Some advisors find Delta's loyalty program change unrewarding

As part of revisions that Delta will implement to its loyalty program next year, the airline will begin counting each dollar that SkyMiles members spend on a direct Delta Vacations booking toward Medallion loyalty status accrual.

But that change won’t apply to bookings made through travel advisors and travel agencies.

Instead, SkyMiles members will continue to only accrue Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) on the flight portion of a Delta Vacations package when using a travel advisor — and not for expenditures on hotels and other land portions of the trip.

That discrepancy has ruffled feathers among travel advisors whose clients place an importance on achieving one of four Medallion Status tiers.

“The negative impact is this is a possible reason why we might lose some clients directly to Delta Vacations if they go through the fine print and learn that they can get more qualifying dollars by booking the whole package directly with Delta Vacations,” said John Hawks, executive director of the Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists Association.

The accrual discrepancy will begin on Jan. 1 as Delta starts basing status accrual solely on expenditures with the company and its co-branded credit cards, rather than a combination of expenditures and either flight mileage or flight segments. 

Under the new accrual system, SkyMiles members will earn one MQD per eligible dollar spent. For the first time, MQDs will be awarded for car rentals and hotels booked via Delta channels and for the full cost of direct-booked Delta Vacations packages. Purchases made by SkyMiles members on Delta’s co-branded American Express credit cards will also begin earning MQDs, but at a fractional rate. Status thresholds will range from 6,000 MQDs for Silver Medallion to 35,000 for Diamond Medallion.

In an email, Delta Vacations emphasized that it isn’t actually changing the MQD accrual rules for bookings made through travel agencies.

“The only change we have introduced specifically to Delta Vacations is one additional way for direct customers to earn Medallion Status,” the company said. “The lead passenger on a booking will now earn MQDs on the land portion. The addition is focused on Medallion members who do not book Delta Vacations today — it does not target our existing agency customers. A very small percentage of agency bookings are Medallion members.”

Delta Vacations also said the change is not intended to shift customers from travel advisors to direct channels.
Still, the change will leave Delta Vacations travel agency bookings behind in terms of their value for Medallion status accrual.

That’s a mistake, argued Hawks, who said Delta Vacations is missing an opportunity to use the “army of travel advisors out there” as a cost-effective way to get more bookings by making MQDs “a perk that agencies can offer. … I think Delta’s total package sales would explode next year.” 

Advisors can raise concerns about the SkyMiles changes at the upcoming Delta Vacations University event in Minneapolis this month. 

“We are aware of some misunderstanding on how the SkyMiles changes will impact our agency partners,” the company said, adding that its doors to communicate are always open. “We welcome the opportunity to speak to our agents as a group and individually to address their concerns and to clear up any misconceptions, while also reiterating our commitment to the travel advisor community.”

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