Is Delta Status Worth it? All About Delta Medallion Status
Frequent flyers wear their airline status like a badge of honor. Delta’s Medallion status is no different. But what does it really mean for the average traveler?
We’ll dive into the ins and outs of Delta’s four tiers of status, as well as what it takes to get there. But our general rule of thumb is that it’s rarely worth it for average travelers to go out of their way to clinch status on any airline, including Delta.
If you can organically get to Silver or above, great! But mileage runs or crazy spending strategies to get status likely aren’t worth the effort unless if you’re already a status-holder.
How to Get Status
There’s no doubt about it: Even the lowest levels of Delta status require a fair amount travel.
Average travelers are unlikely to even scratch the surface of hitting Silver Medallion status, the airline’s lowest tier. If you travel a fair amount for work – or fly international long-haul with Delta or a partner – that could do the trick.
There are two critical pieces to get status with Delta: flying and spending. You have to rack up a certain amount of miles on Delta flights (called Medallion Qualifying Miles or MQMs, which are different than SkyMiles) or a sheer number of flight segments, plus a spending requirement.
Here’s a brief rundown on what it takes to climb the status ladder:
- Silver Medallion Status: 25,000 MQMs OR 30 flights (called Medallion Qualifying Segments) AND $3,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Gold Medallion Status: 50,000 MQMs OR 60 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $6,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Platinum Medallion Status: 75,000 MQMs OR 100 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $9,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Diamond Medallion Status: 125,000 MQMs OR 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $15,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
There’s a workaround for the spending requirement: Put $25,000 on an American Express Delta credit card. That works for all but Delta’s highest Diamond Medallion Status, which requires an absurd $250,000 in card spend to get the waiver. And there’s no getting around the flying requirements.
Once you unlock your status, you’ll have it for the rest of that year and the following calendar year. But when it’s time to requalify, you start back at zero (unless you rollover MQMs from the prior year).
Are you flying close to 25,000 miles or more per year with Delta? That’s more than five round-trip, cross-country flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York City-JFK (JFK), or two round trips on Delta’s upcoming Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN) flight. All that flying just for Silver status.
Or do you take a lot of Delta flights with connections that can pad your Medallion Qualifying Segment totals?
If you answer to both questions was no, Delta status probably isn’t worth a big effort for you. The perks require a lot of work to unlock. And when it comes to those perks, there’s one that most flyers are truly after.
Slim Chance of Upgrades Until You Climb the Status Ladder
Be honest: Upgrades are why you’re chasing airline status. After all, who wouldn’t like to fly up in first class while paying for coach?
But that’s not always the reality. Until you acquire higher levels of Delta status, upgrades are a mixed bag at best. After all your work to attain Silver or Gold Status, you’re still at or towards the bottom of the queue for upgrades.
And before we dive into upgrades, beware that this perk won’t get you into business class on a long-haul international flight. Upgrade requests are limited to domestic flights as well as some short international hops from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Silver Medallion Status is the first rung. In our experience, any upgrades are spotty at best. First class upgrades are nonexistent on all but the least competitive, poorly timed flights. You will occasionally get bumped up to Comfort Plus, but even that’s not a sure thing. And it will be a last-minute surprise: Silver Medallion upgrades don’t clear until 24 hours before departure.
Gold Medallion Status is, of course, better when it comes to upgrades – but not by much. You’ll get more upgrades to Comfort Plus than with Silver status, and they clear 72 hours in advance. But getting into First Class is still hard to come by with even Gold status, though you may get a few upgrades.
Platinum Medallion Status is where the upgrade game starts to look better, but it’s still no slam dunk. In our experience, you can count on getting bumped up to first class between 30% and 40% of the time. But plan your travel wisely and you can do better. You can nearly double the odds of snagging a first class upgrade by flying Delta’s regional carriers rather than mainline routes. It also helps to avoid high-traffic days like Mondays and Fridays. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays will get you more upgrades. You will always be moved into Comfort Plus at the time of booking as well.
Platinum status also gives you the option to choose some sure-fire upgrades. You can pick between five of Delta’s “Choice Benefits” once you attain Platinum status, and one of them is four regional upgrade certificates. Better yet, you can confirm these upgrades at the time you book. Platinum also also allows you to cancel award tickets, which we will cover shortly.
Diamond Medallion Status gets you at the top of the pecking order for securing free upgrades. And like Platinum status, those upgrades will begin clearing as far as five days in advance.
But you can get even more upgrades locked down. Diamond Medallion members can choose four “Choice Benefits,” including the most expansive set of upgrade certificates. If you fly within the U.S., opt for the eight regional upgrades. International flyers might like the ability to bump into Delta One business class with four global upgrades. Or split the difference and opt for a mix of two global upgrades and four regional certificates.
It’s worth noting that all status-holders can also bring a companion with them in a successful upgrade. And though upgrades don’t work on Basic Economy fares, you can get upgraded on an award ticket after using your SkyMiles to book.
Platinum and Diamond Perks
Given their priority in the upgrade, Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members have it good. But some other benefits at these tiers make it clear that this is where holding Delta status really starts to pay off.
One of our favorite perks of Platinum and Diamond status is that Delta’s $150 fee to change or cancel award tickets is waived. That can add up fast if your plans change, and it allows you far more freedom to use up your SkyMiles. When a SkyMiles flash sale pops up, you can book now and ask questions later (past the normal 24-hour cancellation window).
A handful of Choice Benefits also sweeten the deal. Platinum members have a choice to make between the upgrade certificates, a $200 gift card, 20,000 SkyMiles, gifting Silver status to a companion, or a $100 Global Entry voucher.
Diamond members have a smorgasbord of options and can pick four benefits. That includes the upgrade certificates laid out above, an annual SkyClub membership, gifting Gold status to a companion, 25,000 SkyMiles, the $200 gift card, and two $100 Global Entry vouchers.
Diamond Medallion members also get a free membership for CLEAR, our favorite way to save time at the airport. Ever seen a Porsche on the tarmac outside your Delta plane? That was likely waiting to whisk away a Diamond Medallion member in danger of missing his/her connecting flight.
Smaller Benefits Can Add Up
Most of the value in attaining Delta status comes from upgrades and other big-time benefits. But a handful of other perks are worth pointing out.
Getting free priority seating when booking is a small but unsung upside of Delta status available even to Silver Medallion members. It allows you to pick an exit row or bulkhead seat with additional legroom for free on domestic trips.
Similarly, you can snag a Comfort Plus seat for free on longer international flights – even as a Silver Medallion. Just beware that this benefit for a few extra inches of legroom doesn’t kick in for Silver status holders until 24 hours before departure and 72 hours before departure if you’re Gold Medallion.
From Silver to Diamond, every Medallion status member gets a designated check-in line at the airport. Gold Medallion and up also get access to a priority security line at some airports and expedited baggage handling after landing.
Flying abroad with a Delta SkyTeam partner airline? You’ll get access to their lounges if you have Gold Medallion status or greater.
Delta status can be lucrative, but it isn’t for everyone. Even if you prefer flying Delta, the average traveler is better off as a free agent. The perks for low-level Delta status (Silver and Gold) generally aren’t worth the additional costs you’ll pay to get there. It’s better suited for employees whose businesses foot the bill for their frequent travel.
If you can’t naturally build status, you’re probably better off seeking the lowest fares rather than focusing on Delta or employing wild-haired strategies to secure status.
Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0): Delta News Hub via Flickr
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.