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TPG contributor Nick Ewen takes us through the basics of Delta Diamond Medallion status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.
In earlier posts, I covered the ins and outs of Delta’s Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion and Platinum Medallion levels of elite status. This piece is targeted at those newly minted top tier flyers on Delta: Diamond Medallion.! If you are a first-time Diamond member, I’m sure you can attest to just how much flying it took to get there! I attained this level of status back in December 2010, the first year Diamond existed (though I am sad to say that I will drop down to Platinum on March 1, 2014). I have really enjoyed my time as a Diamond Medallion member, from the high upgrade percentages to the outstanding customer service. If you just joined the ranks of Delta’s top tier, here’s everything you need to know about the next 15 months, including a breakdown of qualification levels and key benefits.
As I already mentioned, Diamond Medallion is Delta’s highest published level of elite status (though some bloggers have reported on a higher, invite-only tier called Delta 360…see here and here). Diamond status is earned after flying 125,000 Medallion Qualification Miles or racking up 140 Medallion Qualification Segments. Another way to look at it is this: to attain Diamond, you need to earn close to 2,500 MQM’s or fly almost 3 segments every single week for an entire year. Talk about a lot of flying!
As discussed in the earlier posts, Delta recently decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates, muddying the qualification waters a bit. As always, double-check this chart to see if your partner flight will count towards status.
Medallion Qualifying Dollars
A new qualification requirement goes into effect next year: Medallion Qualification Dollars (or MQD’s). TPG discussed this new requirement when it was first announced back in January, but the basic crux is that all Medallion members will need to spend a certain amount of money on Delta in addition to hitting the mile/segment levels above (or alternately spend at least $25,000 on a Delta-branded American Express card in the calendar year).
To earn Diamond status during the 2014 year, you would need to have at least $12,500 MQD’s plus 125,000 MQM’s or 140 Medallion Qualification Segments.
Check out this post for more information on What Spending Counts Towards Medallion Qualifying Dollars.
Even though this won’t affect your current status or qualification, Delta has set up tools so you can track your current year-to-date spend through your SkyMiles profile, and when you are purchasing a flight, the confirmation page already includes details on how many MQD’s you will earn on that flight. Remember though that this year, you are only required to fly the segments or miles to earn status through February 28, 2015. The MQD requirement only goes into effect for the 2014 qualification period, during which you will earn status through February 29, 2016.
Once you’ve earned Diamond Medallion Status (and the change is reflected in your profile online), you can begin taking advantage of numerous benefits on Delta (and certain partner airlines). A full listing is available here, but here are some additional details to help you begin navigating the sea of elite status:
1. Complimentary Upgrades: Diamond Medallion members are eligible for space-available complimentary upgrades on coach tickets in all fare classes for flights within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Bermuda, Canada, Central America, and Northern South America. This also extends to one companion on the same flight, and, like Gold and Platinum Medallion flyers, Diamond Medallion members can earn upgrades on both award tickets and Pay With Miles tickets (the latter is only available to holders of the Gold, Platinum or Reserve Delta-branded American Express cards).
If space is available, full Y fares will clear at time of booking, while all other classes will clear 5 days in advance (usually between 5 and 6pm six days before the actual flight date) if available. Even though this is the same window as Platinum Medallions, Diamonds are given priority, as long as they are ticketed and confirmed by the time Delta runs the upgrade sweep! Remember that Delta recently removed the ability to search this inventory on ExpertFlyer, and just because there are open seats on the seat map doesn’t mean that they will automatically upgrade medallions in advance. If, however, your upgrade doesn’t clear at the five-day window, you will automatically be added to the gate list when you check in. Diamond members should be near the top of the list.
Just like before, your chances of scoring the upgrade really depend on many factors, but Diamond Medallion members should see pretty high percentages. Personally, my success rates over the last three years have all been above 85% (yes, I fully recognize how nerdy it is to keep track of such a metric!), with the vast majority of misses coming on elite-heavy routes (e.g. Friday morning PDX-ATL), after flight cancellations/same-day confirmed changes, or on partner flights (e.g. only cleared 1 of 4 flights on Alaska this year). I would say that 90% would be a reasonable expectation for Diamond Medallion, but again, many other factors could raise or lower this percentage.
2. Mileage Bonus: On every paid flight, Diamond Medallion members receive a 125% mileage bonus, slightly higher than the 100% that Golds and Platinums receive. Remember that these bonus miles do not count as MQM’s but instead are additional redeemable miles that can be applied towards future award tickets. For example, a simple one-way flight between Orlando and Atlanta would earn a regular member 500 miles; that same flight would earn a Diamond Medallion member 1,125 miles.
