Airline Elite status: Business travelers give up for 2018 – Leisure travelers shoot for Diamond?

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In the move Ferris Bueller’s Day off he says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” What a great quote and one those of us who love travel live by. We get out there and enjoy all this big blue marble has to offer.

But at the same time how we do that is ever changing and airline loyalty is moving as fast as the 500MPH jets we fly on. It seems if you listen to bloggers, everyone is giving up on loyalty for 2018. Take a look:

WoW – right! These are some mega bloggers and they are one and all giving up going for TOP airline status. I thought about switching to AA at one point but saw the writing on the wall that they were going to utterly gut and destroy their one major asset, the frequent flyer program, and that has proven so true. Why would anyone fly such a constantly delAAyed and sub-par airline as AA when you could fly Delta? – ZING! 😉

But that brings us around to Delta. What about Delta? When you look at the fact that Delta wants to sell 20×2020 that is to only have 20% of 1st class seats open for upgrades by 2020, is there any reason to chase status with Delta anymore? Or, will Delta not simply sell every single 1st class seat so “upgrades” will become the almost meaningless C+ seats (that are no bigger or better than the rest of coach) and only sometimes offer more perks than coach? I think both yes and no. Let me explain.

WFBF! (want first buy first)

Those who fly often and for business tend to pay a ton and buy only weeks or days out. They often pay a hefty premium even for coach travel. But here is the thing, by paying so much the price difference between coach and 1st can become very small. Delta has sold 1st class upgrades for under $10 in the past (yeah, that cheap). Thus a business traveler may see the buy upgrade as a no brainer (I would, for that kind of price). Bottom line is, flying on a Monday or a Thursday means your chance for an upgrade is going to be even more slim than it was before, and before it was VERY slim to begin with.

But business travelers are not just cheap. They often can justify a reasonable expense for an upgrade if it means they can get work done and have the space to do that. Or, they may want to be able to change flights and the fee to change vs. the cost to upgrade the ticket and then change free under the new 1st class ticket rules may make the upgrade a logical financial and business choice. Either way Delta can charge more and some will pay for this and especially so when the business fliers company is the one picking up the cost.

FCM = Your status matters little.

So back to the question on status. If you are a domestic flyer and fly for business and many times are just buying up to 1st class why chase status at all? Just get a co-branded Delta AMEX card (with a  mega LTO offer right now btw) for many of the exact same perks you need when not booked in 1st class. Simple right? But I see something “funny” happening moving forward.

Leisure travelers – Time for you to chase status.

Err what? But why? There are many perks of status that extend beyond upgrades. For example, some like holding at least Platinum status for the perks of award travel flexibility. Others, even though they don’t fly each week, find flying Skyteam a few times a month merits holding some status level (say GM+) for those perks and features. Plus, with the +1 upgrade change many who are just a couple can enjoy amazing perks. But there is more!

Due to the changes already talked about, above upgrades are going to be harder and harder – but not always. When a business traveler flies as an individual on a Friday or Saturday I seriously doubt they would be as willing to fork over hundreds of dollars for an upgrade for themselves and their entire family when they are the ones paying out of pocket. Think about the big picture here. You have on off-peak times lots of open 1st class seats and no one willing to “pay-to-play” for the upgrades. To me this screams that, moving forward, leisure travelers could really enjoy the perks of elite status and maybe even top status. I find this just fascinating to think about!

I personally have my Delta Diamond status all set for 2018. I will, with rollover MQMs, Delta AMEX card spend, and flying in 2018 quickly reach Diamond again for all of 2019 and likely be set for 2020 as well if my flying patterns do not change. That is more than long enough to see if, by that point, it is worth keeping my Delta status any longer. My travel is a mix of business and personal (about 50-50) and I often have the flexibility to avoid flying on peak days and times to maximize my upgrade chances. I will clearly keep doing this in the current up-sell environment.

What do you think? Are you giving up on Delta or other airline status this year? Do you see my point that soon leisure travelers will benefit the most in the current sell-sell-sell world of 1st class upgrades vs complimentary “free” upgrades? Let me know in the comments below! – René


Are you ending / giving up the chase for elite status this year?

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  1. Keeping Gold status is enough for me. Between amx spend and flying I earn just enough mqm’s for gold each year. It’s worth sky boarding, free bags, c+ seats 3 days out and the reps will answer Pretty quickly when I call. Also on occasion when things go wrong at the airport I feel that having some status is worth a ton as the delta reps will often give you a little more love when making alternative arrangements. I fly 85% alone for business, 10% with spouse and 5% with kids so I rarely ever count on upgrades.

  2. I’ve chased Delta FO or GM for the last several years with my Delta Platinum Amex and after the (since rescinded for now) Virgin award surcharge realized that it likely is no longer worth it- because of the opportunity cost of getting Skymiles when I could be earning better currency.

  3. Since MSP is my home airport I’m stuck with Delta. Since I fly quite a bit for pleasure it just makes sense to keep my eye on my MQM status.

  4. I definitely appreciate status and thanks for your info that has guided me to achieve diamond for 2017 and one more long trip will secure 2018!! I use the Juicy Miles agents for every trip now to maximize my mqm for the least cost. I like the extra effort made when things go wrong, i feel the Delta agents realize a little extra push to please is needed in those times. I was part of the atlanta melt down and cant brag enough how i was handled. I cant tell any difference on the metal service, i find you get back alot of what you give back. But the diamond phone line, skyclub staff, checkin agents are great at recognizing an elite. I especially am thrilled to use my global entry card on my next trip!!!

  5. I think your question above, “Are you ending / giving up the chase for elite status this year?” should be more specific. “Are you ending / giving up the chase for elite status this year on Delta?”.

  6. I highly value my Diamond Status on Delta both when I fly for Business and when I fly with my family. It has been easy for me to attain with my reserve card and my wife’s reserve card, and I plan to continue to do so.

  7. I am one of those guys that use to fly just about everyday. When in GA I flew Delta all the time. When in Dallas, I flew AA all the time. When living in Chicago it was United all the time. Now being retired, and having given most of those miles away, or sold them, I no longer have any loyal to any of them. I am about 40K short of a million on Delta and could care less if I get there. AA almost kicked me out of their program years ago for selling miles. I sold enough to pay cash for a nice car. United took all my miles when they did not update my email and would only give some back for money. I just go with whoever I get the best miles with. They messed up themselves.

  8. I have been a Diamond since it was added to the program. I live in SLC so Delta is the best choice for schedule as well as dependability. With my travel patterns I’m upgraded more than 95% of the time. I will continue to go for Diamond with travel and credit card spend for the perks and the treatment. As a Diamond and 4M Miler I have been treated very well at the airport, on the phone, and in the Skyclub, and those traveling with me are treated well also.

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