Last week Delta announced that starting January 1, 2014 in order to qualify for elite status you’d have to spend a certain amount of money. As a non-business traveler, I thought I’d share how the change will affect my mindset towards earning elite status on Delta.
The long and short of these changes is that it doesn’t really change my mindset at all. I’m not an elite member and probably won’t be for some time. My relationship with airlines is pretty simple: get me from A to B for as little money as possible or even nothing at all except miles. I don’t fly enough to make elite status worth it and flying coach around the States is good enough for me. I don’t really care about the upgrades for the 3-4 times I will fly domestically. For most of you and most of the general public, these changes aren’t going to mean anything to their traveling needs and that’s really all there is to it. Now on to the details:
Delta’s elite status requirements have been fairly common with Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond requiring 25K, 50K, 75K and 125K miles respectively in order to qualify. Qualifying for those different levels would be fairly easy by mileage running at less than 4 CPM. At those rates, Silver would cost at most $1,000 if you earned status 100% through mileage running. However, Delta has now added an additional requirement for earning status: money. In order to qualify for elite status you’ll have to spend a minimum amount of money on Delta flights – these will be known as Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). You’ll have to spend between $2,500 for Silver status and $12,500 for Diamond status in order to qualify for the particular status. In addition, MQDs do not include money spent on taxes and fees or money spent on bag fees, preferred seating, economy comfort seating, or even in-flight purchases. These new MQD requirements mean that at a minimum you’ll have to pay 10 CPM in order to earn elite status and probably more given that taxes and fees do not count. However, the MQD requirement is waived for members who spend at least $25,000 on their Delta SkyMiles personal card or business card from American Express. While that’s certainly a large sum, it’s not out of this world if elite status is really important to you.
Currently, I’m not an elite member of any airline and never have been. None of my immediate family are elite members either. I don’t travel for business very often (maybe once or twice a year) and generally haven’t flown enough on domestic tickets to warrant the personal expense. That being said, if I see my travel time increase in the future I will look into qualifying for whatever elite status suits me best. With these new requirements, there is little chance that I would try for elite status with Delta – it just doesn’t make economic sense in my opinion. Delta’s SkyMiles program already has its problems when it comes to getting good value out the miles: it’s now an airline that I won’t consider for my elite status goals. I’m sure that many people will be left trying to spend $100 extra or more in order to qualify for status they would have easily obtained before – and that’s probably what Delta wants. At least Howie won’t have to fly to Istanbul in order to qualify for Diamond status!
As a casual traveler, I generally go with the flight that is the cheapest available as long as it fits my scheduling needs. From that point of view, this new requirement hasn’t changed my opinion of Delta. I will still fly them as long as it’s more convenient or cheaper than the other airlines. However, at the end of the day I’m left wondering if this is the end for Delta’s revenue-based program goals. I’m guessing it isn’t.