I’ve Made Diamond Medallion on Delta!

Those of you who have followed my writing on OMAAT know I’m the resident Delta booster (slash apologist), always there to point out where Delta does things right, and generally there to point out when Ben’s American fAAnboy-ism gets in the way of fair and balanced blogging.

You’d also know I’m not quite the frequent flyer Ben and Tiffany and Travis are, and that, while I’d been Delta Gold Medallion and Delta Silver Medallion in the past, I’d never actually flown enough butt-in-seat miles to attain a higher status. So while Ben and Tiffany luxuriated in their ExecPlat status, all I could count on were upgrades from, like, Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

But you’d also know 2015 was my year of setting myself a goal (among many other goals; I’m not that one-track-minded) to become a Diamond Medallion on Delta. Delta’s highest tier. At a 125,000 mile threshold, in fact, the highest published mileage-based tier of any U.S. airline. (United’s 1K and American’s Executive Platinum are both reached at 100,000 qualifying miles.)

So as of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, I qualified for Diamond Medallion. I let out a “boo-ya.” I had a bottle of wine open anyway (as you do on a Wednesday night at 9) and gave myself an extra-heavy pour.

DIAMOND2016

Why am I so excited?

Well, to be clear, I’m not, like, setting off fireworks in my backyard or anything, but like (I suspect) many of you, I view the miles-and-points, and by extension, status, game as a challenge. A game to be won. And I just won my first game.

Diamond Medallion status, coupled with my Platinum Medallion status I received just a few months prior, gives me a few great perks, including (beyond the obvious, top of the upgrade list, SkyPriority security line, etc.) a total of 4 global upgrades and 4 regional upgrades.  If I don’t plan on traveling much internationally in 2016 or 2017, I could opt for a total of 12 regional upgrades instead. Regional upgrade certificates are now good for Delta One JFK-LAX/SFO routes, so that’s potentially six roundtrip transcon upgrades to New York, or two roundtrip upgrades to — Sydney, Tokyo, London, Paris — you name it.

Delta-One-London - 3

And I won’t lie: there’s a reason it’s called “status.” It’s about the dedicated phone line, the special treatment in the event of irregular operations, the general feeling that Delta cares about you… even more than they care about Platinums.

But the bottom line is, that I’m not a business traveler, at least I don’t travel for business more than 5,000 miles a year. I’m mostly a leisure traveler, but someone who has — for better or worse — always envied the lives of jetsetters, someone who has looked at George Clooney in Up in the Air not with pity but jealousy (and, yeah, not gonna lie, a tiny bit of lust). So as far as challenges go, I feel like hey, I did it!

How did I do it?

It’s not hard to see how frequent business travelers, particularly with international meetings and employers who pay for business class tickets, make top tier status without thinking twice. But getting to 125,000 elite qualifying miles in a calendar year for a plebe is a bit tougher to manage. How did I do it?

  • My Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express gives me 15,000 MQMs for hitting $30,000 spend and another 15,000 MQMs for hitting the next $30,000 in spend in any given calendar year. As of mid-October, I’d hit $60,000 in spend on my AmEx (it helps to charge things like property taxes and other “big ticket” items to reach this threshold), and the final 15,000 bonus MQM installment hit my account earlier this week. (And now that I’ve hit $60,000 in spend, I’ll put my remaining spend this calendar year on another, more Ben-approved card.)
  • Last October’s SkyTeam business class flash sales, which were replicated again this past month, were too good to pass up. I bought a roundtrip to Madrid from LAX on Air France and KLM for under $2,000 and a second roundtrip from LAX to London on Virgin Atlantic (a Delta partner) for $1,500, both for travel in 2015. Because Delta gives you a 50% MQM bonus on business class tickets, these two trips alone accounted for nearly 38,000 MQMs.
  • I started the year with just around 24,000 “rollover” MQMs, by design. Delta lets you roll over MQMs in excess of any given Medallion threshold above Silver. So last year I had the option of either finishing as a Silver Medallion with 49,000 MQMs, or finishing at or above the Gold Medallion threshold at 50,000 with some easy strategic flying. I chose the former, knowing it would be far easier to qualify for higher status with a ~24,000 MQM leg up.
  • The remaining ~30,000 MQMs I earned through more or less “regularly scheduled” travel, with several West Coast hops and a few transcons. Though I’d ultimately earn just enough by the end of the calendar year with “regular” travel (including travel around the holidays), I also took an “MQM run” trip to Tokyo last month, which earned me about ~11,000 MQMs.

