“Thank you for being a Diamond Medallion Member and for your continued loyalty.” Years ago if I had read that first line in an email I would have assumed that it would be followed by some sort of reward or enhancement for my continued loyalty. After all, Diamond is the highest level in the Delta Skymiles Loyalty Program. Of course a business would want to incentivize the loyalty of customers who fly its airline week after week. Diamond flyers are not people who take the odd business trip or vacation. We are not the people who fly between a couple of key hubs a few times a month. We are people who fly round the country and world numerous times during the course of the year; and stay loyal to particular airlines because the sheer amount of our travel necessitates certain enhancement just to make air travel bearable in a time when airlines seem intent upon making the experience so disagreeable.

“To ensure our most well-traveled Members like you can enjoy all the benefits of Diamond, a change is being made to how you qualify for 2019 Diamond Status. . . [W]e expect that this change will improve your overall Diamond Medallion experience because there will be fewer Diamond Medallion Members.” Now these lines were intriguing to me. For some time now, one of my numerous pet peeves has been the current trend of linking credit cards to airline loyalty programs and awarding miles, in fact additional bonus miles, based on credit card usage — regardless how the credit cards are used (in other words, the credit is not limited to amounts spent on air travel — or even amounts spent on travel on the specific airline connected to the card.) This has been a peeve of mine because it strikes me that an airline loyalty program should be about rewarding people who have shown loyalty to an airline by flying on its planes. I don’t want to be forced into another credit card. I’ve earned my miles by actually traveling on planes almost weekly. It has never been clear to me why my actual loyalty must compete (unfairly) with financial synergies that benefit solely the banks and the airlines.

Anyway, after I read the above two lines I thought that perhaps airlines were finally going to reward people who actually fly on their planes, not people who spend money on credit cards. But then came the kicker, Delta is raising the qualifying spending for Diamond status from $25,000 to $250,000! Until relatively recently, airline rewards programs were based on miles flown, not dollars spent. About five years ago airlines started to include an additional spending requirement. (And, per my rant above, those who have been enticed into obtaining an airline branded credit card can meet the spending amounts through ALL of their card use, regardless of the purchase.) This 250k threshold spending amount is huge. Frankly, it is inconceivable to me that any business can remain financially viable if it spends 250k a year on any individual employee’s travel. So this would effectively eliminate from the Diamond level frequent business travelers who do not use an airline branded credit card for all of his or her spending. (Even if one uses the airline branded credit card for all spending during the year, the 250K number is nearly impossible to meet!)

My decidedly unscientific analysis suggests that the only people who would likely meet these new spending requirements will be the highest paid CEOs in the world and members of the Trump administration cabinet. Trump cabinet members like to take private chartered planes so they should start charging all such travel to an airline branded credit card.

Thank you Delta for all that you do to show your most loyal flyers that we are valued.