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What Delta must do for Diamonds in 2019 after nasty Amex / Medallion changes.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Will Delta Diamond 2019 be worth it?

It came as no surprise for most of us since for many months now we knew something was coming after I confirmed changes were in the works from sources. I personally am still pleased there remains a narrow path, compared to no path at all, via Amex spend. But with RAT teams expanding wording, things may not be all that simple next year to get the bat crazy ¼ million in spending done.

This means those who do reach Diamond will be in “rare air” if you will. I can tell you it does not build confidence when the Delta CEO, Ed Bastian all but tells us that most 1st class upgrades are going away. Take that, those who rejoiced over the “thin the herd” talk after these mega program changes have been confirmed. 😉

So all this got me thinking – what does Delta have to do before the 2019 medallion year begins to keep these Delta HVCs happy? I have a few suggestions they should implement:

Confirmed GU space. If Delta is going to thin the herd then surely there are going to be less folks trying to burn GUs or global upgrade certs. If this is going to be a “real” Choice Benefit for the very few Diamonds remaining then mention to revenue management that these should clear if there is even one single Delta One seat open.

End SHENA once and for all. Speaking of the Delta CEO… How about enforcing the suggestion that T40 really be the upgrade time at the gate and if a Diamond does board you not give their 1st class upgrade seat to an employee last minute? I mean if I am giving $15,000+ net spend a year to Delta I would expect not to get gate gamed and end up in a middle seat “upgrade” in coach? #JustSaying

Only the “best” phone reps for DM line. There are some just ridiculously good and amazing Delta Diamond elite phone reps. Then there are those who should not be working for Delta at all – let alone the top elite line. Delta needs to take anyone who does not have all “5s” on the phone survey and dump them to the non-elite ranks or just show them to the door. Bottom line, they should not ever pick up the line for the 2019 Diamonds!

Request a Porsche ride. Delta is expanding the Porsche ride service day by day but it is never guaranteed. As a 2019 Diamond, if I reach out, Delta should get me a car and drive me where I want to go. If it takes adding a few more cars – do it Delta. You need to make these mega Diamond spenders feel really valued.

Guaranteed Level 1 award space. Delta published they reward those who spend the most with Delta. Clearly we know that is simply not true as has been proven over and over again. The math is simple. But if Delta wants to really reward those who spend the most and earn Diamond in 2019 then they need to guarantee Level 1 award space when they go to spend their SkyMiles. We know Delta can do this if they want to – so just do it!

Free drinks and a snack in coach. This is not hard. I mean really not hard. Delta FAs via their GST (guest service tool) hand units (called SkyPros) 100% know who you are – even if you are an escorted prisoner. They know if you are a Diamond Medallion. Thus, if a Diamond is stuck back in coach let them have all the free drinks they want and one item off the FLIGHT FUEL menu. Other airlines do this for their top eiltes so mother Delta can too in 2019.

Guaranteed overhead space. Before I am blasted about this I get that a bin cannot be labeled, or held, for “Diamond Use Only”. Well, I mean they could and it would be mostly ignored like the current signs for C+ overheads. But the point is that if a Diamond wants to stay in the Sky Club and not rush to the gate to be a #MeFirstMeFirstGuy boarder, then a gate agent should never ever force them to check their carry-on bag. There is after all always space for one more bag on-baord (even if it has to go in the coat closest).

Free Gogo passes each year. Delta is currently bragging up the fact that via 3 sources you can “text” to those who you want to keep in contact with. Thrilling. How about a real Diamond perk with a Gogo pass that I can use and then use my VPN to get real work done – with full security (hint: you need a real internet connection to use your VPN).

Pre-order 1st class meals. We are coming up on 2 years since Delta company reps promised that soon we could in 1st class pre-order a 1st class meal like other airlines have for YEARS now. Instead those who spend the most must A) understand FEBO or ordering meals is Front Even Back Odd numbered flights and then hope the FAs follow the company direction (kinda like the #TeamBoardLast already talked about). The better choices is to simply let us order in advance meals in 1st class.

Free CLEAR for +1. Delta brilliantly is offering CLEAR security free for Diamonds. They have also allowed +1s to upgrade at their rank – again smart. Time to add CLEAR to the +1s as well.

This is my suggested list (did I miss anything important?). Will Delta by 2019 implement any of these? I doubt it. I expect more cuts until Delta sales start to fall and it impacts the share price of $DAL. Then, maybe, it will start to again swing Delta back toward appreciation of loyal flyers. But will it be too late at that point? – René



Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Rene, I think we should ask Delta why do they have a loyalty program if not to reward loyal customers? Ed says giving away upgrades no longer makes sense. Since Ed isn’t going to leave, I believe I will have to.

