remains to be seen what the actual changes will be, but I’m certain they’ll be announced this year, as I blogged about yesterday. Here’s the link to the ever-growing Flyertalk thread discussing the possible changes.

Delta fliers: Is this a big deal to you?

Related posts:

The First Airline in 2013 to Change to a Revenue-Based Frequent-Flier Program Is…

My Thoughts on the Rumored United MileagePlus Changes

Looking Back at 2013 and What’s Ahead in 2013


  1. The bonus for M going away will hurt me the most. I usually get M fares to help me hit gold. I’ll have the spending with the Delta AmEx to take care of the revenue requirement.

    • @Walkin: Yeah, I might have been a bit harsh about the M-fare change. I’m certain it will hurt lots of DL folks, especially those flying internationally looking to use their SWUs and not having at least the bonus MQMs to wallow in if their upgrade doesn’t clear.
      @mowogo: I’m eagerly awaiting the likely AA/UA annoucement!

  2. Everywhere I have seen is that the Platinum threshold will be 7,500 to keep it in line with the 10cpm the other thresholds have. Why did you choose 9k?

    • @brf: Total guess. I think they’ll try to push Plats to spend more than a casual staged upswing from 2,500 for Silver, 5,000 for Gold and only a “mere” 2,500 more for Plat.

  3. Just so I understand… To get Platinum you have to get 75k mqm miles and spend money on Delta ie 7500 or 9000? Not just get the miles anymore?

    • @Dee: Yes, if these will indeed surface officially, you’ll need to fly 75k AND spend the required amount to achieve status, Platinum in this case.

  4. The M fare situation at DL was laughable before this uncertain “announcement.” If they further devalue the M fare, this will be the biggest loss for myself as a DM/PM flyer.

  5. The MQM bonus elimination for M class is actually a HUGE deal. Let me give you an example. My current M class (lowest upgrade-able class) ticket from US to Europe is $3,550. Lowest coach fare is $1,100. BOTH earn the same MQMs.

    • @David: I hear you. And Delta is the worst when it comes to using SWUs on international coach fares. United’s W-restriction hurts, but the fare gap isn’t as great. AA, meanwhile, allows SWUs on all fares, as I’m sure you know.

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