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.
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.
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?