Sunday reader guest post: Is it worth it to be Delta Platinum as a leisure traveler? By Noah Mark

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Noah Mark on DeltaONE Delta Points blog (2)

I flew at least a half a dozen Song Flights during its existence. They offered generous bonuses throughout those years including round trip 15k award redemption’s to New York, and 10k bonuses just for taking a flight.

Hi everyone, I am Noah Mark and I have always been a collector of points and miles as far back as I can remember. Originally from New York and moving to South Florida in the late 90’s, my travels included many return visits back to New York.

Since south Florida (MIA/FLL/PBI) to NYC (JFK/LGA/EWR) is a hot leisure market there is always a bit of an “arms race” and especially so in the early-mid 2000’s with airlines trying to one up each other offering comfort and affordable travel between the two markets. JetBlue came online, and Delta created Song (remember them?). Both products offered Live Satellite TV, leather seats, and a modern feel.

I started to participate, now and then, in all ground mileage promotions, sign ups, such as Skymiles Shopping, Skymiles Dining, etc. I was happy as a clam riding domestically in economy and happy to receive my points and free flights now and then.

Fast forward to the 2010’s as I started to grow up, and begin an interest of increasing my leisure travel beyond the eastern US. I started to pay closer attention to the game of points and miles. I had slowly but surely amassed 100k miles, and wanted to start to travel more. I applied for my very first Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express in the fall of 2011. I was instantly approved and received a small sign-on bonus. Now things were getting serious and I was hooked.

As I started to recognize the value of SkyMiles in relation to cost, I started to make smarter choices when it came to booking domestic flights with or without miles. Heading to NYC flights with advance booking were generally $189-$250, and not usually the best 25k redemption value.

I then started following René’s blog and I started to pay more attention to those “MQM” things (they are Medallion Qualifying Miles, btw). I was very close to hitting what frequent flyers call “FO” or Silver Medallion status for the first time ever and when a bonus offer, similar to the current 60,000 SkyMiles & 10,000 MQM offer from the Delta Platinum AMEX card came about, I jumped at the opportunity to take things to the next level.

GM-Tweet

Between the leisure miles I was actually flying, the American Express MQM Platinum sign on bonus and the MQMs Miles Boost received on the card by meeting spending goals, I found it relatively easy to became a Gold Medallion. In fact I became a gold Medallion on July 26th 2013 in the middle of my first trip ever outside the US, to London, England!

Noah Mark on DeltaONE Delta Points blog (1)

Not only did I get to visit the Sky Team lounge at LHR as a Gold Medallion, but to my absolute thrill, I was given a FREE OP-UP or an operationally upgraded to Business Elite (Now Delta One) for the ride home!

Between the leisure miles I was actually flying, the MQM bonuses I was earning from my now two Delta AMEX Platinum cards (one Personal and one Business), and some carefully selected mileage runs I now earned my Delta Platinum Medallion status. (tip: be sure to follow @deltamileagerun on twitter for deals!)

Now in my second year with all leisure travel, and MQM bonus earning, and looking toward the next year, the question at hand:

Is it worth it? For me the answer is yes, if you plan on flying 6-12 times a year. Let me delve into some of the benefits that I use most for my reasons why I say this.

• Waived Award Redeposit/Reissue Fees.
This is hands down the benefit I use the most and value as much as upgrades. I am able to book award tickets and cancel them up to 72 hours before departure. Now with one way award tickets, this benefit offers even greater flexibility as I book legs separately. If you are committed to one leg of your journey such as when you need to arrive, but still not sure about the return, you can book a few return trips via miles, and then decide which flight you will take closer to the date of travel. I also use this as a “ticket holder” with PWM, as I monitor the fare changes closer to the travel dates. I love this kind of flexibility.

• Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades.
Although upgrade percentages are lower than I would like, there are still many off peak and non-hub upgrade successes out there for the leisure traveler who is willing to work it. In March I took an 11:30am flight from FLL to JFK on a Friday, and 1st class went out with several non-revs and empty seats! Even a Silver medallion, Alaskan MVP or Delta Crossover-Rewards Member could have been upgraded. Stick with non-hubs, and leisure airports. You may also find success on Tuesdays and Saturdays and early morning Sundays. And if you’re close on the upgrade list, fight #Shena and always be part of #TeamBoardLast!

• Platinum Desk.
With rare exception, I can get a dedicated US Based Delta Platinum Medallion desk agent on the phone within seconds from dialing. Sitting on hold with other airlines occasionally I remind myself of this very important benefit. Imagine an IROPS (Irregular operations, e.g. flight very delayed/canceled) situation, while dozens of people are in line waiting, I can get a happy and friendly agent on the phone and have my itinerary changed in moments. They are also empowered to help the elite member; this often means better service, more leniency on enforcement/interpretation of the rules, etc. Always be friendly and kind and most always you will get friendly and kind service in response.

Free snacks and drinks Delta Comfort plus delta points blog

Delta Comfort+ Tip: Request extra drinks and grab a few snacks from the basket the first time they come, you never know if/when they’ll come back!

• Complimentary Delta Comfort Plus.
Although it’s not up front, there are few people that would complain if you moved them up from a standard run of the mill coach seat to a Delta Comfort+ seat for free. Plus, now with the Snack Basket on flights < 900 miles, it feels a bit like first class when you don’t get the upgrade. Just use my “get extra’s” tip the first time the FA arrives, during cabin service, and you’ll be set for nearly the whole flight.

• Pay With Miles
Now with half of 2015 already gone, I don’t think I would have pushed to make Platinum again for 2016 if it wasn’t for the PWM (Pay With Miles from AMEX) option to earn MQMs on free or discounted tickets. As of this writing I have already re-qualified for Gold Medallion for 2016, but I wouldn’t have the 50,000 MQMs I have right now, if it wasn’t for MQM award earning on PWM economy tickets. I use this in conjunction with award tickets. I may book an award ticket as a place holder, and monitor the fare for a few weeks to see if there is a price break. (tip: set daily fare price e-mail alerts with sites like Kayak.com). The good part of PWM is that I can use any amount of miles starting at 10k and in increments of 5k and pay the difference in cash, so when I went to LAX in May, I opted to spend 25k, plus the fare difference, earn the almost 5k MQMs.

Bottom Line, after years of leisure traveling, I have been an elite traveler since 2012 and haven’t looked back. If you travel a number of round trips a year, and focus on making up the difference in MQMs on one or two Delta AMEX Platinum cards, you may find as I do the value in benefits you receive can be worth it even for the leisure traveler. I do and love it! – Noah Mark

PS from Rene – I love Noah’s super enthusiastic travel personality and his unbridled dedication to Delta. You will see more of his experiences during the summer. Do you have a fun Delta story to tell? Let me know and maybe you can show up as a Sunday reader guest post on the blog as well. 

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PS – Don’t forget
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