What exactly is a “soft landing” of your elite status? Will Delta ever only drop you just one level down?

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hilton soft landing

Oh boy oh boy?

First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way – what is a so called “soft landing”. Simply put, it can mean any of the following when you have status with a loyalty program. Due to you not fully meeting the qualifications of the program you:

  • Are given a free pass at the same level for another year.
  • You were close “enough” to keep your same status level.
  • You are dropped down just one level lower than you were.
  • You are dropped down more than one level than you were.
  • You are given the chance to complete a challenge to remain at your level.

Now the first 4 are really simple and do not require any action on your part and truly are, to me, the definition of a soft landing. The last one on the list above is maybe just a tiny bit outside what most would consider a true soft landing but I am including it for now. Let’s look at these one at a time and if our Delta ever does any of these.

There are few times any program simply extends your status “free” for another year and after all why would they. If you have, for whatever reason, given up on them, why should they not give up on you? Now there can be reasons you did this like a medical emergency / crisis that took you out of the travel space for some time or perhaps you were deployed in the military and were not at your job for a period of time. What can happen in this latter case? Unless you reach out to the loyalty program as soon as your situation changes and you get some kind of waiver, don’t expect to simply get a pass. You need to be pro-active on this one.


But I did not WANT this Delta!

This one very much depends on the program and just how close you were to meeting qualifications. As you can see Delta sometimes will bump you up if you were really close but sometimes you did not want this and they bumped you up anyway. Again, in this case call and most times they can reverse this and give you the lower status if that is what you were working toward (in the case of Delta, to maybe have a large rollover amount of elite points). When it comes to hotels and such you likely will just say thank you and go about your business for another year.

The drop of just one level is not unheard of but becoming less common than it was in the past. Don’t expect Delta to ever do this as you will be dropped into the lowest elite level you actually qualified for under all the requirements.

A drop to just about a peon. 🙁

If you look at the screen shot of the e-mail I got from Hilton at the top of this post you will see what I think will be a trend for a while now with many kinds of loyalty programs – that is, giving you “free” the lowest elite level they can offer anyone. Why? Often it does not take that much to accomplish and the rewards / payouts for this level are so poor that it does not really cost the program much to give you this level anyway.

Having said that, don’t expect Delta to simply gift you Silver Medallion status under most circumstances. Even Silver has real perks. Not amazing, but there is a reason they give  lifetime  annual complimentary Silver to ONE Million Milers.

And that leads us to the final one, a challenge. Delta has offered challenges in all sorts of ways and promotions over the years. All loyalty programs get that your travel patterns can change due to your work or who you work for or how you are allowed to book or on and on. A challenge is a nice way to get you back in and to again be loyal to the program. Many times simply calling and asking if they have any kind of challenge open to you can result in just what you need to quickly get back up where you want to be.

Bottom line is soft landings are somewhat rare from any program. With the Delta elite program it is structured so you can know exactly what to expect. In other words, if you are just below the requirement to reach the next Medallion level you will remain at that Medallion level (or none at all). Lastly it is good while talking about this topic that you can sometimes be gifted status or matched via another program (as well as WHEN to do this). Sometimes with these matches, while giving you full status, may not come with all the same perks as those who have properly earned the status. Just keep this in mind and read the fine print so you are not surprised with what you are given.

Lasly, if you are looking at these options, be sure to see if you your current travel cards offer some kind of FREE status bump to some mid-level as many do like the non-Delta AMEX Platinum cards as a simple example (you get SPG/Marriott and Hilton Gold free)!

Any questions on soft landings and status? Fire away in the comments below. – René




  1. My chances of getting a soft landing to Delta 360? With an annual spend of a few thousand dollars, about the same as my making a lunar landing. But if Delta does give me a 360 soft landing I’ll accept.

    I’ll even accept a somewhat hard landing as long as my drink doesn’t spill.

  2. It’s amazing that Delta, being as politically Democratic as it is, doesn’t give working women a one-year hold on their status if they go on maternity leave.

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