Delta Enlists American Express to Poach Continental and United Elites

by on May 19, 2011 · 20 comments

in American Express, Continental, Delta, United

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Several TPG readers emailed me an interesting mailing they received as American Express Platinum Cardmembers. The mailing from American Express (picture below) is a clear attempt to lure Continental and United elites to Delta. While elite status matches are nothing new, this is the first time I’ve seen a credit card company acting as an intermediary on behalf of another airline. I personally think it’s a brilliant, proactive move, but I also feel they should have advertised the 50% transfer bonus and 25,000 MQM promo (which, by the way ends May 31, 2011 so hop on it soon!).

If you are thinking about doing this, there are a couple things you should know:
1) Technically this offer is only for people who received the communication, but Delta has accepted status matches for a long time, as described in my post on the topic.

2) This offer is only good until June 30, 2011 and the status will only be good until February 2012 – less than a year.

3) If you wait until July 1 or later to process your status match, your status will be good until February 2013 – or at least that’s the way it has worked in the past with almost all airline match programs.

For those who are unfamiliar with Delta’s SkyMiles/ Medallion program, it’s unique in a couple ways:
1) Elite rollover. Any MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) you earn past an elite level (25,000, 50,000, 75,000, 125,000 miles), will be rolled over to the next year. For example, if you earn 60,000 miles in 2011, 10,000 of them will rollover to the next year, so you start January 1 with a nice jump start on status

2) Choice benefits for Platinum and Diamond Medallion. If you get comped to Platinum status, you can choose a gift – such as a $200 Delta voucher, 20,000 miles, Silver Medallion status for a friend or System Wide Upgrades

3) Miles never expire

4) No last minute award booking fees

5) Free Same Day Confirmed flight changes for Gold Medallions and higher – for domestic flights, you can switch to another flight to your destination as long as there is space available in your cabin. For coach tickets, the ticket bucket is Y, so as long as there is a single seat for sale, you can confirm onto that flight within 3 hours of departure.  Unpublished rule: Diamonds can Same Day Confirm to co-terminals, for example switch from Detroit to JFK to Detroit to LaGuardia

6) Upgrades on award tickets at your Medallion upgrade window (3 for Gold and 5 for Platinum). Not applicable to Silver medallions.

7) Skyteam Elite Plus status for Gold and higher – free lounge access when traveling internationally, even when in coach.

8 ) There are tons of ways to get Medallion Qualifying Miles including credit card (Amex Delta Reserve and Amex Delta Platinum), partner promotions (like Hilton or last December’s Charity promo) and American Express transfer bonuses.

9) I’m a big fan of Delta’s domestic hard product. Most planes have decent-sized first class cabins (as I Silver I got upgraded 50% of the time when I chose my flights correctly), most planes have wifi and I find the flight attendants to be top notch.

10) Skymiles are pretty easy to come by, so while Delta awards are generally more expensive than other airlines, their miles are easier to accrue (like the Spafinder promo).

I’m a Delta Diamond and generally like the program, but take the following into consideration before signing up:

1) Delta has three tiers of awards and the award engine prices erratically. For example, all partner awards are low level, but if you mix a medium level in, it will usually price a la carte, which means awards can become very expensive, very quickly.

2) Systemwide upgrades are only available for use on expensive fare classes. Y, B and M for international flights and Y, B, M, H, Q, K for domestic/Hawaii. The cheapest and most common fare classes are not eligible (L, U, T)

3) So many MQM promotions means a lot of Medallions. If you are flying through Atlanta, don’t be shocked to see 60+ person long upgrade lists. I often sit in coach on routes like Los Angeles to JFK. Then again, Delta allows upgrades on that route for all elites on all fares.

4) Delta does not allow the redemption of international first class on Skyteam partners like Korean and Air France.

5) Silver and Golds have to pay for international premium economy (they respectively get 25% and 50% discounts)

Overall, the best program for you is the one that most meets your needs. I encourage you to research a program in-depth before asking for a status match/challenge, because airlines only grant them once. Feel free to share your thoughts on the Delta Medallion program or whether you received this offer and are considering it.

Tip of the hat to TPG reader Steven for sending me his copy of the offer!

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

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  • sortaconfused

    Hey Brian,

    I just made Silver with Delta (I live in Cincinnati, so Delta works the best for me from here). I will shortly attain Gold, and likely Platinum, before years end thru judicious use of credit card promotions and minimal flying. Assuming I make those elite levels, my question is this: which “gift” should I choose? I’m torn between SWUs and gifting Silver to my wife (who has no status). You mention how the SWUs are pretty limited, so I’m leaning towards gifting the Silver to my bride. I fly alone often, but when I fly with my wife, there is no WAY she’s letting me sit up front without her! I know Silver doesn’t get you much, but like you said, if you pick your flights wisely (for example, when I fly with her, it’s leisure, and usually weekends, and I’m not competing with nearly as many Medallion business road warriors for upgrades). What do you think I should choose?

