Delta Doesn’t Want Any More Million Milers (Delta SkyMiles Changes 2023 Series)

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Delta announced big changes to SkyMiles for 2024. They haven’t even bothered much to sugarcoat the stream of negative changes.

As a Diamond Medallion, 2-million miler, this series of quick posts explores the state of SkyMiles and airline loyalty programs.

Posts in this series:

Delta Million Miler welcome letter

Delta’s Million Miler program has counted all MQMs, however earned, towards Million Miler status. Compared to airlines that only county flight activity, it has made sense that Delta has required double the miles of competitors for comparable status thresholds. While Delta doesn’t provide a breakdown of Million Miler status earnings, I guess I am roughly 1 million flown and 1.5 million non-flight MQMs. Perhaps even more non-flight than that.


Delta Million Miler thresholds

In 2011, American Airlines made a similar change. Prior to that, all AAdvantage miles earned counted to million miler status, making the status relatively easy to earn when credit card sign-up bonuses ramped up. They switched to only flown miles, excluding even class of service bonuses. Partner flights are still included. With only two levels to achieve, Gold at 1 million and Platinum at 2 million, there has been a low cap on the value of AA’s program. Each additional million only earns additional annual systemwide upgrades.

American Airlines Million Miler thresholdsUnited has the more robust program, with a path up to their highest status level, Global Services. Plus, a companion gets the status as well, hugely valuable, and a recognition that many Millers Milers end up where they are with much time away from loved ones. When United and Continental merged, the mapping of status between the more restrictive United method of only counting United flights and Continental counting partner flights was part of the dispute that led to a lawsuit that was then dismissed. Million Milers care about their status.

United Million Miler thresholds

Delta has announced:

Million Milers move up in Complimentary Upgrade priority.

Delta has refreshed its Complimentary Upgrade process for 2024, and Million Miler Status will move up in the hierarchy for Complimentary Upgrades to the third priority position.

Million Miler Status will calculate through lifetime flight miles.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, miles toward Million Miler Status will calculate through lifetime flight miles and no longer through MQMs. We will continue to track the miles you fly with us, and those who accumulate 1 million flight miles will be invited to join the Million Miler Program. Members’ MQM balances already earned toward Million Miler Status will remain, and flight miles will be added to these.

Delta is switching to the flight (Delta and partners) methodology used by American and United, while no mention that the thresholds will be downward adjusted accordingly. We’ll have:

Million Miler LevelAmericanDeltaUnited
3Still PlatinumStill Gold1K
4Still PlatinumPlatinumGlobal Services
5Still PlatinumStill PlatinumCan go no higher
6Still PlatinumDiamond
What, no 360?

Delta will be roughly in line with American. The 1 Million Miler level will award the low-value Delta Silver and American Gold. Similarly, 2 Million Milers will get Gold and Platinum, respectively, roughly equivalent statuses.

Both are well below United. United 1 Million Milers get Gold status that comparable status requires 2 million on Delta and American. Plus, United has the companion benefit.

For comparable Platinum you need 4 million on Delta while 2 million on United. Delta Diamond 6 million to United 1k 4 million.

Delta has no path at all to 360 status while United Global Serivces comes in at 4 million.

I know a fair number of United Million Milers. The ones hitting, 2, 3, 4 are rare indeed and seldom young.

If Delta sticks to their inflated thresholds, the program will effectively be irrelevant, needing 2 million miles just to get serviceable Gold status. Flyers starting from scratch getting up to 4 or 6 will be incredibly rare.

If Delta decides to move thresholds more in line with United, any conversion will be messy. Try telling 2 Million Milers that they are now 1 Million Milers and need to turn in their chintzy, plastic bag tags that have the 2 (or 3, 4…). I might be tempted to pursue an additional 500k if that got me Platinum, though 1.5 million is laughable to me.

I doubt Delta will do any such thing. The changes announced, such as treatment of Rollover MQMs, show such disdain for past flying and spend with a clear ‘what have you done for me lately’ message that I think Delta will be quite happy for the Million Miler program to age into oblivion and nearly everyone need to earn status anew every year.

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