Sep 14, 2023 - Economy

Delta making changes to Sky Club access, loyalty program

Delta name on an airplane with logo

Changes are coming to Delta's loyalty program and airport lounges. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Delta Air Lines said it is making big changes to its SkyMiles program and will soon start restricting access to its Sky Club airport lounges.

Why it matters: Pent-up demand has been driving travelers to frequent flyer programs and rewards credit cards, but airlines have been making it harder to cash in on popular perks.

  • With people packing flights again, there also are fewer and less appealing rewards — think overcrowded airport lounges — to go around.

What's happening: Airlines, including American and United, have been raising the qualification requirements to earn or maintain their "elite" frequent flyer tiers to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.

  • Delta announced this week that it will be making changes to its loyalty program, which it says simplifies SkyMiles and offers "new and enhanced ways" to earn status.
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2024, Medallion Qualification Dollars or MQDs will serve as the only qualifier for Medallion Status in 2025 but more money will need to be spent to qualify for each tier.
  • It will take 6,000 MQDs to earn silver medallion status (up from 3,000) 12,000 for gold (up from 8,000), 18,000 for platinum (up from 12,000) and 35,000 for diamond (up from 20,000).
  • This comes after raising all tiers but silver as of January for the first time since 2015.

What they're saying: "Our Members will earn status the way they want to – not only along their travel journey, but also in their everyday lives," Dwight James, S.V.P. of Customer Engagement and Loyalty and CEO of Delta Vacations, said in a statement.

Flashback: When most travel shut down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines reduced their program qualification requirements and extended members' status.

Delta Sky Club changes

Meanwhile, the change getting the most heat on social media is Delta's planned updates to its Sky Club access to help combat overcrowding in the popular airport lounges.

Details: Starting Jan. 1, 2024, Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express Card members along with those traveling in Basic Economy, regardless of card type, will no longer be eligible for club access, the airline said.

  • Then starting Feb. 1, 2025, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card members will receive 10 club visits per program year.
  • The Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card from American Express Card members will receive six club visits per program year.

The intrigue: Free lounge access to Delta's Sky Clubs has been considered one of the biggest selling features for American Express to justify a high annual fee to card members, the AP reports.

  • Some on X, formerly Twitter, said they are reevaluating paying for the card with this change.

Yes, but: Delta's changes don't come as a surprise.

  • Experts told Axios earlier this year that they expected some benefits would be curbed or reworked because of high demand.
  • "Airlines might have to rethink what perks you get with status because if something is overly crowded it becomes a logistical problem," Sara Rathner, NerdWallet travel and credit cards expert, told Axios.

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