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When you hit Delta Platinum and/or Diamond Medallion status, the airline offers you a choice of benefits called…Choice Benefits, unsurprisingly. Every year I requalify, I strategize about just which benefit holds the most value for me, and this year threw a couple curve balls at me, and all Medallions.
As of March 1, 2014, Delta made some key changes to its Diamond and Platinum Medallion upgrades that devalued Platinum Medallion upgrade possibilities and makes hitting Diamond status more valuable thanks to more universal Global Upgrades. In general, though, rather than helping elites get to the front of the plane, these changes will fill Economy Comfort seats and have been leaving business class seats empty, especially on those lucrative transcontinental routes.
These new upgrade policies have also shifted the calculus of Choice Benefits and which ones I’m going to opt for this year. As I’ve mentioned before in posts like Which Delta Medallion Choice Benefit Should I Choose?, every year brings new questions based on what Delta is offering its flyers. The 2014 version of the Choice Benefits list looks like this:
So whereas before both Platinums and Diamonds had access to Systemwide upgrades, now Platinums can only get Regional Upgrades and Diamonds have a choice of Globals as well. Here’s where you can use each:
Under the new Choice Benefits program:
- Diamond Medallions will have access to Regional and Global upgrade certificates
- Platinum Medallions will be able to select Regional Upgrades
Diamond Medallion status is now more desirable, as Diamonds can choose to upgrade on transcon and international routes by using either Global upgrades or miles. These Global upgrades will be eligible on pretty much all paid fare classes for International and Domestic BusinessElite routes: Y, B, M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X or V. They may be redeemed for the named Medallion member and up to one travel companion in the same reservation; the named member and the companion will each require a separate certificate. They’re also valid on on all flights coded as KLM and operated by KLM for one-way upgrade from published Economy fared in Y, B, or M class to Business Class, and on transatlantic Air France flights booked in Y, B, or M class to Premium Voyageur Class or from Premium Voyageur when booked in S or W class to Business Class.
However, complimentary upgrades for Delta’s transcontinental BusinessElite routes are now gone. (True, availability for this particular benefit has been extremely tight lately since the upgrade inventory is the same as award seat inventory, and both have been fairly non-existent for about a year now – but still, the potential existed.) The only complimentary Medallion status upgrade that remains are on flights non-transcon domestic flights and to Hawaii from LAX/SEA/SFO and SLC – albeit on Delta’s old-school version of business class.
For those coveted transcontinental routes, Platinum Medallions are left back in Economy Comfort: transcontinental flyers seeking business class upgrades should take look at routes on American’s new A321 or JetBlue and their reasonably-priced new business class product, Mint.
As a big transcon flyer myself, that doesn’t really help me, and it was the upgrades on those domestic long-hauls that kept me with Delta for so long.So as for my personal strategy, I’m also going to continue to go for American Executive Platinum status, which gives me a much greater chance of a transcon upgrade compared to either Delta or United.
Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Other Choice Benefits
So in terms of the Choice Benefits I’m personally receiving as a Platinum Medallion, here’s how I break them down in terms of dollar value:
1. 20,000 Bonus Miles for Platinums (25,000 for Diamonds): It can be hard to use SkyMiles effectively, but if you are savvy and flexible, you can still find some decent redemptions, especially at the last minute. For instance, if you’re considering certain expensive redemptions where you know you can get a good value on your miles (e.g., expensive BusinessElite award seats to Europe), you would be getting a good return here worth hundreds of dollars. I value SkyMiles at about 1.5 cents each. Benefit value: about $300
1. Regional Upgrades: As a Platinum Medallion, I get upgraded on regional routes anyway for the most part, or they’re short enough that it doesn’t make a huge difference to me, so I don’t place a huge amount of value on these. I’d say maybe $100 each. Benefit value: $100
2. One $200 Gift Card (Tiffany) or Travel Voucher: This is a straight exchange of $200 for either fancy jewelry or future travel on Delta. If you’re planning to purchase either, this gift will put you ahead of the game. Benefit value: $200
3. Gifting Silver Medallion Status (Gold Status for Diamonds): Silver status normally requires flying 25,000 miles or 30 segments within a calendar year and confers perks like free checked bag fees for up 9 people on your reservation, discounts on Economy Comfort seats on international flights, a 25% Medallion mileage bonus, priority boarding and more. Benefits are rather limited, especially in terms of upgrades. Benefit value: $200
4. Four Delta SkyClub One-Day Passes (Six for Diamonds): SkyClub passes cost $50 apiece, though only $25 if you have the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex. I value lounge access much lower – and I actually get Delta SkyClub access through my American Express Platinum Card – so if you have either that card or the Delta Reserve (which also grants SkyClub access) this gift is quite possibly a waste. Benefit value: $100-200
5. Regional Upgrades: I definitely don’t think these are worth it since as a Platinum Medallion who doesn’t fly in/out of major Delta hubs like Atlanta or Detroit, I don’t find it hard to get upgraded on the short routes these are valid on. I also plan on curtailing my Delta travel and I’d value them quite low at about $50-$100 each. Benefit value: $200
6. One Global Entry Application Voucher: This is pretty clear cut at a value of $100, but I already get it thanks to my Amex Platinum Card, and there’s a bit of a hassle to using this benefit since you have to wait for a prepaid card to arrive from Delta and it can take up to 12 weeks. Not worth the time and effort. Benefit value: $100
Which Delta Platinum Medallion Choice Benefits Will I Choose?
Based on those valuations and the fact that I already have Global Entry (as do most of my friends and family at this point), I have gifted Silver Medallion status to a lot of folks already, and I plan to cut down on my Delta flying, I’m going to go with the 20,000 miles. I plan to look for a good award to use them on before the Delta award chart gets hacked again in June and then transfer in Amex Membership Rewards points to top up for the award, like I did when we booked TPG Managing Editor Eric’s Virgin Australia award at the last minute in February.
Have you had a chance to claim a Choice Benefit from the newly revised the Medallion Upgrade Program? If so, please share your experience in the comments! While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.