Closing the gap: My plan to qualify for Delta Diamond status this year
As discussed in previous articles, I'm a Delta Platinum Medallion member. Most of my flights this year have been on Delta or its SkyTeam partners, and various promotions like the 2020 Medallion Qualifying Mile (MQM) rollover, Status Accelerator and bonus MQM earning on Delta cobranded credit cards helped me earn Platinum by the beginning of July.
Now with just over four months left in 2021, I am planning to go for top-tier Diamond status. In theory, I am close to the status now and can reach the MQM and MQD requirements so long as I plan my future travel accordingly. I think the extra effort is worth it for Choice Benefits and higher upgrade priority — something that may be useful after Delta's most recent round of status extensions.
Here, I'll show you my current progress toward Delta Diamond and discuss how I plan to close the MQM and MQD gap. I'll also discuss why I think it's worth going out of my way to earn Diamond, even when Platinum is a great airline elite status to hold.
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Why I'm earning Delta Diamond status
I've long been a fan of Delta Air Lines — its NYC route network is great, it has a solid on-time performance and its in-flight product is good. Moving up to Delta's top-tier status would give me more benefits on my frequent flights with Delta, including the ability to select Choice Benefits.
Delta Diamond members get to select three Choice Benefits every year they requalify for benefits. When I qualify, I plan to select these benefits:
- Delta Sky Club Credit Card Guest Access: Lets those who have Delta Sky Club access from a credit card bring up to two guests into the lounge with them. I will combine this with my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
- 4 Global Upgrade Certificates: These can be used to upgrade to Delta One on any Delta route. These can also be used to upgrade select partner flights.
- 25,000 SkyMiles: This is worth $275 per TPG's most recent valuation, but I can likely get more value when redeeming for expensive last-minute flights.
Depending on how (and how often) I use these benefits, they have the potential to be worth thousands of dollars. I plan to use the Global Upgrade Certificates on long-haul 2022 travel to Europe and Asia on routes with Delta One Suites business class. Further, the Sky Club guest access will be great for when I travel with friends and family.
Additionally, higher upgrade priority will come in handy next year. Delta extended elite status for all existing elites through 2022, and will roll over all 2021 MQM to 2022. This means there will be a ton of Delta elites, and upgrades will be more competitive than in past years. Having top priority for upgrades will be extremely useful.
Related: What is Delta Air Lines elite status worth in 2021?
Closing the gap for Delta Diamond status
As of writing this article, I am sitting on a stash of 99,576 Medallion Qualifying Miles and $4,950 Medallion Qualifying Dollars. This puts me roughly 25,500 MQM and $10,000 MQD away from earning Delta Diamond. I have plans to meet this threshold without breaking the bank on two upcoming international trips and a handful of domestic trips.
Let's take a closer look at my plans.
Upcoming Delta domestic trips
As of writing this article, I have a four trips planned with Delta. Here's a quick breakdown of each trip and how many MQM and MQD I'll earn for each trip. Note that I am factoring in the Status Accelerator promotion for each ticket.
- LGA-ORD-LGA, economy — 2,200 MQM, $232 MQD
- JFK-SLC-JFK, economy — 5,968 MQM, $420 MQD
- LGA-MIA-LGA, economy — 3,274 MQM, $206 MQD
- LGA-ORD, first class — 1,283 MQM, $367 MQD
This means that I will earn 12,725 MQM and $1,225 MQD from already booked travel. This brings me to 112,301 MQM and $6,175 MQD, meaning I still need to account for 12,699 MQM and $8,825 MQD by the end of the year. There's a chance some of this will be taken care of with work travel and other domestic trips, but I've made a plan to make up at least 90% of both requirements.
Leveraging partner trips for more MQD
So that I don't need to spend $5,000+ on Delta first class tickets (with the 75% bonus), I've devised a plan to earn MQM and MQD quickly with partner flights. SkyTeam and non-alliance partner flights earn MQM and MQD based on a percentage of miles flown, which means that you can stock up on MQD at a discount if you find inexpensive partner flights in premium cabins.
I started exploring different partner options and found a way to earn the bulk of the miles by booking a trip to Europe. It would be a non-traditional routing, however, as the flights take me through Los Angeles and Mexico. I'd start by booking this Delta round-trip ticket between New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) it would earn 7,426 MQM and $360 MQD with the Status Accelerator promotion.
From there, I'd continue on to Madrid (MAD) via Mexico City (MEX) with Aeromexico for $1,827.15 round-trip in business class. This fare earns 150% MQM and 40% MQD and the trip is 14,390 miles round-trip. This earns 21,585 MQM and $5,756 MQD. Together with the LAX round-trip and my existing year-end balance, I'll have a total of 133,886 MQM and $12,291 MQD.
Then, I would take my usual year-end trip from New York-JFK to Prague (PRG) on this Air France premium economy ticket. It costs $994, but earns 150% MQM and 30% MQD. The itinerary is 8,332 miles round-trip, so it earns $12,498 MQM and $2,500 MQD. This brings my MQD count to $14,791.
I can make up for the remaining $209 MQD by booking my flight home to Chicago for the holidays with Delta. I would earn $320 MQD by booking this round-trip ticket from New York to Chicago, and would have myself well over the qualification threshold.
This means I would spend a total of $3,363 for roughly $8,936 MQD, which would give me Diamond status through 2022. I need to take the trips to Prague and Chicago anyway, and the trip to Madrid would let me visit a new city and visit friends in Los Angeles along the way. Plus, I can book some of it with flight credits and cover some expenses by redeeming Capital One points at a fixed value toward these flights.
Related: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying in 2021
Qualifying for Delta Diamond Medallion elite status isn't easy, but you can get there quicker and less expensively when you leverage partner flights. Consider doing something similar to close the gap on your Delta elite status this year. Also remember that you can earn up to 75% bonus MQM and MQD with the Status Accelerator promotion, and that award tickets earn MQM and MQD through 2022.
Feature photo by Theodorie / Shutterstock.com