Delta’s new elite requirements: Blatant copies of United


I knew that the general idea of Delta’s new elite requirements seemed to follow United and AA’s lead (see: Delta’s 2024 elite program – it ain’t pretty), but until I started crunching the numbers I didn’t realize that Delta must have literally copied United’s numbers and then applied a few tweaks.  Let me show you what I found…

a green chalkboard with a few charts on it

MQDs = PQPs + 20%

Take a look at this.  Except for top-tier Diamond status, Delta’s new MQD requirements are exactly 20% more than United’s PQPs.

Elite Level United PQP Requirements Delta MQD Requirements Difference
Silver $5K $6K Delta is 20% higher
Gold $10K $12K Delta is 20% higher
Platinum $15K $18K Delta is 20% higher
Top Tier $24K $35K Delta is 46% higher

It’s pretty blatant, isn’t it?  I bet when Delta first determined the requirements they penciled in $24K x 1.2 = $28,800 for Diamond, but then decided to multiply by 1.2 again to get to 34,560, and then they rounded off to $35K.

Credit Card Spend Matches Perfectly

Here’s where it gets even more interesting.  United offers 500 PQPs per $12K spend on a number of credit cards.  So, even though there are caps on how many PQPs you can earn (unless you have the old Presidential Plus Card), we can project how much spend is required to earn each status level if there were no caps and if you earn status entirely through credit card spend.  Check this out:

Elite Level United Card Spend Delta Platinum Card Spend Difference
Silver $120K $120K None
Gold $240K $240K None
Platinum $360K $360K None
Top Tier $576K $700K Delta is 22% higher

The credit card spend required for Silver, Gold, and Platinum are exactly the same!

Here, obviously Delta wants to encourage people to get and put spend on the Delta Reserve card because with that card you can earn status with half the spend shown above.

Coincidence? No way

I don’t think there’s any way that it can be coincidence that Delta’s new requirements for the first three levels of elite status track perfectly with United’s.  I would have expected Delta to put more thought in this, but instead we can plainly see where they got their inspiration and their detailed numbers.

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anyone spending 576k on a UA card to get 1k and forego cash back is dumb
– anyone doing 700k on a DL platinum card is insane


I find it odd that the billions on dollars spend on analytics in the loyalty arena can’t grasp the concept of turning frequent customers into owners by allowing some/all of their loyalty currency converted into stock shares of the issuing company… who’s a more loyal customer than an owner?


@ Greg — Excellent analysis. I bet that DL only made their top level requirement higher to make up for the rollover MQM to MQD conversion, essentially meaning DL is confiscating rollover MQMs. Typical Delta behavior. What will Delta do once they have run out of things to steal from their customers?


I think you’re overthinking it. When you’re talking about numbers at the nearest thousand, everything is going to seem coincidental. You could make the argument they just increased their own requirements from 2019 for Silver, Gold, and Platinum by 100%, and Diamond by 133%. Or you could say that UA blatantly copied DL’s 2019 thresholds but raised them all by 66%. That’s just the math when you’re talking about “marketing friendly ” numbers.


Were the 2019 levels not $3K, $6K, $9K, and $15K?

I’m not saying your wrong with your analysis, just saying that anything with “marketing friendly” numbers is going to appear as an amazing coincidence based on how elite thresholds historically have been (i.e., 200% increase from level 1 to 2, 300% increase from level 1 to 3). Where DL changes this up is with their top tier.

With credit card spend, perhaps for the Platinum card. But the Reserve ratio is just the thresholds multiplied by 10.


In economics, it’s called price leadership.


Is that really surprising? When elite status was determined entirely by distance flown, the three major airlines has status level thresholds that pretty much matched each other, too. And everyone had a baseline domestic award for 25k miles round trip.


Any hope that the backlash may get Delta to reconsider?


After a year, expect Delta to tweak the program just as AA did one year after introducing LPs. And, don’t be surprised if there are subsequent annual tweaks in either program.


That’s embarrassingly simple from an exec earning seven figures.


To be fair, execs are paid to take the ideas they pay the consultants to give them, who just copied United who took it from probably the same consultants.