The airlines basically made it impossible for flyers who need to depend on the spending on the American Express co-branded cards in order to reach the Diamond status. Delta is upping the spending requirement from $25,000 to $250,000.
Those who can spend $250K on the cards most likely don't really care for the occasional and lottery-jackpot-winning-opportunity types of the complementary upgrades, or the free lounge access because they probably pay for the discounted first class tickets when they fly, and they have the Amex Platinum Card or the Delta Reserve Card, which give them the free lounge access anyway. They may not be exactly the ones fussing about global upgrade certificates.
Let's look at this in terms of values for being a Diamond.
Beginning in 2018, a Diamond elite can pick 3 choice benefits. Let's pick these 3...
- 4 global upgrade certificates, which are really 2 round trip upgraded tickets
- $200 travel voucher = $200
- 25,000 SkyMiles = Somewhere between $250 to $650.
The biggest value would be the 4 global upgrade certificates. I used them earlier this year on 2 round trip tickets from Seattle to Taipei. Based on the time of booking, the Delta One ticket was about $4500. 2 tickets would cost $9,000. I paid $1800 for 2 economy tickets and used all 4 certificates for the upgrade. The total saving was $7,200. That was a great benefit.
Would I buy those Delta One tickets at $4,500 a piece? Of course not. There are other airlines that offer much lower business class fares, newer planes, and even non-stop flights from Seattle to Taipei. If I cannot qualify for the Diamond in 2019, I don't need to pick Delta for my international travel. The domestic travel can easily qualify me for the Platinum status.
I do not pick the Sky Club membership or Global Entry Application Voucher because the club access comes with the Delta Reserve Card or the Amex Platinum (Centurion) Card. The Global Entry also comes with the Amex Platinum (Centurion) Card.
By adding all 3 up, the total value comes to $7,200 + $200 + $650 = $8,050.
However, for Delta, it's all about the cost cutting. The CEO came out and said so himself. He said it clearly that Delta wanted to sell those first class seats. Giving away these seats or benefits would cause the airlines to fail. He would not mind putting the real top elites in the front of the plane OCCASIONALLY. Delta has said it wants to sell 70% of its first-class seats to cash payers, instead of giving them free to the upgraders in 2018. In 2015, 57% of those first class seats were sold to cash payers.
Would you spend $250,000 to get the benefits?