This morning the world learned that United — being United — made yet another bonehead move to drive frequent flyers to Delta, that is, dumping distance miles as part of the elite equation. If you missed what happened you can peek at VFTW post this morning for the details (it’s ugly). The really funny thing is United has, much like Delta, made partner mileage runs more valuable than ever for those who want United status.
Enough about how dumb the United changes truly are, but on to the topic at hand, that is, why Delta will not be cloning the program changes.
First off Delta is clearly smarter than United. They have a spectacular (and insanely lucrative) relationship with their bank / credit card partner Amex. United has a real love-hate relationship with Chase. We all should know Delta has recently announced that you can earn MORE elite miles starting after 29JAN2020 via their card partner. They are excited for you to earn MORE points (not less or zero).
With the above in mind, Delta was rocked by the response when this blog broke the news they were going to match the no MQD exemption for the top elite level i.e. Diamond Medallions via Amex cards. They did the right thing and kept it but with a rather large spend requirement for Diamonds (yes, ¼ million is a lot of spend, but still). I know of a large number of frequent flyers who did spend that sum across a number of Delta Amex cards. Next year, with “just” the personal and business Delta Amex Reserve cards, an elite could, with ¼ million in spend across the 2 cards, earn not just MQD exemption but 120,000 bonus MQMs (4x15k on each card). That leaves, under the current levels, just 5k MQMs from flying to be Diamond.
Next, even with the constant devaluations year after year, the MQM part of elite status has remained reasonably stable. I do expect Delta to keep raising, over time, the MQMs needed for each level, but that is completely different than points going away. By slowly raising the MQMs needed (vs. making them go away) they are more and more driving flyers to add Amex cards and keeping Amex happy means mega cash for Delta year after year after year.
Speaking of cash for Delta, since 2011 Delta has been selling you MQMs (and in recent years giving you MQD credit) in November and December. Unlike United that is walking away from free cash, Delta is happy to give you points that in the real world have no value for cash that does have real value. United should have cloned this free cash windfall from Delta (but too late now).
There is the matter of partner travel. As already touched on, United distance points may not matter anymore but partner distance does. So, in reality, they have only made flying United less desirable (uh, smart? No, not really). It really is simpler for elites to understand that distance does matter both with Delta and with partners.
Rollover MQMs also matter to Delta. They were the first (and still only airline) to let you keep your extra elite miles year after year. We long for these points to post and get us jump started on the following years loyalty. Why kill such a driver of travel loyalty?
Lastly we have Million Miler status. Delta cares about those who reach Million Miler status. They offer rewards for each million. They even send out special million miler tags – all to build loyalty to Delta. That would end if distance no longer mattered.
So no, Delta is not going to copy United – they are not that dumb! – Rene
Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.