  2. For me, first class upgrades are the #1 fundamental component of an elite frequent flyer program.

    All the other perks in this post are nice, but none of them move the needle for me nor will they make up for a drastically reduced upgrade success rate on domestic flights.

  3. Unfortunately we all better get used to it. I’m a 3 million miler and I’m on the UG list at the top all the way until my flight, and I’m sitting in the back most of the time now. Delta has really ruined what used to be their bread and butter. The only way they will change is if enough of us start using other airlines and they feel it in the pocket book. I have started to move some of the 5 million dollars my business spends with Delta each year to other airlines and working to give my employees incentives to fly other airlines when possible.. i ahve complained and they say upgrades are not guaranteed, so i tell them now that my business isnt guaranteed and i will fly other airlines as much as possible. As well they will have to spend money advertising to get my business now.


  4. If I have diamond and spend $15K a year and don’t get domestic upgrades, I’ll leave in a jiffy.

  5. As a preliminary comment, the folks claiming the increase in spend for DM is just good business are, at best, confused on the economics. Since oil prices dropped (it was the high oil prices that put legacy airlines in financial crisis), the legacy (and other) carriers have been wildly profitable. Is there any doubt American would have been profitable absent the merger with US Air once oil prices dropped? Yet, as airlines achieve record profitability, they are reducing benefits in the loyalty programs. This is not “good business,” it is a lack of true competition. What true options does a frequent flyer who currently has 1 million Skymiles and DM status have? Abandon Delta? Any move is a multi-year prospect. How is it that all legacy carriers — American in particular — have reduced top status benefits/increased qualification requirements? The lack of true competition. How is it United recorded a record quarter after David Dao? The lack of true competition.
    The issue I have with the new DM requirement is not about first class upgrades. In what world do folks expect a guaranteed upgrade just because they fly a lot? If you buy a season ticket for bleacher seats for the Yankees, do you expect to be moved to field level box seats every game? If you buy 10 Chipotles, do you expect to get free meals every time thereafter? You do get one free meal — and the regional and global upgrades give you exactly that for airlines.
    But I digress. The problem with the new DM requirement is that someone who flies 200,000 miles a year with $13,000 MQD (which is actually $16,000 actual spend) and 25K AMEX spend is treated exactly the same way as someone flying 65,000 miles, with $3,000 MQD and 25K AMEX spend. That is the way Delta is burning loyalists.
    And can we be candid about the new 250k spend? How many people will meet the 250K spend, but fail to reach the 15K MQD. If that number hits triple digits, I’d be astounded.
    As for the variety of additional DM benefits you want, how do yoiu value the benefits? What is the value you place on the four choice benefits for achieving DM (including PM choice)? What is the value of 4 global upgrades? Flying to Asia, the value of these GU alone dwarf the MQD requirement from the consumer perspective. How do you value being first in line for assistance when disaster hits? The benefit I want is stability in program qualifications and award redemption levels. Remember when Delta added spend requirements and revenue-based Sky Mile awards? The change was to make sure the Skymiles had value — at the same time Delta increased the giveaways for non-fly Skymiles. But I digress, yet again.

  6. How about something as simple as revealing the seat maps? Wouldn’t cost Delta a dime. #StopTheMadness

  7. For DMs clear early upgrades on day 6 between 5 and 6 pm EST just as they used to.

  8. Not all agree, I know, but it’s NOT fair that DMs AND our +1s clear the upgrade before butt-in-seat/spending DMs. I believe it WOULD BE FAIR if DMs+1 clear at the low end of the Diamond list. It has happened a number of times that +1s have knocked DMs out of the upgrade–just last weekend it happened to a friend flying a cross-country trip and I have had this unhappy experience already a few times. To me, this would be a perk.

  9. I would add, Make the GUC and RUC’s positive space. If there is a seat, MAKE THE CERTIFICATE GOOD FOR THE UPGRADE.

  10. I sat next to a non medallion this morning who told me he was offered a $79 upgrade and bought it MYR-ATL. His reasoning was, not only do I get 1st class for pennies compared to what the original cost was when he booked, but now he didn’t have to pay for the two bags that were going to cost him $60.

    Great job Eddie! You squeezed another $19 of revenue out of a non medallion. But, at what cost?

    At what point does chasing pennies while ignoring loyal dollars become idiotic?

