Some reflections on the Delta Medallion ladder climb

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I have been, off and on, a Platinum Medallion with Delta/NWA for a long time. Many years ago, the first time I hit Silver, I was amazed. Acually Lisa & I both qualified on segments back then and we got our fair share of upgrades even at the then lowest elite status (now having any Delta AMEX card is the unofficial lowest elite level). But those old days are long gone.

I have also a few times stopped short of some medallion level to rollover to make it simpler to make say Platinum the next year. I have always contented myself with stopping at Platinum Medallion. The perks it offers are huge. For me, the ability to change frequent flyer tickets all I want and as much as I want is a great value. I have found, with some work, this status level gives me good access to low level seats both international and domestic. Now I have, thanks to a blizzard of MQM’s from my 2 Delta AMEX Reserve cards, at last made it to Diamond. Oh my!

My very first flight as a DM was less than exciting but what I have come to expect on a Pinnacle Air flight out of South Bend. The toilet was broken and the plane stank and the pilot had to have us all acknowledge that we were OK to fly and hold it until ATL. The choice between flying this way or not flying is a simple one – just hold it!

But now to my run as a Diamond. As you have seen on the blog and on twitter, all, I mean ALL of my upgrades cleared. All but one 5+ days out and the last one 3+ days out. Not just upgrades, but I have been very impressed with the Diamond Medallion phone line staff so far. Then on to low level space availability. All those who are looking for low level seats on Delta and wondered where they are, I have found them! They are all in a big bucket for the Diamonds. Wow!

This run, unlike most, I booked some extra time and drove from Phoenix down to Tucson to stay with some friends. I truly enjoyed the tour.

My friend who goes by “Voucher Vulture” was “the” points guy to talk to years back. Now I share a few tips now and then that he does not know about. Anyway, I had never been to the desert of Tucson so it was great to see the sights.

I have so much to share about this “Fun Run” including some great BBQ in Texas. I also had the privilege to fly with Elizabeth or “Lisa” the new Delta in-flight safety video “star” we see each time we fly. She really is as nice in person as she is on the video. Stay tuned more on the way soon!- René

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  1. You almost have me talked into Diamond … It better be worth it! Although I wonder if I can schmooze them into letting my wife have the cub access since I still have 2 yrs on a 2 yr membership. (Somehow I am not expecting much …)

  2. @TexasYankee – smile, worst case, you have to take more mileage runs next year (but as a DM you should always be in front of the jet that way)! Worth a try on the SC membership – let us know if you can pull it off! 😉

  3. I hit diamond this year as well flying domestic, I was upgraded everytime even on MSP to DCA or SLC to DTW. Its nice but the best is my work switched me to iNternational and now i get upgraed everytime except 2 on SEA to AMS or SLC to CDG, also DTW to FRA twice and back using either miles or certificates. I thought i was stayting domestic so certs didnt make sene as an option. But my work buys Y fares so upgrades are easy to get. Flown the new 747, 767-3 and 4 interiors, sadly the old 330’s still between SEA and AMS. Horrible seats after having the new interiors. But Yes Diamond is very nice.

  4. You must be excluding the Delta SkyMiles Options card by AMEX in your comment “now having any Delta AMEX card is the unofficial lowest elite level”. The Options card doesn’t have any perks save for accumulating miles at the snail’s pace of 1 SkyMile per 2 dollars spent.

    With respect to the “unofficial lowest elite level”, is it safe to assume you are referring to the minor perks such as free checked bag, in-flight discounts, and reduced SkyClub pass fees? Because none of the cards seem to provide upgrades.

  5. Half the time Delta doesnt even take the miles out of my account when upgraded. Once the Gate agent in Detroit just upgraded my colleague and I (he was a Platinum) for being loyal elites with no charge at all. Very nice of her.

  6. @ASW – yes talking GOLD/PLAT/RESERVE DL AMEX cards and I mean things like free bags (up to 9) and ZONE 1 boarding that is KING when it comes to finding any space for your bags! Plus, Reserve gives you Skyclub FREE that is also a DM perk. So yes, it is elite-lite class IMO! 😉

  7. Rene,

    Are you following the thread on a-net about a possible Delta partnership with Etihad and Jet Airways? It could be a really interesting development if it happens and I know you have your ear to the ground on these things.

  8. I lost my Delta Gold status this year and may try to regain it. As I read the posts, I now have a delta AmEx Platinum and if I want to get in on any new bonus from Delta with there Reserve card which I’ve never had I have to cancel my Platinum card and wait a year before reapplying and qualifying for MQM’s which come with that card. That means paying for my checked luggage on Delta for a year> I’ll just have to drive to MSP and book with one of the many other carriers with whom I have miles, saving my SkyMiles for later use when I have status again

  9. My wife and I have been Diamonds from the beginning. Always received upgrades either in advance or at the gate. Not any more! We’re down to 75% success rate for both of us together. Must not be spending enough for our tickets.

  10. What safety video are you referring to? I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before.

  11. I’m most interested in your comment on Low availability. Do you really notice the change that much?? If it were truly the case, it might be enough to goad me to DM even though this is my 3rd year as a PM

  12. @Brabbit – two weeks in, the difference I personally have seen is huge. Flights that two weeks before were 40k are now showing 25k low level. Sweden trips that were 140k are now showing 100k biz low level.

  13. I just hit Platinum, though I haven’t had a flight yet as PM to try it out. AA said they would consider an ExPlat challenge for Diamonds but not Platinums with 100K+ MQMs, so I’m thinking of Diamond for Delta to see how that is and compare to EXP on AA.

  14. I’ve been Diamond since DL created that level, except for a brief 3 month period when I was temporarily downgraded to Platinum before I regained it (thanks rollover!). I think you should temper everyone’s expectations about award availability. While you do have more access to “low” seats, I don’t think it is any better than what the average Joe finds on UA or AA. Perhaps close-in availability is better; I have certainly made low last minute bookings to fly my wife over to Europe so I could see her and extend a business trip. If people expect lots of green on the calendar after reaching Diamond, they will be disappointed. Just try to book a flight to Hawaii – even as a Diamond, it is very challenging to find low on DL using the strategies on this site or others, but it is quite easy on UA or AA without much effort. Personally I have never had a problem booking a flight to Europe during the summer, as long as I had good flexibility with my dates and/or destinations. It can make for interesting itineraries and last summer was a good example. We wanted to visit the UK during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I was able to find low outbound flights to LHR, but not on the way back. Remembering that a stopover is allowed, I searched return segments from various cities and found good availability from Malaga, Spain to JFK. From there, it was a simple matter of matching an available date for LHR-AGP with AGP-JFK. Result: We spent 12 days in England then flew to Spain for 5 days of sun/R&R before flying home. Very enjoyable.

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