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In September, Delta Air Lines announced radical changes to its SkyMiles loyalty program, credit cards and Sky Club lounge access.

The changes were instantly, resoundingly panned by the media and customers. Delta was pilloried for making a legendary bad PR move. At the time, I wrote that Delta status was no longer even worth thinking about for regular travelers.

Weeks later, in response to the uproar, CEO Ed Bastian backtracked with some gentler adjustments to the new rules. Some of the revisions are, uh, porthole dressing, and some might make a difference to you.

But the damage had been done: The original announcement got a lot more attention than the follow-up, leaving many of us confused about the final rules for Medallion status.

What's so great about status? Well, there's the coveted eligibility for unlimited free upgrades to higher classes of service, such as Comfort Plus, First Class or the Delta One lie-flat suites. There's also priority check-in and boarding, waived baggage fees and other goodies.

So with 2024 underway, here is a guide — with limited commentary — on what to expect with Delta loyalty this year and beyond. I'm writing this mostly as a way of keeping it straight for myself.

Not interested in Delta Medallion status? Not much is changing for you. You can still fly Basic Economy and beyond, and maybe earn double miles on groceries and dining out with your SkyMiles Gold American Express card. And Delta, which dominates our travel because it represents 70% of flight seats at Minneapolis-St. Paul, remains one of the most expensive airlines in America.

No more MQMs (or MQSs)

A meme on airline discussion boards shows a gravestone with the words "MQMs — rest in peace." Yes, MQMs — Medallion Qualification Miles, or basically the distance you've flown — are no longer one of the criteria for Delta status. It's best to forget that they ever existed, or how they worked. (One exception is below.)

The less-celebrated MQSs (Medallion Qualification Segments)? They're gone, too.

MQDs are king

From now on, MQDs — Medallion Qualification Dollars — are the only game in town for status. Translation: It's about how much money you spend with Delta — including flights and vacation packages, plus purchases on some SkyMiles American Express cards. (As other commentators have pointed out, Delta Air Lines is arguably a bank that also flies planes.)

Delta flights and Delta Vacations packages will earn 1 MQD for every $1 spent. And for what is now known as the "MQD Boost," SkyMiles Platinum Amex holders, like me, will earn a stingy 1 MQD per $20 spent on the card. SkyMiles Reserve Amex members get a slightly better 1 for $10. (SkyMiles Platinum has an annual fee of $250; the Reserve is $550.)

The old "MQD waiver," where you could spend $25,000 on a SkyMiles Amex to help qualify for status, is kaput. And the entry-level SkyMiles Gold Amex ($99 annual fee) doesn't count toward status at all, though it earns miles and gets you a free checked bag.

So how many MQDs do you need now? Delta tweaked and retweaked the new thresholds for earning status in 2024 for 2025, based on the four-tier Medallion hierarchy. The final requirements are 5,000 MQDs for Silver status, 10,000 for Gold, 15,000 for Platinum and a whopping 28,000 for Diamond level.

'Headstart' for status

It was disappointing that the required MQDs for even the mildest tier of status (Silver) jumped to 5,000, from 3,000 previously. But then Delta threw in a silver lining for its credit card users: the "MQD Headstart." I went to Head Start as a kid, so this got my attention.

You can now get 2,500 MQDs just for having the SkyMiles Platinum or Reserve Amex. (Sorry, SkyMiles Gold Amex members — not you.) So now those cardholders start off the year with 2,500 MQDs to go for Silver, which is 500 fewer than before the revision.

A handy calculator on or the Fly Delta app helps you predict your future MQDs. In the new year, with an expected $10,000 of spending on my SkyMiles Platinum Amex, and a $500 flight to Hawaii booked, I can already count on 3,500 MQDs. I'm 70% of the way to Silver!

Vacation packages more powerful

Delta Vacations might be the stealth factor for earning MQDs. It may be hard to spend at least $5,000 on flights or earn MQDs with your Amex, but an inclusive vacation package in a place like Montego Bay, Los Cabos or Las Vegas may be the quickest, most pleasurable way to push to the next level of status — that is, if you actually value your destination as much as the cabin class of your journey.

In the calculator mentioned above, adding just one Delta Vacations package to my 2024 plans promises me more than 3,000 additional MQDs, pushing me deep into Silver status.

Sky Club access

If 2023 proved anything, it's that some travelers are gaga for exclusive airport lounges. So much so that airlines have had to slam the brakes on how many people are allowed into these gilded waiting rooms, like the swanky new Delta Sky Club in MSP's Concourse G. We wanted exclusive, after all.

Lounge access doesn't change for most Delta loyalists until Feb. 1, 2025. Then, SkyMiles Reserve American Express members will get 15 free Sky Club visits per year, with a $50 per-visit fee after that. Owners of the non-Delta-branded American Express Platinum card (not to be confused with the SkyMiles Platinum Amex!) will get 10 free visits with a $50 fee afterward. But wait, there's more: Spending just $75,000 a year on one of the two cards above will earn you unlimited Sky Club access the next year.

Starting in 2024, though, SkyMiles Platinum Amex users like me, as well as Basic Economy passengers, can no longer get into the Sky Club at all. Unless I upgrade to the Reserve card, I'll never see the inside of a Sky Club again.

Rollover MQMs

Wait, didn't we say that Medallion Qualification Miles were dead? Yes, but! If you had any leftover MQMs after achieving status in 2023 for 2024, you can now make a one-time conversion of those MQMs. You can convert them to MQDs, SkyMiles or a combination of both. You'll have until Dec. 31, 2024, to decide on that.

If you had more than 100,000 rollover MQMs (lucky you!), you can extend your 2024 status level for one year per 100,000 MQMs.

But if, like me, you didn't earn any Medallion status in 2023, any leftover MQMs don't count toward a rollover. Darn.

Goodbye to my 66,192 lifetime Delta MQMs. Thanks for the memories.