Higher costs for Elite Status in 2016 from United and Delta

A couple weeks ago Delta announced the increased spend requirements (Medallion Qualifying Dollars) for SkyMiles members to earn elite status in the 2016 program year. And, like clockwork, United Airlines followed. The company updated its website today to reflect its new United PQD requirements for 2016:

The United PQD requirements are going up. Will you still be spending??
The United PQD requirements are going up. Will you still be spending??

The numbers are identical to what Delta requires (proportionally for the top tier) and, quite frankly, still below average costs for operating the flights and below the average of what the airlines realize in revenue from passengers on a per–mile basis. Which is to say that the numbers could probably even go higher before there is serious pushback from passengers who are mid- or high-yielding, the ones the airlines try to attract and reward for their business.

That’s not to say I want to see the numbers continue to go up; it mostly is bad news for me personally. But I understand why they do it. Mostly I just wish that United showed a bit of creative thinking and did something different rather than following along a couple weeks behind Delta in redesigning the program. Then again, letting Delta be the canary on all these changes does help soften the blow when United follows.

So, will you still be spending to make status with the new United PQD rates? Or the Delta MQM rates, for that matter??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Nope. I’ve been Diamond or Platinum with Delta for years now, flying economy almost exclusively. I spend enough on the Delta Amex to not worry about the MQDs, but the constant shrinkage of benefits has brought me to the realization that I come out ahead if I stop worrying about flying them, and just choose the cheapest ticket, and then pay for the benefits I get from my status (bags, economy comfort, pre-boarding). In fact, it’s not even close, especially on most international routes. I’m not sure if Delta and United cares. Maybe they really do want to maintain their status programs for their top paying customers, and only top paying customers. If so, they’re succeeding nicely.

  2. Solution is simple, take out/ retain a chase explorer visa card and spend $25k in 2015 and pqd requirement for 2016 is waived.

    1. The CC waiver only works up to Platinum on United, Ken. For Delta it covers all tiers.

      And, while it is relatively easy to get there with a CC there is an opportunity cost to consider. Especially since I live in NYC where WalMart isn’t a viable option. 😉

  3. I have no problems meeting the revenue generally (unless my job changes of course), however I’m just looking forward to getting my MM status next year. I agree with you, they have no creativity in this program and they make no differentiation between UA and their main competitor DL. Disappointing for sure.

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