    Especially now that the $15k spend will make MQM collection obsolete. Once you make 125k and $15k, where is the incentive to continue to fly DL or use their AmEx? And, with F selling at 80%+ with FCM. If you thought I was quick in retiring my Plat AmEx after getting my 20K MQM bonus, just wait to see what I’ll do to my DL purchases after I re-qual and a trip in F is $250 cheaper on AA with better times (6-8 flights a day to MYR on AA vs 3-4 on DL). I typically sit in ATL on a Sunday afternoon for 3-4 hours due to only 3 flights to MYR on Sundays.

    Either Ed has played a blinder on us or he’s sealed his own P45. I’m going with the latter.

  11. I agre with Renee. Time to add value to this rarefied DM status. I get that FC seats are real money. So add services and benefits that don’t add much cost but that loyal, regular travelers will actually appreciate then.

    Personally I’ll give 2018 a go but if I’m not happy by this time next year, I’ll be off the Delta hamster wheel. That’s coming from someone who does make DM with full MQM and MQD. You gotta earn our loyalty.

  12. TexasYankee Reply

    2017 – 1986 = 31.

    31 years ago I bought into the Delta promise of “luxurious travel” by obtaining frequent flier points. Lucky for me the various NWA/Delta credit cards offered me the opportunity to increase my points because my job only gave me “windshield miles”. 50-60K windshield miles a year wearing a business suit. I supplemented the CC spend by flying long haul round trips and red eyes on weekends to move up the status ladder. After all I was promised that I would have better point redemption opportunities the higher my status.
    With dreams of taking my wife on that delayed exotic honeymoon trip I quickly saw that my points totals never were high enough due to increased requirements. I continued to press forward never imagining that Delta would devalue my points totals to sub worthless grade.
    The news from Delta about how I have been enhanced over the last few weeks is quite frankly gut wrenching. Betrayal comes to mind.
    I am a DM with 1.5 MM most of which is bis miles.
    I have actually flown the miles just as the “thin the ranks” fliers.
    The difference is that I have paid personally for all of my flying vs having a corporate credit card or travel agent.
    I know that every flight attendant I have interacted with over the years is happy that I was on their flight.
    I will be able to meet the new requirements to remain DM, but is it worth doing? Even as a DM once you are seated behind the curtain you are subhuman.
    As far as ED B. wanting to do away with all FC upgrades – reminds me of the retroactive sales quota changes we would see near year end that took away the majority of yearly bonus.
    I keep my word and honor every obligation I make. Ed B. you inherited the job with prior obligations. Man up and honor them.

  13. Rene —

    I am confused by this post…. You were elated about the $250k Manufactured Spend but now I am not so sure.

    The Loyalty Game all comes back to $$$$. In the old days when the Dinosaurs walked the earth, Delta (or Northwest since I am in MSP) thought that if they reward their best frequent flyers with “upgrades” and free flights then they will make more money. Back in those days, there were 7 major carriers competing for your dollars and of course the only way to get status was BIS. I don’t know if you remember TWA’s Triple Miles promotion but as I recall, I took 3 flights with TWA and earned enough miles for my wife and I to fly (unfortunately) coach to Europe. This was back in the day when you had Award Schedules.

    Today there are 3 Major Carriers and a couple of wannabes. Competition is much less and as you like to point out there are too many ways to earn status and Skypesos. I am sure you have seen this but over half the plane boards when Sky is called. I have United Silver Status only because I am a Marriott Platinum member but I have been upgraded on at least one leg of the couple of trips that I have taken with them. I probably have a higher UG %age on United then Delta.

    Given the competition and virtually every flight is full, Delta and the others will continue to reduce the cost of their frequent flyer programs while they look at ways to increase their revenue. Until their planes are flying empty again, this trend will not change. The economics of frequent flying programs will cause the benefits to continue to evolve.

    I give Delta kudos for thinning the herd — maybe a few people will get some benefits — and it will mostly be Delta’s best paying flying customers.

    As for me, I will still hit Platinum this year with a total of 2.5 million lifetime miles but I am flying whatever is cheapest and most convenient.

  14. Do Delta and Am Ex understand that most of the revenue loss that will occur because of the $250K DM spend waiver will not come via FedEx? What will begin as a slow drip in 2018 will eventually become a deluge as we liquidate our Delta/AmEX positions and head to greener pastures.

  15. This isn’t revenue lost. Delta is spending WAY more on the free benfits they give you then what they get for selling Miles to AMEX. They sell 25,000 miles they get $250 ? Max. And they have to account for miles. So how do you forgive they are worried about losing that. You do the math. There just isn’t that much revenue there

  16. I agree with the GUC and RUC……make them real benefits and let us use them if there are seats for sale instead of being stingy with them…..nothing is more frustrating than seeing a wide open cabin and all the seats are being held to sell or having to wait to go to the gate to see if you will get the upgrade……they are a Choice Benefit and we worked to earn then so we should be able to use them……we can thank Revenue Management for this. I also agree with the Diamond phone line agents…..there are SO MANY great agents but some have no business there…..its obvious they have no clue what is going on.