3. Preferred Seating: Diamond Medallion members are also entitled to the same preferred Economy Class seating as Platinum Medallions: rows closer to the front of the plane, exit rows, and free Economy Comfort seats on both domestic and international flights, with additional legroom and (for long-haul Delta- and KLM-operated flights), additional recline and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits.
Let’s take a look at two examples of this:
- Orlando to New York-LaGuardia: On a shorter flight like this, a regular SkyMiles member could purchase Economy Comfort for $49 each way; a Silver flyer would need to pay $24.50 in advance, while the same seat would be free for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members.
- Atlanta to London-Heathrow: Economy Comfort for this long-haul flight can be purchased by anyone for $79 each way, while a Diamond Medallion could sit in that same seat for free.
4. Baggage Fee Waiver: Diamond Medallion members enjoy the same checked bag fee waiver as Golds and Platinums: one free bag over the standard allowance on every flight as well as two free bags on domestic flights. This benefit extends to up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation as the Medallion member. A complete breakdown of fees by destination is available here.
5. Same-Day Confirmed/Standby Fee Waiver: Diamond Medallions also enjoy the same-day confirmed/standby fee waivers that apply to Gold and Platinum travelers. If your originally booked fare class is available on another flight on the same day of your scheduled departure, Diamond Medallion members can now switch to that flight for free within 24 hours of the original flight time. Even if the fare class isn’t available, Diamond flyers can standby on the desired flight for free as well. Both of these options cost Silver Medallions and non-status flyers $50. Remember that Delta recently gutted the benefits its Same-Day Confirmed program (though they did backpedal on certain changes just a few months later); for full details, visit this page.
6. Waived Award Redposit/Reissue Fees: As a Diamond flyer, you are entitled to the same flexibility on award tickets as Platinum Medallions: unlimited changes and cancellations (as long as changes are made at least 72 hours before the first flight…Brian discussed this new policy when it was first announced back in 2011). Given how stingy Delta can be at releasing low-level (saver) award seats, this flexibility can be huge:
1) If your desired flights are only available at the mid (standard) or high (peak) levels at the time of booking, you can get miles back for free if low (saver) seats open up closer to departure (again, as long as it’s more than 72 hours prior to your departure).
2) If the only routing you can find with saver availability includes an early morning flight, four segments, an unwanted overnight, or is otherwise less-than-ideal, you can switch to a more direct routing for free if one becomes available after booking.
3) If something comes up that prevents you from taking trip, you can cancel the award tickets, get the miles back into your account, and get a full refund of the taxes and fees paid…no questions asked. No need to share (or create!) a sob story in an effort to find a sympathetic phone agent to cancel the trip without fees; that’s part of the benefit.
Let’s say (for example) that you wanted to book a round-trip flight from New York to Salt Lake City using your miles. Unfortunately, your ideal flights out west and back only have “standard” award availability, which means you’d need to shell out 20,000 miles each way. Since you really want to go and have no flexibility with the times, you book the flights at 40,000 miles. One week later, your outbound flight suddenly becomes available at the saver level, so you promptly call the Platinum line. The change is made without a fee, and 7,500 SkyMiles go back into your account. Then, two weeks after that, the return flight also opens up at the saver level. Again, you call, and again you get the 7,500 miles back without any fees. Each one of those changes would cost Gold and lower flyers $150.
I have also used this flexibility to lock in award tickets right at the start of the booking window when I thought availability might disappear. Last June, at exactly 330 days prior to departure, I grabbed the only two O class tickets (business awards) on AirFrance’s direct MIA-CDG flight. The two one-way tickets set me back 100,000 miles each + taxes & fees. Then, a few days later, I added on flights to the Seychelles; since this was now a one-way flight from the US-Africa, it took another 20,000 miles per person + minimal additional taxes. Then, about two weeks later, I called back to add the return legs from Madagascar to Paris to Miami, again right at the 330 day booking window. Since Delta prices one-way awards at the same price as round-trip awards, I didn’t need to pay any additional miles, and all of these changes were completely free.
The key lesson here is that any changes after booking do not get rid of existing award flights. When I added those last flights, the MIA-CDG flight had no availability, but since I had already locked that in, the reservation “remembered” that there were two O seats initially, and it kept that part of the itinerary intact.
