Delta makes it harder to get into airport lounges

Delta’s new SkyClub at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Leslie Josephs/CNBC

Delta Airlines changes the way customers can achieve elite frequent flyer status and makes it more difficult for many American Express cardholders to access the carrier’s airport lounges, the latest reality check in the mass luxury era of air travel.

Starting January 1, customers will earn Delta Medallion status based solely on their spending, instead of a combination of dollars spent with the carrier and flights. The new model is similar to that American airlines adopted earlier this year.

Major airlines have continued to raise requirements for status as customer spending with the airline and on co-branded credit cards has increased in recent years, swelling the ranks of these high-paying customers. Elite status can come with many perks, from early boarding to first class upgrades and lounge access.

“We want customers to be able to enjoy status with activity beyond just air travel,” Dwight James, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, told CNBC.

Next year, Delta customers will earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar for every dollar spent on Delta flights, car rentals, hotels and vacation packages booked through the airline.

The ratio is not 1:1 for dollars spent via co-branded American Express cards. Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card members earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar for every $10 spent on the card, while Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express Card Members earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar for every $20 spent.

Here are the new status requirements:

  • Silver medallion – 6,000 MQD
  • Gold medallion – 12,000 MQD
  • Platinum Medallion – 18,000 MQD
  • Diamond medallion – 35,000 MQD

Raising the bar for Sky Club entry

Delta is limiting access to its popular Sky Club airport lounges through some American Express credit cards after grappling with overcrowding at some of them, sparking complaints from travelers.

Instead of the current unlimited visits, starting February 1, 2025, American Express Platinum and Platinum Business cardholders will enjoy six visits per year, unless they spend $75,000 on the card in any year civil.

Meanwhile, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business cardholders will get 10 Sky Club visits per year, a limit they can get around by also spending $75,000 per year.

Delta’s SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express cards will no longer have access to the club through the cards themselves, although customers can gain entry by purchasing a club membership or if they have elite status with Delta that allows them allows you to choose club membership as a benefit.

“Some of the changes we are making ensure that we take care of our most premium customers with our most premium assets, one of them being Sky Club,” James said. He said the changes were made in collaboration with American Express.

The airline announced several changes last year to combat overcrowding at clubs, including banning employees from using them while flying standby with company travel privileges, even if they had eligible credit cards. He also increased the prices of club memberships for regular customers.

Delta and its competitors are racing to build larger, more modern lounges to accommodate their customers. United Airlinesfor example, opened a 35,000-square-foot club at its Denver International Airport hub on Wednesday, the largest in its network, after opening a 24,000-square-foot club at the airport earlier this summer.

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