Are Delta Mileage Runs still worth it anymore? (a hard look at the numbers)

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Bumpertunites, weather and your Delta options (and what NOT to do) – Part 1
Airport Express SFO stood me up (a service to avoid) & UBER saves the day – Part 2
Delta Air Lines DeltaONE 757 seats and service SFO to NYC (and back) review – Part 3
The Radisson Blu Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco review – Part 4
Delta Same day change, regional upgrade certificates and open space – Part 5
Are Delta Mileage Runs still worth it anymore? (a hard look at the numbers) – Part 6

big crowd at gate in SEA on a delta mileage run delta points blog

Is it really even worth it anymore? I mean are Delta Mileage Runs or a flight to “nowhere” or to “who cares where” worth the effort (often times never even leaving the airport)? After all, now that Delta is rewarding us with so few SkyMiles are the MQMs (elite points) worth fighting for? (as an FYI they have NOT changed since last year). My quick and simple answer is:

It depends!

Oh really, on what? Let’s take a hard look at this. I have already in my previous posts in this summary touched on my numbers for this run / visit out to SFO but let’s dig in deeper.

The really nice part for me was that I paid for all my flights with bump vouchers from Delta. Thus, my only out of pocket cost for this adventure was a few UBER rides plus the gas to get to Midway Chicago as well as some parking and a few tolls. I have not added them up but from experience let say my grand total was $100 max to pick up a grand total of 9350 MQMs or elite points. To be able to stay under 1 cent per mile for the MQMs is truly a very good price.

But that gets us right back to the point of this post and what you may be saying in your head. You may be saying something like, yeah it was “free” René to fly, but you blew $600 in vouchers that you could have spent on something else say a fun trip to ski or to Grand Cayman to dive and so on. That is true. So my choice, it would seem, was trading that “opportunity cost” of the value of the bump voucher for the almost 10,000 MQMs was worth it (right now a better choice, IMO, is the Delta Platinum card deal going on until the end of the month).

9350 MQMs is just over 7% of the total MQMs needed to be Diamond for the year. I really like being Diamond. I like, as happened on this trip, to ride up front for very little cost. I like and VALUE the treatment I get as a Diamond while flying and when I want something from Delta. I benefit from just about never ever paying fees to Delta and I really VALUE my Choice Benefits by reaching Diamond. All these things do have a monetary value attached to them. Just how much truly is hard to quantify and I bet if I really worked it and took the time I would be able to come up with a reasonable number to associate with it that most readers would agree with. I really don’t need to do that and here is why.

No matter what the “hard” number is, I value treasure the reduced stress and perks of my elite status. Delta, for all its major faults with the award program, just is amazing to elites of any level and especially so for the top tier ranks. I fully admit that top elite status is like a drug. Once you have attained it – nothing else is like it and you do not ever want to not have this same feeling of appreciation from the airline. When Delta comes up with dumb and idiotic rules it is nice to be able to push back, when you must, that you are a DYKWIA (do you know who I am)!

Then there is the amazing perk for award tickets that again is very hard to put a firm number on but I know it makes my life livable while I spend my SkyMiles down to zero (if I can) this year and next. To have the freedom to just about do anything with an award ticket booked for me or my family and friends is worth more than I can put into words. I think I have already mentioned this year that I have in some way altered or re-booked or changed just about every single award ticket I have booked. THAT alone is a reason to keep at least Platinum status while you have a supply of SkyMiles to burn up.

These have been personal reflections. If you are a regular business traveler, it really is a simple choice. You need status with Delta and the higher the better. If work is only netting you Gold, you need to get the MQMs some way either via credit card earnings or via a mileage run to top off what you need. If you are flying even just once or twice a month for business you need to be Platinum Medallion IMO. If you are flying each week, and are not Diamond, you are simply NOT doing it right.

I think I have made my point. Elite status under the right conditions, that is, for those who fly often, just is a must. For the rest of us, or for leisure travelers, it depends on your circumstances if the value is there for you. Maybe making Silver is enough for how you fly. Maybe Gold is the sweet spot for you and your family. Maybe you happen to have a stash of SkyMiles and you need to be Platinum.

Here is the last one. Some of us just like to fly. It really is fun. Flying as an elite is even more fun. So I see value here too, but this is not dollars and cents as much as just geek fun value. Will I keep doing more mileage runs this year? You bet, but I will be more picky on just what I choose as the price and the fun has to be, to quote baby bear, “just right” – René

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  1. I agree that having status (the higher the better) on delta has value and that every flight is rewarding merely because you are flying. I think there is another and even more significant opportunity cost to a delta mileage run and that is foregoing the chance to mileage run on another airline and obtain elite status. Having just completed an elite challenge for Platinum status on AA, this morning I’m enjoying my first complementary upgrade on a US flight to DFW. And thanks to a credit-card sign-up bonus I’ve already booked a first-class award ticket CLT-JFK-HKG-BKK on Cathay Pacific for 67000 AA miles which is less than the 70000 skymiles for the return flight on Korean Air. I could have also booked first class in the enclosed suites on Japan Airlines for the same price. So there are other options to consider besides sticking with delta. I only wish I could find a blog with the same wealth of information on AA as you provide for delta.

  2. @John – Stay tuned, not from me, but that may just happen one day (maybe soon). But thanks for your kind words and yes, I have to agree, and I think many others are following your same choices.

  3. I fly Delta for work and that is the reason I am a Delta loyalist. Although, I have considered switching to AA I’m slightly afraid to considering the mass amount of people that already have and not to mention that AA has stated they’re redoing their program once the merger is complete. If they change their program to match United and Delta, them what’s the point in switching and starting over?

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