Things have been somewhat quiet for a while from the “enhancement” team at Delta SkyMiles Corporate headquarters in Atlanta. I mean we did have 1JUNE16 to look forward to when award ticket prices will potentially go to 1 million for a single business round trip ticket. And, we did have the 16MAY16 change when C+ seats become a fare class on their own and the complete mess that will create (no thanks for this Diamond). But what do I see happening next for the frequent flyer program? Let me tell you, I see nothing good for most of us.
I expect the next enhancement will be the end of MQMs (and MQSs).
Yep, only MQDs or Medallion Qualifying Dollars will be all that matter for your elite status. We really should not be surprised about this coming change. Delta has all but decimated earning RDMs or redeemable SkyMiles this year and we all know flying is the dumbest way to earn points for awards. But Delta this year left in place the ability to earn elite points just as it has always been – not for much longer. But how will this work?
It really will be quite simple and all spend based. Delta will only reward loyalty with spending. I expect elite levels for 2017 will look something like this:
This, from Delta’s view, fixes and streamlines so much. Elite status after all is not about how much or how long you have been flying with Delta or how many segments you fly. No, it is all about how much money you give to mother Delta. That is loyalty, nothing else matters!
This also addressees a number of issues for Delta. Delta has done an amazing job of getting folks to jump on the FCM bandwagon. So many are willing to fork over money for an upgrade (not me, not ever, not once). When Delta is selling a first class upgrade for as low as $9.50 I can see why people would jump on such an offer but with so many less seats open for elite upgrades, and many top elites complaining about upgrade percentages dropping this year, thinning the top elite ranks by MQD spend means those who are most loyal to Delta (i.e. spend most) get the best shot at those few remaining seats. All the rest of the Medallions can fight for the “upgrade” to a middle C+ seat.
Clearly this also will mean an end to rollover MQMs. So will there be rollover MQDs. Maybe but I doubt it. No other airline jumped on the rollover elite points train when Delta did it. There is very little incentive for Delta to reward you next year for your last year’s loyalty. Loyalty is about “what you have done for me lately” not in the past. So I expect the MQD spend clock to reset 1JAN each year like now.
What about AMEX then? That is the wild card. Don’t expect MQD exemption like we see today. Delta has AMEX locked up in a long term contract and can, and will, do anything they want with the cards, perks and points given to the co-branded AMEX Delta card holders (think about the end of +1’s in SkyClub for example). So how will this work then?
I expect we will see some kind of credit via huge AMEX spend toward your MQD totals. For example spending $25, $30, $50 or $60,000 per year on the cards could net you a few thousand MQDs credit toward status. In other words it will require spending a bunch with both Delta and AMEX to make it all the way to Diamond Medallion for the year. Again loyalty, aka spending, is rewarded.
This would also make the yearly insanely expensive selling of MQMs simpler as well. Notice Delta no longer talks about spending vs flying somewhere as they did in the past years to sell you on the buy MQMs idea. Next year, if you are $1,000 or even as high as $5,000 short of some elite level, just give Delta that much cash and bingo you have done the buy-up for status. Now I am sure they will cap this at some level but then again why even do that. If someone wants to give Delta say $10,000 to be Platinum, why not? Folks seem more than happy to pay up when Delta asks them for elite perks at year end.
What about million miler status? That is a hard one. I think those who have reached the levels under the current system are locked in (as long as the program exists, that is). Maybe this will still be distance and fare class based and the one remaining legacy part of the old Medallion program at least for a few more years. Or, this too could flip over to spend based as well. Again, loyalty to Delta is spending and spending big each year.
This change will clearly mean the end of all mileage runs unless you maybe need a few thousand more for some million miler level (if that even remains as is). After all where we go or how far we go does not matter – only what we spend with Delta.
How likely is all or any of this to happen? If we do not see the announcement this year, I think it will only be a matter of time before something very similar to this does come to fruition. Expect this sooner that later.
What else will we see beyond this? Let’s save that for another post as I think this is enough to take in for one day! – René
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