More SkyMiles Changes: Delta Takes Aim at Partner MQD Earnings More SkyMiles Changes: Delta Takes Aim at Partner MQD Earnings

More SkyMiles Changes: Delta Takes Aim at Partner MQD Earnings

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The month of September has been a particularly busy one for Delta's SkyMiles loyalty program. Sweeping changes to the program have taken some time to unpack, and, unfortunately, there's more bad news. Delta has adjusted its partner award charts now, slashing much of the remaining value from booking tickets through partner airlines.

Let's take a look at the partner award chart changes to help you understand what this means for Delta flyers.

Delta Changes Partner Earning Rates

With the recent program changes, Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) have become the new focal point of Delta SkyMiles. Simply put, to earn status with Delta Air Lines, you'll have to spend — and do so substantially to find yourself at the highest ranks of Delta's elite tiers. MQDs will be the only metric for attaining elite status going forward.

Delta business class cabin.
Credit: Delta

As Delta has inched ever closer to fully adopting a spend-only metric to earning elite status, travelers have found loopholes to offset the financial burden of the MQDs status component.

The main tactic: Book flights with Delta partners and credit them to Delta SkyMiles.

Flying partner airlines will soon become less rewarding

As first highlighted by Zach Griff, Delta has started to put the clamps on this loophole by publishing new award charts for its partner airlines. With these new charts taking effect early next year, earning excessive MQDs by booking inexpensive partner fares (especially in premium cabins on long-haul flights) will be much harder.

It's long been known that booking flights through Delta's “core” airline partners has offered the most MQDs-accruing value. It was the basis for Delta “mileage runs” for many flyers.

As a refresher, here are Delta's “core” partners:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • China Eastern
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic

Of the “core” partners, more than half of the eligible fare classes will see a decrease in their MQDs earnings starting on January 1, 2024. For example, discounted business fares for international flights (in classes C, D, I, and Z) booked on KLM and credited to Delta will earn MQDs at 30% of the distance flown, compared to 40% before the changes take effect.

KLM business class cabin.
Credit: KLM

“Non-core” airline partners will also see large-scale adjustments to their MQDs earnings. Historically, these airlines have received less love for their MQDs earning rates, as they were often less valuable when compared to the “core” partners. Delta's “non-core” partners are:

  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • AirEuropa
  • Cape Air
  • China Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • Middle East Airlines (MEA)
  • Saudia
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • WestJet
  • XiamenAir

In total, all but one of Delta's “core” and non-core” partner carriers (Hawaiian Airlines) will see decreases in earning rates for MQDs. Thankfully, there's no decrease more significant than 10% to any fare class.

You can see all of the new charts here.

Delta Status Will Become Harder to Earn

After already making it more challenging to earn Medallion status in 2023, newer Delta changes have made it even harder to reach elite status in 2024 and beyond. Here's a look at the MQDs required to earn status for the 2023, 2024, and 2025 Medallion membership years for comparison:.

Status TierMQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2023Originally-Announced MQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2024Adjusted MQD Requirement for Status Earned in 2024
Silver Medallion3,000 (no increase from 2022)6,000 (+100% from 2023)5,000 (+67% from 2023)
Gold Medallion8,000 (+33.3% from 2022)12,000 (+50% from 2023)10,000 (+25% from 2023)
Platinum Medallion12,000 (+33.3% from 2022)18,000 (+50% from 2023)15,000 (+25% from 2023)
Diamond Medallion20,000 (+33.3% from 2022)35,000 (+75% from 2023)28,000 (+40% from 2023)

With heightened requirements to achieve Delta elite status, the decrease in partner earnings will be even more pronounced — and more so when (or if) it comes time to book a mileage run. If you are within striking distance of an elite status tier, crunch the numbers before booking your tickets. You might be unpleasantly surprised.

Bottom Line

Delta's SkyMiles loyalty program has seen a flurry of changes, most of which have been overwhelmingly negative and generated strong reactions from those now questioning their loyalty to the airline. The alterations to partner award charts are only the latest change — and one that has largely flown under the radar.

Check the math before you book your next ticket on one of Delta's many partners and credit it to your SkyMiles account. The earning rates won't be what they used to be.

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