So what’s next?

Getting Diamond Medallion wasn’t easy, though in the context of this “game,” it was a hell of a lot of fun. Since I have barely caught my breath, I’m going to take a few more domestic trips than I might ordinarily in 2016, so that I can see how successful my upgrade opportunities are.

I suspect whether I try to renew my Diamond Medallion qualification for 2017 is somewhat dependent on my experience as a Diamond. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll end the year with around ~10,000 “rollover” MQMs, and I have one “MQM run” next year to Barcelona booked already thanks to this past month’s fare sales, which is another ~20,000 MQMs. Between those inputs and expected Delta Reserve credit card spend, I can expect a baseline ~60,000 MQMs, plus “regularly scheduled travel” which will at least put me over the Platinum Medallion threshold.

I’ll be sure to report back from time to time with my thoughts as a first-time Diamond Medallion. In the meantime, are you a Diamond Medallion on Delta? If so, what are your thoughts?

Comments

  1. I’m doing a mileage run next weekend (PHX-LAX-BOS) to get Gold for next year. Platinum now but minimal travel this year.

  2. Congrats! I have such a love/hate relationship with Delta. I fly Delta for work and I am constantly surprised how well they run their operation. Take for example last week when I flew to Miami, the plane we were on had a caution light come on as the pilots fired up the engines. Within an hour and a half, they had us on a different plane on route to Miami. Of course that smile is quickly turned upside down as I go to redeem my hard earned Skymiles.. If only Mr. Anderson could work as hard on the Skymiles program as he does on running an efficient operation.

  3. I’m a diamond on Delta, Nick. You won’t be disappointed by the service. Service on Delta was already good, but as a Diamond they will often bend rules for you. They acknowledge your status, and sometimes even have soft service touches on board! And unlike AA EXPs, never hour long hold times ever no matter how bad the weather. And unlike UA 1Ks, an actual Diamond desk and globals that can be used on any fare class.

  4. Congrats. I’m Platinum currently, but will be Diamond in two weeks after an HNL-ATL flight.

    Based in NYC, I’ve had reasonably good luck with upgrades, so am very curious to see how much better Diamond is.

  5. When does the status expire? Based on the image it looks like it expires Jan 31, 2016, or does that date refer to something else?

  6. This deserves a genuine congratulations! Can’t wait to hear how your domestic upgrades stack up against Team Ben/Tiffany. Did you fly any of those MQM’s on Alaskan metal?

  7. Congrats. Don’t forget that the upgrade certificates expire a year from when you select them, so as nice as it would be to see them in your account, don’t select them too soon. (They can even be used after you’re no longer Diamond, if you so wish, since you can wait until Jan 31 2017 to select the choice benefits you’ve just earned.)

    And in addition to being more special, you can also now board with first class when flying coach 🙂

  8. Congrats
    Better you then me .
    I’m in the I hate everything about Delta camp with their program and customer service
    What airline has 3rd party schools/classes for their customers to deal with their ignorant poorly trained agents?
    The best thing is getting folks out of AA and United where they are overloaded with elites

  9. Out of envy I have thought of doing mileage runs to get higher status but then what?

    I don’t fly that often anyway, so how useful is the higher status?

  10. Welcome! I made Diamond last year and have been enjoying it throughout 2016. I’ve been immensely impressed by the high quality service and recognition that DL provides. Upgrades have been pretty routine, only missed out on one or two. More than anything the DL people really do recognize and go above and beyond for Diamonds. They were lovely as a platinum, but extraordinary as a Diamond. You’ll enjoy 🙂

  11. Well done Nick. You should come join us at DFW on 16NOV and then our MR on the 17th to SFO. There are about half a dozen of us already all DM’s 🙂

  12. I’m a platinum now and have been very satisfied with Delta. The only upgrade I really wanted I didn’t receive was a LAX-ATL red eye last week, but the odds were against me on that one to begin with.

