💣 One program drops a bomb, while two others soar

 

Estimated read time: 5 minutes and 14 seconds

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Greetings from sunny and chilly Antananarivo, Madagascar.

I’m not going to waste any more time introducing today’s newsletter because we’ve got some stuff we need to chat about:

  • 💣 Delta drops a bomb on earning elite status and accessing Sky Club lounges

  • 🏨/✈️ Hyatt and American Airlines team up for a status match

💣 Delta drops a bomb on earning elite status and accessing Sky Club lounges

Oof, Delta what are you doing to us?? 😩

If you haven’t heard yet, the airline dropped a major bomb that includes significant restrictions and limitations to its Sky Club access as well as some not-so-nice hits to one’s ability to earn elite status. 

Let’s cover as much as we can while I have you for this short time… So buckle up, because it’s a doozy 🥵

If you’re a Delta die-hard, then you’re probably familiar with their Medallion status program.

Well… things are changing.

Delta is slashing its Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) and Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQS) as a trade-off for a single “revamped” version of Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) as a means of earning status.

In the past, MQDs have essentially been a spending metric on Delta purchases that helped you earn this status (in addition to the MQMs and MQSs). So the more $$$ you spent, the more MQDs you’d get.

But now, beginning on January 1st, 2024, the airline is “boasting” that you’ll be able to earn MQDs in a ton of different ways, instead of just on Delta purchases (or its partners).

American Airlines took the same approach when they introduced their Loyalty Point system. The only difference?

American did it way better, and Delta’s is VERY BAD.

Here’s the new earning structure, and for reference, the amount of MQDs needed to reach each status threshold 👇

These thresholds have gone waaay up, btw.

You might initially think, “Wow! Thanks Delta! More ways to earn MQDs now!

BUT DON’T. Because the not-so-nice news is coming.

There is a big-ass devaluation to how these MQDs work for those of you who have eligible Delta co-branded credit cards.

If you were previously a holder of an eligible card, Delta would personally waive MQD thresholds up to Platinum Medallion status if you spent $25,000 in a year (annual spending of $250K would waive other Diamond Medallion requirements for the big boys and girls).

But now, if you’re spending on Delta’s eligible co-branded cards, you’re only getting 1 MQD per $20 spent on its mid-tiered card, or 1 MQD per $10 spent on their premium purple card.

So if we do some icky math here, that means spending $25k would only translate to 1,250 MQDs or 2,500 MQDs, respectively.

Even on the premium card, spending $25k doesn’t even get you halfway to the entry-level Silver Medallion status (2,500 of 6,000 MQDs needed—see chart above) 🤯

And the big players in the game who spend a whopping $250k on eligible cards per year will no longer be waived through to the top of the totem pole for Diamond Medallion status.

Instead, with a $250k spend, they’d still only earn 12,500 or 25,000 MQDs based on the eligible cards’ earning structure—that’s still 10,000 MQDs lower than the 25,000 needed.

I get that Delta is trying to increase loyal member engagement and earning across multiple platforms and travel experiences (as opposed to just flights), but seriously… OUCH.

Needless to say, earning status on Delta just got stupidly hard... and expensive.

We haven’t even touched on lounge access changes yet… so here are the big ones 👇

1. Limitations for Sky Club access via premium credit cards

Previously, both this card and this card received unlimited access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying on a same-day Delta-operated flight (or Delta-marketed WestJet ticket beginning with 006).

Starting February 1st, 2025, members with those sexy metal cards will be restricted to a wimpy six visits a year. 

Additionally, Delta’s premium purple card (and its business counterpart) that also previously received unlimited access will be restricted to ten annual visits.

If you are/were a Delta loyalist and are flying with the airline frequently throughout the year… this just sucks. Especially if you’re paying for a nearly $600 or $700-annual-fee card (cries salty Delta tears 😭).

Keep in mind that these limitations are based on their “program year” which actually starts on February 1st (through January 31st) of the following year.

If you wish to avoid these new restrictions, there is one way around it…

2. Large spending requirements on said credit cards

If you spend a cool, casual $75,000 or more during a calendar year on an eligible card, you’ll be gifted that unlimited Sky Club access for the rest of that year, including through January 31st of the following year.

So… great? Thank you, Delta? 😒

You might then be thinking, “Well, at least I can still pay $50 to get into their lounge with one of my mid-tier Delta co-branded cards if I really wanted to!

WHAT THE…

3. Buh-bye to paid lounge access

So yeah, if you hold Delta’s mid-tiered co-branded card or its business counterpart, you’ll no longer be able to enjoy club access, even if you shelled out $50 to Delta to get in.

I figured they’d want more of my money to reach their $10 billion a year goal… 🙄 But alas, this is Delta’s attempt to rein in the overcrowding issues in their lounges.

And lastly…

4. Basic economy is cut out

Previously, even if you flew basic economy, you could get into the lounge if you had an eligible co-branded card.

BUT starting January 1st, 2024, if you do fly in basic economy, you’ll no longer get access even if you hold a previously eligible card.

Well then…

The only positive here is that I imagine lines to get into Sky Club lounges will definitely be shorter…

And if you do hold one of the more premium, eligible cards, those six or ten visits you get each year will probably feel a whole lot more special when you do use them.

But don’t forget that Delta devalued their program and lounge access just last year. This is a pattern with Delta, and I wouldn’t touch their program with a 10-foot pole anymore.

Instead, it might be time to shift allegiances…

🏨/✈️ Hyatt and American Airlines team up for a status match

Speaking of elite status and loyalty…

Two actually good loyalty programs have decided to join forces to offer an exciting status match opportunity, though it’s only available to select people.

Here’s the deal:

If you have Gold status or higher with American Airlines, you can match to Hyatt Explorist status, which you’ll instantly receive for 90 days.

During those 90 days, you can complete the following to maintain Hyatt status:

  • Stay 10 nights to extend Explorist status through February 2025

  • Stay 20 nights to get GLOBALIST status through February 2025 (this one is only available to Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members)

  • You need to register for the offer before November 30th

Obviously, this is pretty restricted given the AA elite status requirement…

Still, if you have AA status, this is an amazing opportunity.

Earlier this year, Bilt offered a similar challenge to all members, which I personally took advantage of, as did many of you.

If you missed out on that, I’d seize this opportunity.

A few quick points:

  • If you don’t have any Hyatt stays in the near future, you can hold off on registering. If you wait until November 30th to register, you’d have all the way through February to complete the requirements.

  • Even if you only have a few nights at Hyatt, you could register and enjoy the benefits of Explorist status for those few nights, even if you won’t be able to extend it.

Check out my newsletter about the AA program to learn how insanely easy it is to earn AA elite status these days.

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Wow. I am freaking exhausted, y’all. Sub-Saharan African cities have a way of draining energy very quickly (in a good way).

So, I’ll be taking Monday off from Daily Drop. But fear not, our amazing writer Tiffany will be taking over to keep you updated on the latest and greatest travel hacking content.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you next week. ❤️

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

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