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In 2014, Delta and United Elite Perks Will Cost You Plenty

SmarterTravel

With the new year comes a new era in elite qualification, with both Delta and United now requiring minimum levels of spending in addition to mileage or segment thresholds to earn elite status in their loyalty programs.

Delta’s new-for-2014 elite qualification requirements are as follows:

  • Silver – 25,000 miles or 30 segments + $2,500 in spending
  • Gold – 50,000 miles or 60 segments + $5,000 in spending
  • Platinum – 75,000 miles or 100 segments + $7,500 in spending
  • Diamond – 125,000 miles or 140 segments + $12,500 in spending

United’s new requirements are almost identical:

  • Premier Silver – 25,000 miles or 30 segments + $2,500 in spending
  • Premier Gold – 50,000 miles or 60 segments + $5,000 in spending
  • Premier Platinum – 75,000 miles or 90 segments + $7,500 in spending
  • Premier 1K – 100,000 miles or 120 segments + $10,000 in spending

The programs of Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America are revenue-based, so elite status is already awarded according to members’ spend.

That leaves American (and US Airways, which will be absorbed by American) the odd man out. But it’s a safe bet that American will follow the lead of Delta and United and begin imposing a revenue requirement for elite qualification as well.

The days of earning elite perks on the cheap are numbered.

Adjust Expectations

The new policies mean that travelers must recalibrate their expectations, especially those flyers who have in the past reached elite status by logging scads of miles on long, cheap flights. Mileage running is dead, a relic of a different time.

Bona fide road warriors—mostly business travelers flying frequently on the company dime—will fare better under the new scheme, not least because there will be less competition for upgrades and other elite perks from mileage runners.

On the other hand, those who lose their status and perks under the new rules will have to find other ways of maintaining a moderate level of comfort and convenience in their travels, perhaps by applying for higher-end credit cards, which include some elite-like benefits, and by choosing airlines with more comfortable coach-class seats.

Reader Reality Check

Will you be among the new era’s winners, or among the losers?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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