Will 2019 be my last year as a Delta Diamond Medallion – Is “top” Delta status worth it anymore?

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Plastic DM cards for 2018? Really Delta?

Both my wife and I will be Delta Diamond Medallions this year. For me it will be yet another year at that top rank (well, not Delta360* as I will never spend 100k flying Delta). But for my wife it will be her first time ever reaching Diamond as she completes her “Diamond Quest” as we are calling it for the 2019 Medallion year. She will have gone from no status to start the year to Diamond in just 6 months (thank you partner flights)! Our scheduled flights in June should be the ones that take her past 125,000 elite miles or MQMs for the year. But this will very likely be the only year both of us reach this level and maybe even the last year even I push to keep my top status with Delta. Why? Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s I am confronting.

No mag strip on this year’s cards!

What I still like about Diamond status:

  • 4 (one direction, many segments) Global Upgrades. These are still by far one of the single most valuable perks of reaching Diamond. The savings of using these for long flights is thousands upon thousands of dollars. Nothing Delta offers compares to this one perk!
  • Waived fees and elite help. When you travel as much as I do things do happen. I had an issue in January and Delta was amazing when it came to waiving fees and helping out. I also had an issue with an AA flight but they, no matter how many times I did a HUCB, dinged me a $175 fee. I will remember both of the above for a very long time.
  • Upgrades (including +1). My upgrade percentage this year has been so-so that is ~60% (with a ton of work and some where one of us upgraded and the other did not). Not as good as years past and the majority came at the 5 day window. Oh, I am CLEARLY not counting C+ because that is not a real upgrade (no matter what Delta PR says).
  • How Delta folks treat you as a Diamond. It is hard to put a monetary amount on this but it just matters. From something little like “keep your drink coupon, we approached your Diamond status” to please follow me to the front of this line to save you time. Or another time this year, on a flight with MANY empty seats, I asked a GA to please leave the center empty if possible. The agent did and my wife and I got to share 3 seats back in coach when our upgrade did not clear. All of this makes me think the effort is maybe worth it for yet another year.

What I no longer like about Diamond status:

  • Hard to use perks. As much as I value Global Upgrade they are becoming so hard to use. A perk that you can not benefit from is no perk at all. Unless Delta opens up more GU space this will become a useless benefit and likely will drive me to no longer work for Diamond. Also that Sky Club membership will require I fly Delta as of 2019 just stinks. Why call it membership if I am not really a member?
  • Less & less upgrades. A few years back Diamond meant you always cleared your upgrade. Now, due to Delta selling super cheap upgrades days before the flight, a real 1st class upgrade is all but impossible on certain days and routes. Let’s face it, one of the only reasons to be Diamond is upgrades and if they are not going to happy I can just buy 1st class on ANY airline that goes where I want to go. Missing 40% of my upgrade using every tool I can does not instill a drive to go for Diamond another year. I even know some Diamonds who have scored ZERO upgrades so far for 2018!
  • The total trashing of SkyMiles. I could rant about this for hours. The arrogance of Delta pushing SkyMiles as any kind of winning of anything when it is so hopelessly broken and despicable and slimy. If I am not flying Delta as much I will not collect as many SkyMiles but then again maybe that is a good thing and crediting to Skyteam partners can at times yield greater value and especially so when it comes to redemptions. I have gone from loving SkyMiles to despising them!

It really comes down to the Delta PR video above. Delta is telling me flat out “the next time an airline asks for your [business] – ask them first what they have done to deserve it“. Well, Delta I am asking. I am looking down that two way loyalty street and I am weighing my options and it is looking more and more like 2020 has to be the year things change for me! Do you agree? – René




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  1. Great article. These are the questions that I’m asking this year. I have decided to hold at Platinum this year. Rather than spend the extra money for the MQD’s, I’m burning SkyMiles so that next year I can start the year off as a free agent.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. That said, it means medium status in 2-3 airlines as there still isn’t a superior top elite status at any of them anymore. Just not sure I want to give up top elite status as bad as it is.

  3. @rene I think this will be a good topic to revisit next medallion year once we see what happens with the $250k waiver for diamond. Will it clear out the top? Or will it really make a negligible difference? I’m at about 75% this year so I’m still happy. And I would miss the diamond line… even if it is a long wait at times.

    Although I may be in a different boat than some since I earn it the hard way traveling for work vs the hobby! Doesnt seem to be a route to go for me to be a free agent. Who knows though. Time will tell!

  4. 2018 is my first year as a platinum after being a Diamond ever since Diamond Medallion tier was created. Here are the things I miss the most:
    1) Boarding with PREM when I don’t have a first class/business class seat.
    2) No more Global Upgrades and Fewer Regional Upgrades
    3) Diamond Medallion support line. The wait times as a Platinum are much longer.

  5. Rene,

    I have been thinking the same thing. I just dont think I can make Diamond again for one, and not sure it is worth it. I am still loyal to Delta in a lot of ways, but not sure I can justify the status.