7. Priority check-in, Security, and Boarding: Like Gold and Platinum members, Diamond Medallion flyers are entitled to full Sky Priority benefits on all Delta flights, regardless of the class of service they have booked. This allows them to utilize Sky Priority check-in lines and access preferred security lines (where available). It also offers what’s known as “Sky Zone” boarding; this occurs after First/Business class but before Silver Medallion members and the rest of Zone 1.
8. SkyTeam Elite Plus Status: Diamond Medallion members traveling on a SkyTeam flight will automatically have their status recognized as “SkyTeam Elite Plus,” which offers valuable benefits when traveling internationally, including priority check-in, boarding, airport standby, preferred seating (when available), priority baggage handling and lounge access for them and a guest when traveling in any class of service on an international or connecting SkyTeam flight. Simply show your boarding pass with your status at the lounge entrance (though you may want to have your Diamond Medallion card in case the status isn’t reflected on the boarding pass). A complete list of accessible lounges is available here; just be sure to filter to those locations for “Delta SkyTeam Elite Plus Member” at the right-hand side. Note that these benefits may not be available on every flight or at every airport; a complete breakdown is available here.
9. Complimentary Sky Club Membership: In addition to gaining access to Sky Clubs and partner lounges when traveling internationally, Diamond Medallions also have full Sky Club membership included as part of their benefits package. The membership will be valid for as long as you maintain your Diamond status, so if you recently crossed the threshold into the realm of Diamond Medallion, your Sky Club membership would be valid until February 28th, 2015. If you then requalify again in 2014, the Sky Club membership will be extended through February 29th, 2016.
For any travelers with existing memberships, these will essentially be put “on hold” until you lose your Diamond status. For example, I had always purchased a membership to the Sky Club before I hit Diamond Medallion, and my complimentary membership will end when I drop to Platinum Medallion on March 1, 2014. However, the remaining time on my pre-Diamond paid membership will kick in then, so my Sky Club access won’t actually expire until November 8, 2015.
One other thing to keep in mind…in addition to having complimentary access to Sky Clubs during your time as a Diamond, you can also purchase a regular membership at the same discounted rates as Platinum Medallions ($350/40,000 miles for one year…other options are listed on this page). This will be useful if you attain Diamond one year but then your travel drops off significantly the following year. As long as you purchase the membership before your Diamond status expires, you still get the discounted rates.
10. Choice Benefits: Once you have obtained Diamond Medallion status with Delta, you are automatically entitled to the “Choice Benefits” program. Diamond flyers can choose two of the following: six Systemwide Upgrade Certificates (though these can only be used on K+ fares in the U.S./Canada/Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico and M+ fares on long-haul flights), six Delta SkyClub one-day passes, 25,000 bonus miles (just redeemable, not MQM’s), a $200 voucher with Tiffany’s, a $200 voucher with Delta, or the ability to gift Gold status to a designated friend/family member. To make your selection, login to your account and then visit the Choice Benefits page listed above. Selections must be made by the end of your status year. In other words, if you qualify for Platinum in 2013 (meaning you will hold status throughout all of 2014), you have until February 28th of 2015 to make the selection.
11. Crossover Rewards with SPG: Like all other Delta elites, Diamond Medallion members can also take advantage of the new Crossover Rewards program with Starwood Preferred Guest. This allows travelers to earn one mile for every dollar of eligible spend at Starwood Properties. Diamond members also enjoy the same additional on-property benefits at Starwood properties that I discussed in the Platinum Medallion post, including elite check-in lines, late checkout, “enhanced” rooms (corner, high floor, etc.), and complimentary in-room internet access. This is basically like being Gold with SPG; remember, though, that Gold and Platinum SPG members also earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta flights. All of these bonuses are in addition to the regular Starpoints/SkyMiles earned for the stay/flight. Members must link their two accounts at www.delta.com/crossoverrewards to be eligible; for more details, check out TPG’s post from earlier this year.
So there you have it. Diamond Medallion is quite challenging to obtain (and then keep, as I experienced this year), so it makes sense that the benefits go even further than the generous offerings for Platinum flyers. I also love the intangibles of Diamond status, including exceptional customer service and additional “flexibility” when changing flights. I am certainly going to miss this status next year, but it’s been a good run!
Any other Diamond Medallion members out there with personal experience to share on your treatment, upgrade percentage or general thoughts on this level? Please feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for a final wrap-up post with additional considerations for earning and maintaining status with Delta.