Delta changes frequent flier qualification rules

DELTAAttention travelers: Your high-flying status with Delta Air Lines may take a dive with the airline’s new frequent flier rules.

Delta announced a new spending requirement Thursday for gaining elite status in the airline’s SkyMiles program.

In addition to racking up Medallion qualifying miles or segments, passengers will have to spend a minimum dollar amount on tickets each year for each rung on the mileage ladder. For silver status, the spending requirement is $2,500. Gold status requires $5,000 in ticket purchases, $7,500 for platinum and $12,500 for diamond status.

The change starts on January 1, 2014, for membership status in the 2015 program.

“Adding a revenue component to the SkyMiles Medallion program ensures that our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience,” said Jeff Robertson, vice president of the SkyMiles program, in a statement.

Tim Winship, publisher of Frequentflier.com expects a mixed reaction to the change among travelers,”depending on which side of the fence you find yourself on.”

It’s a win for business travelers who easily qualify for the programs through company-paid flights, Winship said, because fewer elite members means better odds for upgrades.

But travelers who have been using cheap flights as a status strategy, may get bumped down — or out — of the game, Winship said.

Justin Cook, a sales trainer from Orlando, Florida, flies nearly every week in the mid-Atlantic or the Southeast. Cook is a Delta Diamond Medallion member — the highest level — yet he estimates his company spends between $8,000 to $10,000 a year on his air travel, shy of the $12,500 requirement.

By 2015, he suspects he could drop two levels to gold status.

“I will actively be looking into other airlines to see if they will match my status.”