Delta becomes the first U.S. airline to extend elite status

Apr 6, 2020

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Here at TPG, one of the questions readers have posed to us most during the coronavirus pandemic is what airlines and hotels plan to do about elite status. We’ve seen some big moves from hotel chains, but today, Delta Air Lines announced some major, customer-friendly moves regarding elite status, upgrade certificates, Sky Club membership, Delta co-branded card perks and more.

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On 5 April, Delta became the first U.S. airline to announce that it would extend elite status for all members amid the coronavirus pandemic. There are a lot of details to walk through, so here’s what you need to know.

Elite status

The airline says whatever Delta Medallion status travellers earned for 2020 — including those gifted — will be automatically extended for the 2021 Medallion year, which ends 31 January 2022. Additionally, all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 will be rolled over to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status.

That means all MQMs earned will count toward 2022 elite status, a Delta official confirmed. For Delta flyers who are based internationally, they will continue to be exempt from the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement.

Delta says the extended Medallion Status will be automatically added to SkyMiles accounts on 1 February 2021, with no need to call on your end.

The extended status will be automatically added to SkyMiles accounts on 1 February 2021. All other updates will happen automatically. Delta says most systems should be updated by the end of April 2020. Even if your voucher, certificate or membership card is temporarily displaying incorrectly, the Atlanta-based airline says: “rest assured that extensions will be honoured and there is no need to call”.

Upgrade Certificates

One of the best perks of the top elite tiers are Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates.

Platinum and Diamond Medallion members get to pick several “Choice Benefits” as a thank you for hitting those tiers.

Our favourite ones are the upgrade certificates. That means buying a coach ticket to Paris, and hope there is availability to upgrade at the time of booking to Delta One.

As part of its coronavirus response, Delta is giving extensions on Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates as well as $200 Delta travel vouchers selected as Choice Benefits.

Those with an original expiration date between 1 March and 30 June 2020, can now be booked and flown by 31 December 2020. And members with ones that expire after 30 June 2020, will receive an additional six months beyond the current expiration date.

Probably even more important: Delta will be giving members a second set of these valuable Choice Benefits for that extended year of status. There’s one set for the 2020 status that needs to be selected by 31 January 2021, and then a second set for the extended year of status that must be selected by 31 January 2022.

Sky Club access

Delta also announced that individual and executive Sky Club memberships with an expiration of 1 March 2020, or later will receive six additional months of Delta Sky Club access. The airline previously announced that it would close the majority of its Sky Clubs until demand recovers.

Delta Sky Club Guest Passes selected through Choice Benefits will also be extended six months beyond the expiration date.

Drink vouchers

All unused drink vouchers will be extended six months from their expiration date.

SkyMiles Select

If you bought Delta’s $59 travel benefits program, SkyMiles Select, you will receive a six-month extension to the Priority Boarding benefit and any unused drink vouchers. The programme gives members Main Cabin 1 boarding, eight drink vouchers (worth up to $9 each) and what the airline’s calling a “limited-edition bag tag.” Note that if you hadn’t already bought into the programme, it’s too late as Delta stopped selling SkyMiles Select earlier this month.

Medallion status challenges

One of the most popular ways to earn airline status is through status challenges or promotions. Typically, that means you complete a number of elite-qualifying miles, and sometimes elite-qualifying dollars, in a given time frame to achieve a specific elite tier. Delta allows you to enjoy temporary status during the challenge period.

If you missed out on getting or keeping status because of travel restrictions, Delta says SkyMiles members currently enrolled in a challenge or promotion, like Status Match Challenge, Reclaim My Status, or promotions offered through your employer, can start a new promotion when ready to start travelling again.

Any temporary complimentary status that a SkyMiles member currently has will remain valid until the current promotion or challenge period ends.

Will other airlines follow suit?

Already we’ve seen some programs like Qantas and Hilton announce sweeping changes. And last week, the World of Hyatt loyalty programme announced that it would extend all elite status and expiration of rewards.

However, this is the first status extension announcement we’ve seen from an airline in the U.S. United Airlines later followed suite. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines have not publicly said what they will do about elite status extensions, making Delta an industry leader during the coronavirus pandemic.

“While our focus is on keeping customers and employees safe and healthy today and always, you are a part of the Delta family and we know how important these benefits are to you”, said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s Senior Vice President of Customer Engagement and Loyalty.

“That’s why as coronavirus continues to dramatically impact travel across the globe, you don’t have to worry about your benefits – they’ll be extended so you can enjoy them when you are ready to travel again”.

British Airways already announced that it would be lowering the Tier Point requirement for some Executive Club members, however, TPG U.K. Director of Content Nicky Kelvin doesn’t think the airline went far enough. Perhaps seeing how other airlines are handling the issue will make BA rethink.

Related: British Airways should do more to help its elite members

Featured image courtesy of Cooper Neill/Getty Images

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