    And I agree…for all the heat Delta gets, their domestic product is actually quite good.

  • Susan

    Domestically, Delta’s Skymiles program is by far the best!

  • Lantean

    Which country do you live in?

  • sortaconfused



  • Coloradodude

    I agree with Lantean.
    Delta for the casual flyer, is the WORSE FF program in the USA. Finding a flight for 25000 miles or 40,000 miles to Hawaii is really hard compared to United or AA. That is why they are called skypesos.

  • CP

    Can you pls give tips on how to selectively pick DL flights so as to get the best chance for an upgrade? I’ve recently attained Silver – and almost always go through Cincinnati instead of Atlanta – so I’d be interested in learning how to pick flights with good upgrade potential.

  • Marina

    This is totally lame. Instead of trying to get new elites they should pay more attention to their existing loyal customers. All this does is create competition for people’s fairly earned status upgrades and though as a Diamond Medallion this is not going to affect me, I would be pissed if I was Gold or Platinum.

  • FM

    Has anyone found a clear cut listing of criteria Delta uses for domestic upgrades on paid tickets? They state some criteria on their websites, but do not rank them in priority. As a Platinum medallion member it has often been frustrating for me to see Gold Medallions get upgraded before me. Thanks!

  • Mike L

    Using TPG’s various guides/tips on how to book award travel on Delta, I’ve snagged a few low level routes. Like he said, it takes some time and is a bit more annoying but it can be done. I’m thoroughly pleased with these easy to earn SkyPesos

  • Ryan

    Generally those who are matched to Platinum do not get SWU’s or other choice benefits. Does this deal allow that?

  • Barrett

    Hat tip to TPG,
    With the help of the various articles on using Delta miles, a few hours and a lot of patience I was finally able to stitch together an award fare, all business class, from IAD-CDG-FCO, VCE-CDG-IAD for only 100,000 miles in the middle of June. Found the legs and closed the deal over the phone. Simply amazing considering coach was going for 125K. Thanks TPG, keep sharing those tips. I read your blog religiously.

  • Susan

    HI and AK aren’t good, but I mean the other 48 states. I get upgraded all the time, even awards. When I can’t find 25,000 mile awards, it’s usually the same with the other airlines.

  • Sean

    I’ve been Platinum Medallion for the last four years after six or seven years of Gold and Silver. Here are my three favorite features:

    1) All of my award travel (usually Biz C1-C2 europe) is refundable! Yep, as a Plat I can change, cancel, modify any award travel booked with my miles even if I am not the traveler. Huge!
    2) Last minute domestic awards are typically 25k and I can view the routes that have upgrades available before I book. Do I want to see the Padres in Fenway? Yes but… I’ll wait until two days before to see if I can get there in First Class for 25k
    3) Same Day Confirmed. TPG likes this one too. Free day of travel flight changes. The helpful agents in the Sky Club will check for upgrade space to the flights I am considering switching to, when I’m on a coach fare.

  • The Points Guy

    @Sortaconfused- I personally like gifting Medallion status- it can save a ton of money in bag fees and makes the overall travel experience better. Beyond that, I usually go with miles because I always redeem them for super expensive last minute travel or premium international travel and I get 2 cents+ per mile, so 20,000 miles = $400 to me. I will do a separate post on my ranking of all the Choices

    @Ryan- are you sure matched Platinums don’t get the benefit? Generally you get the “goods” of whatever elite tier when you match, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they held back the choices until you requalify

    @FM Delta first upgrade all fully refundable Y fares Diamond- Platinum Gold then Silver. Once all Y fares are cleared it goes by Medallion level and fare class. The tie breaker for 2 Medallions on the with the same fare class will be 1) If one has the Delta Reserve Amex, they win or 2) Date of ticketing
    Check out this cool tool to calculate where you stand

    @Mike/Barrett- glad you were able to wrangle the Delta award calendar to get good results. The value is there- you just need to work to get it!

    @Sean- I agree with all of your points. People can make fun of Delta all day long, but at the end of the day there are some really valuable perks.

  • Ryan

    While I have never personally status matched, I just remember multiple threads on FT regarding this, and usually you have to earn the status to be elgible for SWU’s etc. If not, everyone would status match for the 1 or 2 flights a year to whatever airlines to get the SWU’s. I realize you can only do this once in your lifetime, but still, they would lose a lot of money. Much discussion, but here is a example of a Poster not having success with choice benefits on a status match.

  • Doug

    Maybe I missed it, any clue if United/Continental will reciprocate based on this attack and allow elite status to go the other way from Delta to United/Continental?

  • The Points Guy

    Doug- read my post on elite status matches and it’ll explain how to match to united/continental

  • Richard1148

    Has anyone gotten a status match through this promo? I emailed them with a copy of my CO Plat card and sent all of the othe required inof on May 16, but my status hasn’t changed yet.

  • Richard1148

    Sorry for the typos. Its should read “…all of the other required info…”

  • Richard1148

    OK, Now I feel really stupid. I sent the email June 16, not May 16.

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