  17. Rene, That’s a nice list, but I see no compelling reason for delta to do anything for DMs in 2019 other than continuing to thin the herd. Anyone who thinks delta’s done thinin’ or that the remaining DMs will be showered with additional benefits is mistaken. Delta is purely about $$$ and it is always looking to spend less on loyalty not more. The way delta looks at it, it has already done DMs a great service by reducing their numbers. Unless spending more on the remaining DMs makes delta more dough — forget about it.

    Regarding the $250K DM MQD waiver, even if I had the inclination to take the time and effort to MS that kind of spend, I’d never do it because it rewards delta for its backstabbing, parasitic behavior. I know that is kind of “Three Stooges” logic. (Like when Curly ordered rotten eggs and burnt toast because he had a tapeworm and he didn’t want it to eat good.) From a more practical standpoint, there is a huge opportunity cost – not to mention personal risk – of MSing for 250K stymiles. If you are going to go overboard on MS, do it for Starpoints, Membership Rewards or some other much more valuable currency.

  18. Good post. I’ve never understood why Deltas two biggest competitors offer free drinks and premium snacks in Y for their best customers and their requirement is only 100K Miles. There are times I’d rather have an Exit Row than sit in C+ but on a long haul I want the free booze. And make premium snacks like snack boxes and fruit trays avialable for free to diamonds in C+ and Y and on short hauls where there is a service in F but not in Coach have the FA’s offer diamonds a drink and snack if there is enough time.

    This doesn’t affect me but they bring back JFK to SFO/LAX/SEA flights. American offers those for free upgrades to EP.

    I wish they would restrict exit row seats to DM’s until check in time for those of us who make last minute (and expensive fare bucket trips) when C+ only has middle seats and the upgrade won’t clear it would be nice to have the exit row at least instead of it going to a silver who books three months out. And make C+ available at time of booking on any reservation, if there’s a seat in C+ a diamond should get it (a few times I’ve booked a day out and sat in Y because I didn’t want to go on the C+ upgrade list risking a middle seat being assigned).

    Do what United does and if offer more SWU’s if you get more MQM’s in. I’d rather get an extra set of GU’s after reaching another 50K in MQM’s liked on united than the rollover miles.

    Offer SDC for DM’s regardless if purchased fare class is available or not. Even if they go back to the old system of t-3 hours that is better than we have now. If a seat is available and a diamond wants to SDC at t-3 hours we should be able to. That way we aren’t going to the airport wasting our time if we don’t clear the SB list and we know we’ll have a good seat and go on the upgrade list as well this way.

  19. Free drinks and a snack from the Eats menu for EXPs anywhere in coach is something American has done for years. When I book tickets on American I always select the exit row. Out of hundreds of segments on American I’ve never (other than international) been in a MCE seat which is the AA equivalent of C+. The AA exit rows have a huge amount of legroom. More than on delta.

    While I don’t keep precise stats, my EXP upgrade percentage has been at least as good as my DM upgrade percentage even after AA went to rolling 12 month spend as an upgrade tiebreaker. What has really been impressive is that I’m almost always upgraded even on same day changes! SDCs must use the same routing but there is no fare bucket nonsense. I don’t even know all of the restrictions, I just call the EXP line and bam it’s done and an upgrade to boot usually at gate but sometimes on the call.

    AA permits ordering F class and B class domestic and international meals between 30 days and 24 hours before the flight. Why this is a big mystery to delta is beyond me. In fact Delta already allows pre ordering meals. Special meals and Asian meals TPAC can be ordered in advance. Expanding this to regular meals seems to be a big leap for delta.

  20. As I fly home from SLC to ATL on Delta Mainline’s answer to the CRJ200 the tightly squeeze 737-900 (had more room on Eastern’s Coach in the 70’s and today I was the first and last to get upgraded using a RU certificate), this Diamond with $30K+ feels the only alternative for us might have to be regulation. (Kills me to say that), but we don’t let Utilities do as they want as there is limited competition. We (Congress) let the Big 3 plus SWA corner the market. Now they think they have the weight to have their way with us, international carriers, etc. There is no alternative – not AA or UA. (And I am a DL stockholder – yea I’m crazy). Might be time to “help” them. I truly believe that is only thing that scares the Airline Executives. Amazingly, they aren’t too worried about best and loyal customers.