    One of my concerns is that the Plat status will become even more crowded due to many folks like me not going for Diamond, which will dilute the status, especially for upgrades. Am I wrong headed in this line of thinking?

  6. I agree with the phone line support; I fell from Platinum to Silver this year, and had to try to deal with moving flights through NY due to last weekend’s storm. I don’t think I would have had an issue previously, but the ‘help’ I got from the Silver line was essentially useless. This was one of the most noticeable changes with the status drop since upgrades never happen anymore.

  7. I agree but you forgot to mention the pro of getting picked up in a Porsche and driven on the runway. Always makes me think I’ll try to qualify diamond for ‘20. I’m just waiting for your partner deals to spend my $15k. Appreciate you, friend.

  8. Currently, I am Platinum. This year, due to international business travel (cattle class!), I am likely to achieve Diamond without mileage runs and without the credit card waiver.

    My upgrade rate this year in about 50%. I make it happen even though I often fly Medallion-heavy routes by trying alternate connections and holding the Reserve AmEx. Being based in MCO means that Delta often uses the international 330/767 birds from its MCO-GRU red-eye on the 10:30AM MSP Sunday round-trip. If I book at least 7 days out, I always score one of the 36 lie-flat seats up front.

    Unlike years past, I also have had the opportunity to fly numerous routes which, on a Friday, would have zero upgrades even for Diamonds, but on other days. On those trips, even the Silvers moved up front.

    If I returned to Platinum the following year, which is 50/50, I would not complain since the MQD credit card waiver is out of the question. I actually could pull it off but refuse on principle.

  9. Great post! I am going the partner route to Diamond for next year, but beyond that I’m just not sure it will be worth the effort, not to mention the expense. It will be interesting to see if GU, as well as other upgrades,open more next year with slightly fewer DM after the incredible $250k spend requirement. I suspect not everyone will go the partner route & maybe upgrade chances will improve next year. Truthfully I ain’t counting on it though!

  10. No way I’m quitting.

    Old Macdonald had a run. E-I-E-I-O
    And on his run he had some fun. E-I-E-I-O
    On a Partner here, a Partner there, here a Partner, there a Partner, everywhere a Partner-Partner.
    Old Macdonald had a run. E-I-E-I-O

  11. I dropped Diamond last year after having it most years after its inception, falling to lowly Silver only by virtue of my 1M status. I instead credited my miles to Flying Blue (not the best choice given the degradation of that program, but I wanted to earn elite status and redeem miles for AF La Premiere). I had concluded in early 2017 that the value – while with some wonderful sweet spots like the GUCs and the fantastic Diamond line and Diamond treatment – wasn’t worth the increasing cost and decreasing value.

    Two things tipped me over the edge: the Skymiles devaluations and obfuscations, and the fact that I never, not once in those years as a Diamond, even with many tight connections, got a Porsche ride; while not a serious functional issue, it made me feel less valued since I read about them all the time on blogs like yours.

    I’m still loyal to Delta domestically where it makes sense as I do prefer their service, but I pay for the experience I want (most flights I take are at my own expense) – flying to JFK from the West Coast, I have purchased discounted Delta One seats – but I’m as likely to instead purchase (when discounted) the JetBlue Mint product- Delta no longer automatically wins over other carriers as I am not trying to maintain an elite status anymore.
    Flying to SBN or other places where I have to connect, I just accept economy and buy upgrades then they’re priced at an attractive level – I know your long-standing concerns about Delta selling those cheaply and thus devaluing top-tier upgrade benefits, but now that I’ve dropped my top-tier status, I find that working to my benefit.

  12. I agree, what have they done recently to deserve our continued loyalty. We know the answer, nothing. Is free agency an option?

    I am retired and I buy the special fares offered by Delta: $550 to Dublin, $575 to Madrid, $450 to Paris then use my ability to upgrade to “Comfort”. Last year I took 4 flights to various European destinations for close to $2000 total. I even splurged a when I stumbled across a great Business fare to Europe but still the $15,000 ticket spend is not realistic for me.

    I have noticed that by watching the various airfare sale sites that there have been some really great sale priced Business class flights on other airlines for overseas locations but since I have been a loyal multi-year Diamond million miler Delta flyer I do not use them.
    As Rene says loyalty needs to be two way. Delta has devalued the loyalty program and then now the change to the Diamond spend level (aimed to clean out the riff raff non business expense fliers) shows you what we all have known, they have taken more actions to weaken our loyalty and is now for me a question if they deserve my loyalty.

    I also have the American Express card for various lounge access so I do not waste a perk.