    I’m on the fence about going for Diamond–will be less than 2k away by mid December–but not having a bunch of rollover miles as a cushion against changes in travel patterns is a hard pill to swallow.

  13. @Darth

    You are a world class douche. Every media outlet you are on you downplay every else. The world will be a Better place if you left it

  14. I think it’s pretty impressive that it’s mostly accomplished without employers picking up the tab. Many of us are leisure travelers who don’t milk the teat of companies (including our own if we are self employed and get deductions for every expense) and act high and mighty as if it was coming out of your own pocket. You may travel for work and consider this a perk for giving up nights and weekends but give credit to those of us who do it mostly for the love of travel and pay for it ourselves. Many who travel for work don’t *have* to stay on a job that requires that much travel. You have a choice. So why do you have to call credit card spend “cheating”?

    So good on you Nick. Congrats.

  15. @Tommy Trash: I did fly a leg on Alaska metal. I also have a roundtrip coming up from LAX-DCA on Alaska (Delta doesn’t fly between the cities nonstop) in paid First (which wasn’t much more than paid economy on Delta metal). Strangely given the strained relationship between AS and DL, DL awards 200% MQMs to all paid first class fares on Alaska regardless of fare class, so I should be getting just under 10,000 MQMs for that roundtrip. Alaska paid first class fares are the sweet spot for a Delta MQM bounty.

  16. Nice mileage balance of ~380k!

    That’s good for what, a round trip to ABQ in low season????

    Wait, I’ll go check DL’s award chart!! Oh, um, well, that won’t work, will it????

    Seriously, tho, congrats on your status and enjoy the h-e-double-hockeysticks out of it!

  17. @Mike:
    DITTO!

    @Nick:
    CONGRATS! GET IT HOW YOU GET IT! Companies are built on cash, not the feelings of those not actually paying from their pockets b/c of their career choices.

  18. Really, Kanaan? Business travelers who milk their employers for flights? My husband has to use the company assigned travel agency to book his flights and he is limited to the least expensive flights he can find. He’s never acted “high and mighty”; it’s simply a fact of his job. And, yes, he occasionally gets upgraded because he flies so much which is nice considering the number of flights he has had to take on Sunday or the nights he gets home after the kids have gone to bed. Just get another job because that’s an easy thing to do in this day and age? How condescending.

  19. Congrats, Nick! As much as I have been brainwashed by Ben’s AA fAAnboy-ism, I do look forward to different opinions and reviews of Skyteam products.

  20. Nick,

    Please accept sincere congratulations on hitting the mark. I am the resident Delta-hater, but for that reason appreciate the commitment it takes to get their highest level. And, I absolutely BELIEVE that Delta takes great care of the Diamonds– it’s apparent they do.

    More relevantly, thanks for laying out the road map to get there… It’s never been completely clear to me exactly how people put up with Delta long enough, at the lower levels, to get to Platinum and Diamond. But, you’ve laid it out nicely. Thanks for that.

    And, enjoy the next 14 months of great customer service experience. Just avoid Atlanta. If you can!

    Tachyon,

  21. @Don: My 2016 Diamond Medallion starts February 1, 2016 and lasts through January 31, 2017. In the meantime, my 2015 membership has been upgraded to Diamond, hence it shows I’m Diamond from October 30, 2015–January 31, 2016.

  22. @GringoLoco: The ~379,000 mile balance is actually my Million Miler Balance, not my redeemable mile balance (which is actually closer to ~118,000).

  23. Delta definitely doesn’t care about me

    Yesterday I was sitting in the last row of an MD88. There were many other seats available. They refused to put me on the upgrade list.

    Yeah. They care about me.

