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More details: Delta Air Lines extends elite status, certificates and more for another year

Perhaps sensing an imminent downturn in travel bookings due to the delta variant of COVID-19, Delta became the first U.S. airline to extend elite status through 2022 today. Delta’s previous status extension was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2022. However, yesterday Delta announced that all current elites will see their status extended through Jan. 31, 2023.

Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the status extensions already in place, this one will (almost unbelievably) apply to Delta elites who qualified for status as far back as 2019. The airline has confirmed that members of the invite-only Delta 360tier will receive a status extension as well. The extension will take place automatically, so there’s no need for flyers to call Delta to confirm their status for next year.

MQMs will rollover to 2022, travelers continue to earn status on award tickets

There were several significant revelations in Delta’s announcement today.

First, travelers will continue to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) on award tickets for another full year, through Dec. 31, 2022. So whether you are paying for tickets or cashing in SkyMiles that were previously sitting idle in your account, you can continue to work your way toward status. Keep in mind that you also have to complete spending requirements with the airline in order to hit those Medallion tiers unless you get a waiver with credit card spend (see below for details).

Unlike some other airlines, Delta did not actually lower its Medallion qualification requirements for 2021. Rather, it introduced a Status Accelerator promotion that awards a 50% or 75% bonus on MQM, MQS and MQD earned depending on your class of service. It currently remains in effect through the end of the year.

Ordinarily, you can qualify for Delta Medallion status by completing the following flight activities in a calendar year:

  • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs and $3,000 MQDs or a co-branded credit card MQD waiver

  • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs and $6,000 MQDs or a co-branded credit card MQD waiver

  • Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 90 MQSs and $9,000 MQDs or a co-branded credit card MQD waiver

  • Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 120 MQSs and $15,000 MQDs or a co-branded credit card MQD waiver

If you were earning 50-75% bonuses on flights this year, that could make hitting status tiers a lot easier. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on whether Delta will extend this promotion as well.

That seems unlikely, though, since Delta revealed it is bringing back last year’s MQM rollover for the second year in a row. This means that all MQMs earned in 2021 will roll over yet again to 2022, giving members a potentially huge head start on elite status qualification. TPG has confirmed this applies to all MQM earned this year, even if they were previously rolled over from 2020.

Add it all up and Delta SkyMiles members who qualify for Medallion this year will theoretically qualify for 2023 elite status so long as they meet the MQD requirement next year, or earn the MQD waiver with a cobranded credit card.

Credit card and elite certificates extended

Also getting a new lease on life? Vouchers earned with Delta cobranded credit cards, which will remain applicable through the end of 2022. If you have $100 flight vouchers and one-time Sky Club passes that were set to expire between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, they are now valid until Jan. 1, 2023.

Further, Companion Certificates unused of July 31, 2021 or issued between Aug. 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2021 are now valid through Jan. 31, 2023. It’s important to note that you must book your travel and fly by this date.

Existing Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates have been extended through Jan. 31, 2023 as well. These are awarded as Choice Benefits to Platinum and Diamond Medallion members.

Delta to make Basic Economy more flexible through 2021

Finally, Delta also announced that it will allow travelers to make changes basic economy tickets through Dec. 31, 2021. The airline will also roll out the ability to make these changes through the Fly Delta mobile app.

This is an effort to reduce calls to the Delta Reservations line, which has experienced extremely long wait times. This change is extremely positive for those booking basic economy tickets, as they can change or cancel them if COVID restrictions change in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Answered questions

Along with all this news come some interesting adjustments to Delta’s Medallion benefits, as well as a few lingering questions for which we’ve reached out to the airline for answers. The most pressing of them are probably for those folks who will fly and spend enough in 2021 to qualify or requalify for status in 2022.

The good news for them is that starting Feb. 1, 2022, travelers who earned their status in 2021 will clear for complimentary upgrades ahead of those at the same tier level whose status was automatically extended by this move. So if you earn Delta Gold Medallion status this year, you will have higher upgrade priority than someone whose Gold Medallion status was extended from 2019 or 2020.

It was previously unclear how fare class played into upgrade priority. On July 28, 2021, Delta confirmed to TPG that elites who requalify for status will clear upgrades first, even when booked into a lower fare class than elites with extended status.

So a Platinum Medallion who requalified for status but booked a discounted economy fare will be upgraded before a Platinum Medallion with extended elite status who booked a full-fare economy ticket.

Platinum and Diamond Medallion Members who earned status this year will be able to select additional Choice Benefits, which might be a nice incentive to stay true to the airline for the rest of 2021. But again, much uncertainty remains surrounding other elements of this update.

Unanswered questions

There are some Delta flyers out there — including some TPG readers who have already emailed us — wondering whether they might be able to exchange Choice Benefits they have already selected or redeemed for different ones that they would be entitled to based on their elite qualification for 2021.

For example, a Delta customer who is on track to earn Diamond Medallion again in 2021 for 2022 (and now 2023) recently cashed in an ultra-valuable Global Upgrade Certificate that would have bumped them into Delta One internationally for flights within the U.S. since it was set to expire in early 2022. Had they known their certificates would remain active longer, they would have opted to use some Regional Upgrade Certificates sitting in their account instead. Is the airline going to allow them to exchange one upgrade for another at this point, or offer some other kind of remedy?

On an even larger scale, what does this mean for folks who have seen yet another year of Delta status fall into their laps? Is it time to double down with the airline and leverage its current status accelerator to try for a higher Medallion tier? Or does another year of safe status mean it’s time to branch out to other carriers?

Is this Delta’s way of hedging its loyalty bets against another travel doldrum it predicts based on rising infection rates from the (unfortunately named) Delta variant? And should travelers be wary of booking flights further out than just a few months, given these moves?

TPG has reached out to the airline for clarification on some of these questions and will be monitoring the situation to provide guidance and strategy for travelers on their upcoming bookings and how they might impact their elite status strategy for the coming year

Will other airlines follow suit?

Delta was the first airline to extend elite status early on in the pandemic and other U.S. airlines, including American and United, quickly followed its lead. There’s a good chance that they will do so again this time around, whether by extending their current status promotions or by outright extending elite status again like Delta. TPG will keep you updated on any elite status extensions or qualification changes that develop over the coming months.

This article originally appeared on The Points Guy

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