  21. One other nice benefit I would love to see that wouldn’t cost delta a penny is to have a separate line for DM’s at the GA podium. If there are no diamonds in that line then just take the waiting passenger. I hate it when I need to ask the GA a simple question like requesting an aisle seat when they clear the list and waiting behind a bunch of clueless passengers.

  22. I have two comments.

    First, Delta needs loyalty less when they are providing the best product. If United and American start performing better and pulling more customers away from Delta, Delta will beef up their loyalty efforts. But there is not much reason for doing that today.

    Second, Delta has done a great job cultivating a large group of people willing to pay for first class, along with favorable pricing for first class. I fall into this group. I am a Diamond and will end the year with about $13,000 MQDs. Because it’s much harder to get upgrades, I purchase a lot of first class tickets. I could spend $2,000 more MQDs next year to achieve Diamond status, but what’s the point since I would be in first-class anyway with paid first-class tickets if I stretch to get to $15,000 MQDs.

    I have never received a $79 upgrade offer. My guess is that these offers are highly targeted at individuals that have a history of paying for luxury based on their AMEX spend, and Delta is trying to cultivate a larger population of people willing to pay extra.

    In any event, it is somewhat liberating to be able to find the best first-class deal from all airlines. I still want to maintain Platinum status for the free redeposit of miles from cancelled award tickets, but that will be easy.


  23. I thought of a couple other things Delta can do to award diamonds.

    I thought of a couple more things to award diamonds.

    Make Skybonus tickets for diamonds eligible for first class upgrades (just make them the lowest priority on the upgrade list for diamonds below regular mileage tickets even). And allow SB tickets to be booked in C+ like before. I realize it is a short flight but I flew DTW/YYZ last week on a skybonus ticket and there was an empty seat in F and plenty of empty seats in C+ and the gate agent wouldn’t upgrade me to even C+. It’s absurd a Gold on an award ticket or a silver on a V fare can sit in first class while a diamond on a skybonus ticket is sitting in a non-exit row in coach. Skybonus tickets means the customers business is spending a lot on business tickets.

    Also do what american does and make YTD MQD’s a tie breaking factor. If Delta wants to push MQD’s so bad then award the passengers with the highest spend.

  24. Eliminate change fees for Diamonds. Like Alaska does for their higher elites.

    If Delta did this, I’d find a way back to Diamond. As it is, I’ve fallen from DM to Plat. Next year I’m going to be Silver. I tend to buy domestic first class tickets. I still give Delta first priority, but won’t pay more than about a 10% premium any more. I’ve flown a lot of Alaska and Hawaiian lately accordingly. (HNL-based flyer)

  25. Great post Rene, I agree with your suggestions.

    GUC availability is my biggest pet peeve because they have the most potential value for me. As others have said, its common to see lots of seats open yet denial of upgrade, and who wants to book economy on a 14 hour flight and HOPE you’ll clear at the gate?

    The other change I suggest is to bring back snack boxes as a voucher benefit in economy. I dont drink alcohol so a snack box would have real value for me as a loyal DM.

  26. I’d also like to see either 6 GUC like United offers or the ability to cash in multiple Choice Upgrades for additional GUC; either way, the only thing I value are GUC for the long haul.

    Additionally, as others above have said, make them confirmable — and SEARCHABLE.

  27. Steve barnhardt Reply

    Looks like I won’t be renewing my Amex Reserve card next year. Spend $250k for Diamond and then not know whether or not your Global Upgrade is going to be awarded until you get to the gate? Bullshit Delta! THere are cheaper airlines out there with much more comfortable seats. Delta really doesn’t care about our loyalty any more so why should I give it to them or Amex?

    • My 2 AMEX cards are going as well just to soon as I decide which cards I’m going to transfer to. Loyalty means nothing anymore as you say above!

  28. If Delta only makes $2500 from Amex for a $250,000 Card spend, why doesn’t Delta simply sell MQD exemption directly to the customers – say for $5000.

  29. I’m not sure I understand all the hubbub about this. The increase to $250k is good for those who become Diamond via real, hard business travel. Until now, I could fly ATL to Singapore 5 times in a year, and together with a couple of domestic flights, all on discount fares planned months ahead (something business travelers generally cannot do), and spend as little as around $8,000. These are what I would call “leisure diamonds”. They get on the upgrade list too, and can conceivably get ahead of the real business travellers. Now these people will be gone. NO ONE has to spend $250k to get Diamond! Probably almost no one will. You just have to spend $15,000 or more on your flights in one year. That’s still the spend level. Any real business traveller will hit that easily.

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