    (Platinum)

  24. @Adam

    Yeah, that’s exactly the feeling of despair I get all the time with them… “I’ve flown all these miles on Delta over the years, yet I can’t get a decent seat or reasonable IRROPS treatment when it counts?”.

    I’m convinced I’ve got a “flag” in the system tagged to my SkyMiles number.

  25. Delta’s treated me very well as a gold medallion, i can only imagine how they treat their diamonds. Depending on a possible TPAC december trip happening i may make platnium for 2016.

    Yes, the skymiles program is frustrating but Delta is far and away the best run domestic airline. And when you’re traveling JFK->SFO->JFK for a 90 minute meeting and a total trip of less than 24 hours, a well-run operation beats 25,000 mile domestic roundtrips every day.

  26. Congratulations Nick, I always think any commercial aviation enthusiast should at least try to get top tier status at least once on their most regularly flown airline (just to experience it for themselves).

    Like you, the vast majority (and exclusively lately) of my flights are all self funded, and I count myself lucky that I can fly First and Business for pleasure (it’s my expensive hobby lol), and I’ve indeed chased and earned top tier statuses on various airlines just to see what’s what (most aren’t worth the chasing, but it’s better to have had than to have never known at all). The upside is that flying for business is never as enjoyable as flying for leisure.

    That said, status earning and flight chasing is not a rational pursuit (value wise, it’s poor), but then passions rarely are lol.

  27. Hello Ben,

    How do you always have so much money to buy the tickets and fly all the time? I really want to know as I am a blogger as well. It seems surprising that you get to fly without spending money.

    I always think about the fact the more miles we earn is because the money we spend on the flight ticket, or the credit card we use, which means that ultimately we need to have a lot of money to do so. I understand that getting welcome offer from credit card can earn you lots of miles but it can’t be happening every day or month, even if it happens we still have to spend so much on the credit card and we need to pay for it.

    So the question is, do you have a day time job besides blogging?

    Thank you so much for your time. Ben~

    Mike

  28. Jeez 30k credit card spend in a calendar year? I hope you’re running a small business…otherwise one’s gotta love America’s wages (if I compare it with my European one which is, net, less than 30k!!!)! 😀

  29. Congrats and thanks for sharing. I am in a similar situation to where you were last year: a SM with ~40K MQM for the year and enough travel days left that I could clear Gold if I wanted. Diamond is probably still unrealistic for next year but I’m hoping that with ~24k rollover miles and credit card MQMs I’ll be able to make Platinum. Currently have the Amex Platinum but will upgrade to Reserve next year to help.

    This is probably heresy but my view on Delta miles: just value them at 1.0 cpm which you can get guaranteed using Pay with Miles (which also earns MQMs on redemptions). Are they less valuable than AA or UA miles? Of course. But if you recognize what they are really worth then you can gauge your travel/spending plans appropriately.

  30. @Adam: that doesn’t make any sense. Were you on an E class fare?

    @Mike: You should read Ben’s post on how he earned miles for 2014. It might help answer your questions.

  31. I don’t understand why people are congratulating you. Call me old fashioned but one should only be celebrated for accomplishing something when it is actually an achievement. Getting status on an airline is something anyone can do by just buying enough flights. Also, think about the number of unnecessary and pointless journeys you’ve taken to reach your diamond status (after all, that’s the effective cost of your status). Do you think the rewards are worth it – be honest with yourself here

  32. Just hit Diamond for 7th year in row. (Was platinum for 6 years in row before that until the 2008 crash ruined my streak for a year.) And yes, $60k spend on the reserve card definitely helped, and that’s not hard if you practically live in hotels as I do.

  33. I am currently platinum with 115k MQM’s do I roll over or go to Diamond
    I have the Reserve card and fully utilize it?

    Any advice greatly appreciated

  34. So? Was it worth it?

    I’m about to get to Diamond for the first time and ONLY really travel between MIA and LGA. I’d like to travel overseas twice with a companion in 2017 and to the Westcoast 4-6 times.

    I have a few questions-

    -What percentage did you get upgraded to 1st class as a Diamond member? How can I improve my chances to always fly first class when buying an economy ticket.

