Delta Backpedals on Major Changes to SkyMiles Program and Lounge Access

Here’s what it means for frequent fliers.

Delta airplane at gate

There’s a new way to access Delta frequent flier status and lounges.

Photo by savantermedia / Shutterstock

In mid-September, Delta announced an overhaul to its SkyMiles loyalty program and proprietary Sky Club lounge access policies that would take effect in 2024. The anticipated changes—which made obtaining elite frequent flier status and accessing its airport lounges much harder—resulted in significant backlash, such that Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said the airline would backpedal and make “modifications” to the changes.

Here’s what you need to know about the updated plans for both SkyMiles and Sky Clubs, beginning in 2024.

The new way to earn elite Medallion Status with Delta

Currently, the SkyMiles loyalty program is rooted in three metrics for obtaining status: Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). Earning status requires a combination of actual flying (reflected in either MQMs or MQSs) and specific thresholds for spending on, Delta operated flights, and partner airline flights (reflected in MQDs).

As originally proposed, Delta will move to a single metric, Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), as the basis for earning status in 2024. Though spending will still be the sole method for achieving elite status, Delta lowered its initial spend requirements to the following:

  • Silver Medallion: $5,000 MQDs (was $6,000 MQDs)
  • Gold Medallion: $10,000 MQDs (was $12,000 MQDs)
  • Platinum Medallion: $15,000 MQDs (was $18,000 MQDs)
  • Diamond Medallion: $28,000 MQDs (was $35,000 MQDs)

These changes mark a 16.67 percent decrease in spend requirement to achieve Silver, Gold, or Platinum status and a 20 percent decrease to achieve Diamond status.

Additionally, Delta announced that Delta SkyMiles Platinum, Platinum Business, Reserve, and Reserve Business American Express card members will receive a head start of 2,500 MQDs per card for the Medallion Qualification Year. With this head start, Delta SkyMiles Platinum cardholders can get elite Silver Medallion status after hitting just $2,500 MQDs. (That makes it easier than the current path to Silver, which requires $3,000 MQDs and either 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs.)

In addition to the head start, eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders will be eligible for MQD boosts when charging purchases to their cards. Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card Members will earn $1 MQD for every $10 spent, while Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express cardholders will earn $1 MQD for every $20 spent.

This new boost structure will replace that of the current program for Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders, which granted an MQD waiver after making $25,000 or more in eligible purchases during the calendar year. This new structure grants at least Silver status for Reserve cardmembers after spending $25,000: $1 MQD for every $10 spend, which is $2,500 MQDs, plus the head start of $2,500 MQDs, reaching the $5,000 MQDs required for Silver.

New changes to Delta Sky Club access begin in 2024

Delta also revisited the updates to Sky Club access, softening the long-term changes to those with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, Reserve Business, and the Platinum Card from American Express.

Currently, those with an AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, or SkyMiles Reserve Business Card have unlimited entry privileges to these airport lounges when flying Delta or a partner airline, regardless of fare class. Still on deck for January 1, 2024, cardholders traveling on a Delta Basic Economy ticket (or an equivalent ticket with a partner airline) will no longer be able to access Sky Clubs. Additionally, those with a Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Platinum Business Card will no longer be able to enter Delta Sky Clubs at all. (Currently, they can pay a $50 fee per visit when flying Delta or a SkyTeam partner.)

The good news for AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, and SkyMiles Reserve Business cardholders is that the scheduled long-term lounge access changes (beginning February 1, 2025) aren’t as harsh as first announced. While the current policy of unlimited lounge access will disappear in 2025, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business Card Members flying a fare class other than Basic Economy on Delta (or equivalent on partner airlines) will receive 15 Sky Club visits per cardmember year (up from the initially proposed 10). Those with the Platinum Card from American Express will receive 10 Sky Club visits per cardmember year (up from the initially proposed 6).

Delta will also count all Sky Club entries within a 24-hour period as a single visit, meaning lounge visits in a departure city and a layover city on the same day only count as one visit. Moreover, if and when all allotted visits have been used, those with an AmEx Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve, and SkyMiles Reserve Business can still access Sky Clubs for $50 per visit. Cardholders of all three can earn unlimited lounge access after spending $75,000 on their eligible card in a calendar year, valid for the year in which the spending is achieved plus the following calendar year.

The transition plan for Delta loyalists with Rollover MQMs

For many Delta loyalists who were locked into the current SkyMiles system, the news of a single MQD metric was jarring. That’s because many top fliers had accrued Rollover MQMs, excess MQMs above a Medallion tier qualification that then spill over to the next qualification year as a jump start on earning status again. To remedy the situation on Rollover MQMs earned during 2023, Delta is offering a one-time choice to convert them into MQDs (at a ratio of 10 MQMs to $1 MQD) or redeemable SkyMiles (at a ratio of 1 MQM to 2 SkyMiles.)

Those with Rollover MQM balances over 100,000 also have the option of extending their status over several years. These members can cash out their MQMs by keeping their current Medallion Status every year per every 100,000 MQMs. That means a current Gold Medallion member with 300,000 Rollover MQMs can opt for three years of guaranteed Gold Status. (However, that Gold member could also exchange 300,000 MQMs for $30,000 MQDs and experience Diamond status for a year and then restrategize to acquire Gold or more in following years.) In any case, MQM hoarders have until December 31, 2024, to decide how they’d like to go about their Rollover MQMs conversions.

Million Miler status changes

For those who are nearing or already have Million Miler Status (lifelong elite status), Delta is planning on leveling up its annual complimentary Medallion status. Starting January 1, 2024, the following Medallion status changes will take place for Million Milers.

2023 Medallion status
2024 (and onward) Medallion status
1 Million Miler
2 Million Miler
3 Million Miler
4 Million Miler
5+ Million Miler
Annual invitation to Delta 360º

Million Miler Status will be earned via flight miles flown. Any MQMs already earned toward Million Miler Status will remain and all flight miles flown will continue to add to the Million Miler balance.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in AFAR, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR