Thoughts on Delta’s SkyMiles Changes, Lounge Access, and Devaluations

Thoughts on Delta’s SkyMiles Changes, Lounge Access, and Devaluations
"Delta Skymiles Medallion Status" by hyku is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Well... Delta has finally done it and published the new changes to their SkyMiles program, and I was right. Delta is moving to a purely revenue based system that rewards big spenders on their credit cards. Lounge access rules have also changed to a limited access system rather than unlimited. I won't go over all the changes but rather I'll share my thoughts on them.

Delta Radically Changes Medallion Status Earnings, Airport Lounge Access - Eye of the Flyer
Delta Air Lines radically changed how people can earn SkyMiles Medallion status.

Full coverage of all Delta changes

Delta favors credit card spend

It's no secret that Delta makes a huge profit on their co-branded American Express credit cards, having made $5.5 billion just from their cards alone. I would go out of my way to argue that Delta's credit cards are the most popular out of any airline co-branded card. Full disclosure, I have the Delta Reserve and Delta Platinum credit cards.

I think it's absolutely ridiculous that Delta's MQD conversion rate is so poor. 1 MQD for every $10 for the Reserve card or 1 MQD for every $20 on the Platinum card is frankly a spit in the face to their credit card holders. On that basis alone I don't see any reason to hold any of Delta's credit cards, unless you are a large business putting massive amount of spend on your cards.

To earn status with just pure credit card spend you would need to spend $60,000 just to achieve Silver Medallion and a whopping $350,000 for Diamond Medallion. That's a lot of spend that I would argue could go to better use on something like an American Express Platinum card or a Chase Ink card. Then use the money saved with those cards and just pay to upgrade to a higher class.

Credit card lounge access is a plus

"Delta Sky Club Airport Lounge" by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Delta's lounges are very popular, there are constantly lines out the door and consistently jam packed with passengers and their families. This was one credit card perk that I just knew would backfire. Delta gave too many people access to their lounges, Reserve card holders and American Express Platinum card holders had unlimited access, with the popularity of those cards alone millions of people had access.

My new strategy is to drop Delta's credit cards when they come up for renewal and if I can maintain at least Silver Medallion, which I should be able to do year-over-year I am going to pay for a lounge membership. The only reasons I even hold their credit cards is for the lounge access and between my three cards I have (Platinum, Delta Reserve, and Delta Platinum) I would have 22 lounge visits a year for a whopping $1,640 in annual feels. Instead I can drop all my cards and pay for one lounge membership of $695 and get my unlimited visits.

Delta's changes to the lounge access will alone wipe out busy lounges, instead I think consumers will be more selective on the lounges they visit and with any luck won't use their full allotment every year.

Painful devaluations

"Devaluation Key" by CreditDebitPro is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Next year is due to be a painful year for many loyal Delta travelers. Those who travel just enough to qualify for low end status will now find themselves unable to qualify. On the flip side the "exclusivity" of Medallion status will return, and it may make the status seem more valuable.

However I think the earning of MQD is a kick in the face for every traveler. I tend to buy tickets if the price is right, and I'm always chasing low fares, this will now hurt me in the long run because my one and only metric with Delta is now how much I spend with the airline.

It's disappointing that the three legacy carriers have swung to a primarily based revenue system, but that's capitalism.

Things I didn't cover

"Delta Air Lines" by redlegsfan21 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Again, I wanted to share my opinions about Delta's changes, please visit other articles for the major list of changes. I did find interesting that any type of Delta spend will result in MQDs, including those who book through Delta Vacations, Hotels, or Car Rentals. Delta is giving us increased options to earn MQDs and it will see how the travel hackers find a way to maximize their earnings to keep status.

There's also the one-time conversion of rollover MQMs. Delta's "generosity" to convert rollover Qualifying Miles is a enormous slap in the face. Offering a conversions of 20:1 to MQD or 2:1 for redeemable miles, I think that's abysmal considering award tickets are sky high expensive they could have at least increased the MQD conversion and allowed at least a 1:1 conversion for redeemable miles.

Final Thoughts

The initial feedback has been poor, and I have to agree with them. Long time Delta loyalists are feeling completely hung out to dry. And everything offered from Delta doesn't incentivize the casual Delta flyer to remain loyal. Delta now seems just after the sharks, they know those big corporate flyers will continue to qualify and that's all they care about.

It will be interesting to see how many Medallion flyers remain in 2025 and if lounges really clear up next year when the lounge restrictions go into effect.