What we can learn from United’s revenue elite model & what is next for Delta?

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united changes how you become an elite with spending totals needed pqd

We can all be very happy we do not fly United (for so many reasons like poor customer service, surly FA’s and now their new spend model to become an elite)! I am NO UA expert and “only” have ¼ million points left to spend for a ticket to Sweden in 1st class soon, then I can be very done with UA!

From what I have seen so far, what Delta has done to us is nowhere near as bad as what UA has done. We can make it all the way to the top level of Delta’s elites by “just” spending $25,000 on a Delta AMEX  and also earning 125,000 MQM’s (yeah I know it is a big number but still do-able for many with focused spending).

But just what is on the way from Delta and what may change once we see what is the final facts of the policy sure to be public very soon. We think it will be all of what Delta has published, but some of it is up in the air until implemented.

Let’s start with AMEX spend to be exempt from MQD’s. We know many of the current AMEX rules for spend do earn points and MQM’s etc including yearly bonus for MQM bonus redemption. Will it work the same way toward MQD’s. I think the answer is YES. Unless AMEX changes how things are posted Delta will approve what AMEX sends over as the total qualifying spend according to AMEX.

Next the topic of ticket price that will count towards MQD’s. I think the Skybonus totals are a very good guide. Take a look at one of my tickets.

skybonus points delta points blog

So out of $144 just $93 counted toward my Skybonus base earning from my May mileage run ticket. I have looked at a few other tickets too and they tend to match up this way for the most part. It is hard to put a percentage of ticket number here, but at least this can be a “ball park” guide until Delta comes up with the firm numbers. Also this is a cheap, deeply discounted (ie LUTXVE class) coach class ticket. With only 65% of the fare counting toward my Skybonus base.

MQD Delta medallion qualifing dollars delta airlines

If you tend to fly only cheap tickets, to earn say Silver medallion, you would not only have to fly/earn 25,000 MQM’s but also spend almost $4000 to get to the $2500 in Delta MQD money goal. Again, this is just a rough estimate, but does give you some idea what next year will be like. I rarely ever buy first class tickets. The only one I did buy in the past 12 months was a discount “A” first class. It yielded 88% of the fare toward Skybonus. One bit of sample data is just not enough, but maybe other readers can give more. Either way, you can expect higher fare class flyers will find meeting MQD goals much simpler than economy flyers.

Now what about the last question about other spend qualifying toward MQD requirements. I think Delta will stick to no credit for EC upgrades, bag fees or anything else. The only exception I can see is at year end when Delta offers to sell us MQM’s like they have for the past few years. Here is my logic on this. Let’s say you are 10,000 MQM’s short of Platinum but also have only spent $6500 with Delta toward MQD’s. There would be no point in you buying the MQM’s if you still are $1000 short of the spend goal so you don’t buy. But, if you can get BOTH MQM and MQD credit then there is a real reason to give Delta another $1000 to get over the hump! You get what you want and Delta can sell “air” for real cash at year end. Brilliance.

So there is my take on what is next. We shall soon see if I was right or way off base. What do you think? – René

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13 comments

  1. I’m not a big UA fan either – I concentrate my earnings on AA – but I need to give credit where it is due. I did a IAH-ORD-IAH rotation in June purely to fly the B787. There was a mechanical issue with aircraft and they substituted a B757, which would have defeated the whole purpose of the trip. The ground staff at went out of their way rebooking me on another B787 rotation, and even paid for the hotel since the new itinerary got back to IAH too late for my connection back to MIA. The onboard team was outstanding; the cockpit crew excited to be flying the B787. It was a memorable flight, and given that UA has no responsibility for guaranteeing which aircraft you will fly, they exceeded my expectations in remedying the problem. I very much doubt that my favorite – AA – would have been as accommodating.

  2. Using your fare logic where $4000 in spend nets close to $2500 MQDs and and 25,000 MQM, buying 10,000 MQM and getting a pure $1,000 bump in MQDs will turn out to be an awesome deal to those in need because the money goes 1:1 towards MQDs.

    That is until DL does something like charge $1400 for a $1000 MQDs credit and 10,000 MQM. I guess technically DL would now be selling you “more” (MQDs and MQMs), so I can see the cost going up.

  3. @Michael – you missed a bit. $4000 spend will NOT yield 25,000 MQM (well I guess it could with work). In my example you would have to fly 25,000 MQM’s AND spend $4000 to net the $2500 in MQD to be Silver Medallion. Delta raised the price for the 10,000 MQM’s purchase by $100 last year. I think $1400 would be too much but maybe it will go up to $1095 this year.

  4. “We can make it all the way to the top level of Delta’s elites by “just” spending $25,000 on a Delta AMEX”

    ive looked over all the delta cards and I do not see how you can become diamond with a 25k spend. Am I missing something?

  5. @David – I should have been a bit more clear (hard to not get too wordy but I updated the post to make it more clear). You would be MQD “EXEMPT” if you spend $25,000 on a Delta AMEX. So, you would “ONLY” have to fly 125,000 miles or get them some other way to be Diamond. How much you sent on tickets would not matter at all this way. With United, there is no way to spend your way to 1k exempt! Is that more clear?

  6. Rene – you are totally right about UA and poor customer service. That is the reason I have blacklisted them and have redeemed nearly all my UA point (my balance is only 33 and I wrote any notion of ever redeeming those off more than a year ago!).

    Very disappointed to read your thoughts. I didn’t even consider this being an “enhancement”, but, unfortunately, what you say makes perfect sense. It probably is inevitable.

  7. This is a really long article that can be summed up in one sentence: United’s new system is worse than Delta’s new system because you cannot use United credit card spending to waive the top tier elite spending requirement.
    Otherwise the new programs seem to be almost identical. Unless you are a Diamond or 1K, they are they same thing.

  8. @Bob – no it is much more if you dig deeper. For example, UA is selling EC upgrade packages to anyone. This will hurt their elites who don’t get 1st upgrades. Now they may drop not just to EC but all the way to coach! There are other bits but your point and mine is the big one!

  9. The only point I get from all this ranting is that UA stinks because you can’t manufacture $25k artificial spend plus 4cpm mileage run to the top tier.

    Guess what ? With the existence of global services, 1k hasn’t been top tier in ages. But unlike DL SkyPiles, my UA miles and redeem on so many more international first class awards than DL miles could ever dream of.

    What good when the only good usage of my miles is junk like china eastern or Kenyan ?

  10. I may be missing something but the UA program seems to be better except for the Delta Amex exception. With UA you satisfy the mileage requirements much easier because the entire ticket price counts toward the PQD requirement. Is Delta required to charge the same percentage of a fare in fees and other surcharges that re excluded from MQDs for different ticket classes? In other words, can they arbitrarily charge higher fees or surcharges to less expensive tickets? I fly international economy on paid tickets and the base fare is sometimes less than half the ticket price.

  11. @John – I have not taken time to really dig into the UA rules because I just don’t care about UA but I think it is only base price with them too (but I could be totally wrong on this). Also, blocking the top level, will hurt many of “US” who like to game the system.

  12. I have a loving relationship with Delta, but I’ve been seduced by UA’s award availability and the amazing stopover/open jaw policy. Plus the fact that they have great partners like Lufthanasa and Singapore. I plan to spend next year wandering Asia and Europe and Delta just can’t give me the same cheap rewards as UA. It’s a damn shame because I really do like Delta!

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