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In September, Delta announced major changes to its SkyMiles frequent flier program. Perhaps the only thing worse than the negative changes was the tone-deaf way that it chose to spin them. It portrayed the new program as “A Simpler and More Rewarding SkyMiles.” But, predictably, feedback was profoundly negative, as numerous travelers announced that they would be shifting their flying elsewhere and canceling their SkyMiles credit cards. 

In response, Delta CEO Ed Bastian later said, “I think we moved too fast.” And while it's been hinted that some of these changes may be rolled back in the coming months, as of the time of this publication no reversals have been set in motion.

Summary of Changes

Delta plane at MSP airport Minneapolis


Most of the changes were made to how travelers earned elite status in the Delta SkyMiles Medallion program. And while it’s true that it will be simpler to earn status, the changes will also make it much more difficult.

Delta will now grant elite status based solely on Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs), eliminating  Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Flights (MQF) from the equation.  Yes, this is a more simple way to qualify, but what Delta travelers are upset about is the sheer amount of MQDs that are now required to reach Medallion status. 

Silver status will now require $6,000 MQDs, Gold $12,000 MQDs, Platinum $18,000 MQDs and Diamond $35,000 MQDs. And these MQDs will be very hard to earn. You will earn one MQD for every dollar spent on Delta flights, but you only earn a fraction of the MQDs that you used to when you book most fares on Delta’s partners

You can earn some MQDs by using Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express, but you only earn one MQD for every $20 spent on a Delta SkyMiles® Platinum and Platinum Business American Express card and one MQD for every $10 spent on a Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express card.

This means that you would have to spend $120,000 in a year on a SkyMiles Platinum card that has a $250 annual fee just to earn entry-level Silver status. To earn Diamond status, you’d have to spend $350,000 on your Reserve card, or less depending on how much you spend on Delta. Delta also offers MQDs for booking hotels, rental cars and vacations through Delta. However, frequent travelers know that they won’t earn credits towards hotel elite status, or receive status benefits when they book their room through Delta

Other changes include capping the number of Delta SkyClub visits to 10 a year for SkyMiles Reserve cardholders and six a year for American Express Platinum card, with the caps waived for those who spend $75,000 a year on their cards

This is on top of the dismal redemption value that Delta SkyMiles have had for some time, compared with frequent flier miles from other carriers. It’s rare to receive a little more than one cent in value per SkyMile redeemed, and business class international flights typically cost hundreds of thousands of miles more than their competitors

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Not Happy with Delta’s Changes? Here are Some Options

Many disaffected Delta flyers are looking for ways to change their travel habits, in response to Delta’s unpopular changes. If this sounds like you, here are some options:

Status Match to Another Carrier

Not looking to miss an opportunity to acquire previous Delta customers, several airlines have announced status matches. A status match is when an airline offers travelers with elite status to their competitors the equivalent status

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines tail

Alaska Airlines

Through October 31, you can request a status match from your Delta SkyMiles status, up to their top-tier MVP Gold 100K level. If you have an Alaska Airlines credit card before the end of the year, then you’ll be matched through the end of 2024. Otherwise, you’ll receive the temporary status, along with a challenge to be completed within 90 days. Medallion Silver members match to MVP Gold. Medallion Gold matches to MVP Gold 75K and Medallion Platinum and Diamond both match to MVP Gold 100K.


JetBlue plane


JetBlue is offering Delta Medallions a free status match until the end of 2023, with an extension until 2024 by completing a challenge. Participants will receive Mosaic levels 1-4 if they are Delta SkyMiles Medallion Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, respectively. You can learn more about the JetBlue status match here.


Frontier airplane flying in the sky


While Frontier’s latest status match offer predates the Delta changes, it’s still a worthwhile option for some travelers. Delta Silver Medallion members match to Frontier 20K, while Gold Medallion members match to Frontier 50K. Diamond and Platinum Medallion members match to top-tier 100K which offers Stretch seating a free checked and carry-on bag. Notably, matches are also available to those who hold elite status with multiple hotel chains and cruise lines too. Matches are valid until the end of 2024, however they do cost $149. You can read more about Frontier’s offer at

American, Southwest and United 

American Airlines plane

American Airlines

Without offering any special promotional, United is also offering its usual status match challenge, as is American. Southwest also offers its own status match program.

Be a Free Agent

Instead of trying to chase status, you can decide to become a free agent. This means that you choose the carrier that makes the most sense for your needs, both in price and schedule, without being loyal to anyone. Sure, you may miss out on a few benefits of status, but you won’t ever purchase a more expensive ticket out of loyalty.

And you can use some of those savings to just buy the perks that you used to receive from status. For example, I recently purchased a first class seat on a three-hour flight for under $300. Other perks can be replaced by having an airline credit card. These cars  usually offer you a free checked bag, discounts on inflight purchases and other perks

Bottom Line

Delta once had legions of loyal travelers, but with its recent changes, it seems to have let its greed get the best of it. By matching your status to a competing carrier, or just becoming a free agent, you can free yourself of the need to show your loyalty to an airline that’s no longer being loyal to you. 

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Jason Steele

Jason Steele is a journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel and other areas of personal finance. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the credit card industry, Jason’s work has been featured at mainstream outlets such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and Business Insider.