    Global Upgrades I agree are the best perk offered but trying to use them can be often next to impossible. Recently I found a flight where 85% of the Business class seats were unsold and I could not use my Global. I remembered advice from Rene and called back later and got a different call center and with the help of a manager who did a work around, after the first rep told me no upgrades possible, got me on the flight. It was a great $575 trip to Asia in Business. Another time I did the buy and then be a standby upgrade with your Global Upgrade and never again. The Diamond line put through the upgrade the day of the flight but the gate staff had problems since it was not showing up on their end and were refusing to give me the seat. Thanks to my cell phone and Diamond line rep who argued with the gate staff for good 5 minutes did they gave in and not to happily gave me the seat. So now if not confirmed not going to book it.

  13. I have second-tier elite status – MVP gold status, with Alaska Airlines. Love it!!

  14. Could someone explain how flying on a Partner helps to reach the MQD requirement? Are tickets bought directly through KLM or AirFrance calculated that way as well?

  15. Meh – Skymiles are still valuable if you spread them across the bottom of your parakeet cage. Then you could mail them to Delta to show that there are some fliers (budgies and canaries, too) that actually have a use for their Skymiles.

    “The total trashing of SkyMiles. I could rant about this for hours. The arrogance of Delta pushing SkyMiles as any kind of winning of anything when it is so hopelessly broken and despicable and slimy.”

  16. I have had little luck with upgrades even to the point of not even C- seats//I’m in main cabin again next week to atl!!!I had to wait til the night before for a GU to come thru(2 weeks ago to Ireland) nerve racking even with 4 calls to Diamond line…No help

  17. Rene;
    I couldn’t argue with you on any of the points you mention. I am a DM and have been every year the top level (PM in the old days) for 20+ years. Also going on 3 million miles. I have seen it all from the shabby planes and lack of moral in the employees to today where they are all happy, well paid and for the most part the planes, for a largely domestic carrier, are better than average. The days of having room to spread out and not sit in flying sardine cans are long gone.

    The question is what are the alternatives, each of the Big 4 have their own set of issues from no seat assignments to fickle Sr. Management who change their minds weekly. American has a wonderful route map and from what I see on the travel blogs has an abundance of fare deals and if I had to move it would probably be them. I do see less and less deals on DAL though regardless of the departure city. Living in ATL though DAL holds the key to my handcuffs.

    Well, as Amex says “Loyalty has it’s privileges” so with that said I will stay with DAL as long as I am flying for business and residing here in Mecca ( DAL employee slang for ATL ) After that as in retired, I’ll be a free agent and look forward to the destination not the journey.

  18. Rene, With the amount you fly and rollover MQMs I bet it would be easy for you to maintain DM for a while without doing much flying on DL. Making the MQDs can be easy. But like you say, the problem with that is getting stymiles (my term) rather than a more valuable currency that is not subject to dramatic no-notice devaluations for your butt-in-seat troubles. I like having CLEAR where it is available, but I wouldn’t pay for it until it is more widespread and at my home airport. And four GUCs are nice even if hard to use at times.

  19. Rene,

    Ditto for me. I’m already diamond for 2019 but who matters? Not us evidently. Last minute upgrades when or if you get them. It used to be five days prior…forget that. Delta Diamond means nothing anymore. I’m thinking of flying whoever has the best price instead being of a loyal Delta flyer for as long as I can remember. Good luck Ed with your new business plan.

  20. Left two years and don’t regret it a bit. Got the free companion pass at Southwest for my wife and love it. The devaluation of miles, few upgrades, hidden charts were the final straws doe me. Nice to sit on the sidelines and watch more crappy programs come around like $250K Amex spend, no guests to club, etc. move to another airline and you will be better off. Expect them to improve in two to five years as more of us depart the brand.

  21. On the flip side I’m a PM for the last 8 years and now freaking out that you all will be PMs next year and I’ll never get upgraded again! 🙂

  22. Has Delta ever justified that $250k spend? I mean seriously. Does ANYONE spend that much? My new plan is once I lose status I’m going to fly less often and fly FC — the spend will be similar.

  23. With 3MM, I’m a “Lifetime” Gold Medallion. I’ll spend the $25k to get to PM with rollover miles this year, but next year it’s non-stops, Southwest, then Delta, in that order. I’m not renewing the AMEX Reserve card next year, either.

  24. I retired last year and went from flying at least 80 segments a year to about six. Went from DM and PM to silver only because I am a 1M miler (just short of 2M).
    I don’t miss flying Delta at all. Now I just pay a little (very little) more and buy first class. My wife and I still have Delta Reserve AmEx cards. We figure the outrageous annual fee covers the cost of our two first class companion tickets each year. And the Reserve cards include entrance to SkyClubs that have definitely improved in the airports we use.
    As to SkyMiles, I had “banked” well over 2 million at one time. With all the devaluations (so much for the round the world trips we planned), I look at them now as little better than Venezuelan Bolivar currency. We have spent them down with use for our children and grandchildren.
    When Delta decided to monetize first class and severely restrict upgrades for DM and PM, it became clear that they no longer value loyalty.
    I retired at the right time.

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