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Delta Introduces New Rules for Elite Status and Airport Lounge Access

September 14, 2023

Delta’s new SkyClub at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Leslie Josephs/CNBC

Delta Air Lines is changing the way customers can earn elite frequent flyer status and making it more challenging for many American Express cardholders to access the carrier’s airport lounges. This change reflects the current trend of reducing luxury perks in air travel.

Starting January 1, customers will earn Delta Medallion status based solely on their spending, abandoning the previous model which combined dollars spent with the carrier and flights. This new model is similar to the one adopted by American Airlines earlier this year.

As customer spending on airlines and co-branded credit cards has increased, major airlines have raised the requirements for earning elite status. Elite status offers various benefits such as early boarding, upgrades, first-class access, and lounge entry.

“We want customers to be able to receive status with activity beyond just air travel,” said Dwight James, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty.

Under the new system, Delta customers will earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) for every $1 they spend on Delta flights, car rentals, hotels, and vacation packages booked through the airline. However, the earning ratio is different for dollars spent on co-branded American Express cards.

Here are the new status requirements:

  • Silver Medallion – 6,000 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion – 12,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion – 18,000 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion – 35,000 MQDs

Changes to Sky Club Access

Delta is addressing overcrowding issues at its popular Sky Club airport lounges by implementing restrictions on access through certain American Express credit cards.

Starting February 1, 2025, American Express Platinum and Platinum Business cardholders will be limited to six visits per year unless they spend $75,000 on the card within a calendar year.

Similarly, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business cardholders will be allowed ten Sky Club visits a year unless they also spend $75,000 during the year.

Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express cards will no longer grant lounge access. However, customers with elite status or those who purchase a club membership can still enter.

“Some of the changes that we’re making ensure that we’re taking care of our most premium customers with our most premium assets, one of those being the Sky Club,” said Dwight James. He added that the changes were made in collaboration with American Express.

Last year, Delta implemented several measures to alleviate overcrowding, including restricting access for employees with qualifying credit cards. The airline also increased prices for club memberships.

In response to growing customer demand, Delta and its competitors are expanding and modernizing their lounges. For example, United Airlines recently opened a 35,000 square-foot club at Denver International Airport, the largest in its network.

Author: OpenAI

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