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No, Delta is NOT Going to Copy United’s New Elite Qualify Program. Why Do You ask?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


 

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.

Frankfurt, Germany - July 17, 2014: United Airlines aircraft logo at an aircraft in Frankfurt. United Airlines is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
(Photo: ©iStock.com/Meinzahn)

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).

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 is shown departing from the Los Angeles International Airport, LAX.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 is shown departing from Los Angeles International Airport, LAX.(©iStock.com/Angel Di Bilio)

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

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

9 Comments

  1. Delta gives a gift for hitting 3 Million Miles, but there no “lifetime” or complimentary status bump as there is for hitting the 1MM, 2MM, and 4MM marks.

  2. René

    @Kevin – Correct. They also changed the name from lifetime to annual 🙁

  3. Writing “1/4 million ” looks a lot nicer than “$250,000” and while you know a lot of folks who spend $250,000 (all personal spending?) on their Amex cards annually, I wonder how many folks like me put my Delta Amex card away after the hideous move from $25K to $250K?

  4. René

    @dale – Thanks for being a loyal blog reader from way back in 2014 (blog years are long).

    For those who want to take the time to learn the spend is not “that” hard. I normally spend 5-10k on points cards – every day – all year long – at a net profit.

    Again, not for all but attainable for those who want it. Delta not killing the spend to Diamond exempt is a win compared to NO NO NO like United. 🙂

  5. Delta million miler here. Never got anything from Delta for accomplishing that…

  6. Thanks Rene – much appreciated. My wife will be happy with a Tiffany necklace. However, I was referring to the luggage tags. I much prefer my lifetime platinum status with KLM/Flying Blue, although Delta does not seem to value that much, either… Despite that status I am routinely #45 out of 45 on the stand-by list for an upgrade on Delta metal…

  7. Have to say that post sounds like it was partially written by Delta’s communications dept.
    While Delta indeed is running a better airline in many regards (on time performance, plane maintenance, small improvements in coach F&B) their loyalty program is quite weak. They don’t provide guaranteed Comfort+ seats for upper level elites (unlike UA & AA – those seats qualify as an ‘upgrade’) and there is a reason the “SkyPesos” name has stuck, all these years because the loyalty points get you less and less. Beyond the regular devaluations and corporate arrogance (which all legacy carriers seem to share) I can’t get excited about “luggage tags” for hitting million miler, that, SkyPesos Silver status gets you what – a free checked bag?! Although United is far from a great carrier, their million miler program is superior, IMO, b/c they give you mid-level Gold status for flying a million miles – which at least gets you economy plus seating and some other perks that SkyPesos Silver and AA Gold don’t at similar levels.

  8. DL Platinum

    Delta Diamond and 3.6 million miler here. I, like others, was irritated with the MQD spend waiver moving from $25K to $250K. No way I could spend that! Now, that said, the key here is to spend at least $15K yearly with Delta (and the requisite 140 segments, or 125,000 MQMs) to achieve or re-achieve the Diamond level. I don’t think that $15K spend is outrageous. Rather, I feel it is a differentiator to the program which keeps those that spend little, but cost the airline a lot, in the cabin they are more likely paying for and saving the space “up front” for those that ARE spending at the level of those cabins. As on other sites, “Want first?, Buy first!” has been the target of Delta for almost two years now. Frequently, I pay the difference between the coach ticket my company books me in, and the disconnected first class ticket to guarantee the “upgrade”. That additional spend counts towards the MQD spend. That price is often quite low AND gets you the multiplier on the MQM.
    Secondly, as to Million Miler, I totally agree that the “status” in the Delta program is in name only. Yes, you get a very nice “gift” at each threshold, and “annual” silver for 1MM, gold for 2MM, and platinum at 4MM. There really is nothing else other than bragging rights to the status. I’ve written and never gotten an answer as to why when they merged to DL NW programs that they did not change the levels to provide platinum at 3MM, and Diamond at4MM. Got the corporate marketing messaging…
    Lastly, for me, loyalty goes both ways, and historically, Delta has treated me very well (so did NW). That said, if I am going to pay for first class because the chance of the upgrade is slim to none, why would I stay with Delta? Only for the convenience of flight times. It makes no difference being #1 on the upgrade list, if there are no seats to upgrade to.

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