    -What two perks should I choose? I’m thinking regional upgrades and SkyLounge perk so my girlfriend can join me when we travel together but I also want those global upgrades….what do you think?

    -Now that I have applied and received my Amex Reserve and Amex Platinum cards and gotten the bonus MQMs for both, I’m not sure if I will make it to Diamond for 2018…..Do you have any creative ideas so that I can stay at the top of the food chain?

    -Are there any unforeseen special perks not mentioned when you become Diamond that I should look forward to?

    Have a great Thanksgiving and I’m excited for your responses!

  35. I get upgraded about 70% of the time. I’ve tried to use global upgrades but, even three plus months out, availability was limited. I was on a very popular route, though. I still have one choice benefit left and haven’t decided whether to select regional upgrades or the $200 credit.

    The diamond reservations line is one of the best perks, though. I’ve received a lot of great help there.

  36. I just hit my 140th MQS yesterday and have made Diamond the hard way $15K+ in spending and 140 segments with another 14 to go yet this year. Sure wish I could carry over segments like they do miles!

    This has not been easy I travel almost every week for business and pleasure throughout the Midwest so many short 1 hr to 2 hr short flights that start out on a CRJ 200… ugh.

    Anyone know how many Diamond’s Deltas has???

    Thanks Jeff

  37. I loved reading this (and the comments). I’ve been Diamond this year and have honestly loved every second. The service is beyond anything on any other airline, I’ve been upgraded on every single flight I took this year and was even invited to Delta 360 – and the absolute best perk of that (aside from the champagne and Tiffany champagne glasses delivered to my home) was the gate-to-gate black car ride on the tarmac two weeks ago when I had a tight connection. Delta goes ALL OUT for their status customers. I couldn’t be more grateful.

  38. Hi
    I have alternated platinum with diamond, usually making diamond when I am flush with rollovers. This year it was dicey and I decided not to push Diamond only to end up with 47,700 rollovers. I did enjoy Diamond, but the upgrades were perhaps 50% of the time, and more rarely hub to hub (From ATL or DTW) where there seem to be a lot of paid FC.
    We guess what? On my second to the last day before my Diamond expires this year, I got the “elusive” Porsche ride in Atlanta. What a treat!!!!! I had a long layover but the lady who was surprised with me had a short one and she was dropped off at her gate! I felt like royalty and somebody special. Well I guess next year I get to be a lowly Platinum and work hard to get Diamond for 2018. We’ll see. Regarding the Globals, I couldn’t use them because my BC tickets for this year were paid by other agencies, so in December I tried to use them on regional for my husband and myself. It worked out for one way of the Flight, and got the full flat BC from SLC to ATL and then regular BC for the final leg.
    Upgrading to Executive lounge membership is good way to spend choice benefits if you get Diamond.
    What happened to the Sky Club coupons for Platinum? I recall you used to get two choice benefits for Platinum, Stingy.. I opted for the 20K bonus miles then used 27K to by the now reduced individual Skyclub membership (sorry friends and family).
    I feel the ratcheting back of everything that was good about Delta. If I could tolerate spending a year as nothing, I would consider changing airlines….but UNITED or AMERICAN???? Both are hardly tolerable.

  39. I was Platinum on Delta last year and I am Silver this year. Going to shoot for Diamond. I am DFW based but have had too many frustrations flying American. American First Class is roomier but the meals (although larger) are barely edible. American miles are impossible to use for Europe and the customer service is down right pitiful. I will miss redemptions for Etihad awards and usage of the first class lounges. Skyteam lounges ABSOUTELY SUCK!!! I think thats Skyteams biggest pit fall…pitiful alliance elite status and lounges.

  40. I was diamond from December 2014 through January 2017. I was able to use my global upgrades between LAX-MNL, LAX-LHR, and twice between LAX-SYD. Sometimes the GUCs didn’t clear until a couple of days before flight on the LAX-SYD trips.

    I thought the Skyteam lounge in LHR was decent, so was the Air France lounge in CDG. But the Skyteam MQM and RDM accruals are just shameful.

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