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Here's how a last-minute award trip to Italy got me halfway to Delta Silver status

June 07, 2021
8 min read
Italy Reopening 2021
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On May 14, Delta announced tourists would be welcome on COVID-19-tested flights to Italy starting May 16. TPG asked if I'd want to be one of the first American tourists to fly to Italy on a COVID-19-tested flight. I was more than happy to take a short-notice trip to Italy, so TPG redeemed Delta SkyMiles to book my last-minute flights.

As an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite, I haven't closely followed Delta's updates for earning status during the pandemic. So, I initially assumed I wouldn't earn anything on the award flights. But then I realized travelers can earn Delta Medallion status from award tickets through the end of 2021.

Perhaps you've also overlooked being able to work toward Delta Medallion status on award flights marketed and operated by Delta. So, today I'll walk you through how my last-minute award flights to Italy got me over halfway to Delta Silver Medallion status.

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My flights

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

My trip to Italy came together at the last minute. After all, Delta announced on May 14 that its COVID-19-tested flights to Italy would be open to all travelers starting May 16. So on May 15, TPG booked me two sets of round-trip award flights:

  • New York-JFK to Milan (MXP) in main cabin economy for 60,000 Delta miles and $55.25.
  • Atlanta (ATL) to New York-JFK in main cabin economy for 75,000 Delta miles and $11.20.

Yes, that's right: My domestic positioning flights cost more Delta miles than my transatlantic flights. But cash fares were also more expensive for the domestic round-trip. In particular, cash fares for the flights TPG booked me would have been $808 for the transatlantic round-trip and $838 for the domestic round-trip. As such, TPG got 1.35 cents per mile for the transatlantic flights and 1.12 cents per mile for the domestic flights — both of which are slightly higher than TPG's valuation of Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents per mile.

You may be wondering why TPG booked two round-trips instead of one. In short, it was due to pricing. After all, a round-trip from Atlanta with a COVID-19-tested flight from New York-JFK to Milan would have cost 210,000 miles plus $88 for an award ticket or $3,013 for a cash fare.

Related: How to book a COVID-tested flight to Italy from 51,000 miles round-trip

Delta's Medallion status accelerator

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Typically, award travel won't earn Medallion Qualification Segments, Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Dollars. However, thanks to Delta's Medallion status accelerator, if you fly April 1 through Dec. 31 you’ll earn:

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  • At least 50% more MQSs, MQMs and MQDs on Delta flights, including Pay with Miles tickets, flights booked as a part of a Delta Vacations package and award tickets.
  • An additional 25% on Delta’s premium cabins (Delta One, Delta Premium Select, first class and Delta Comfort+) and upgrades purchased after initial ticket purchase using cash or miles.

These bonuses are only applicable for earning Medallion status. Here's how the Medallion status accelerator worked for my award flights:

New York-JFK to Milan (MXP) in main economyOutbound: 3,995 base x 1.5 = 5,993

Return: 3,995 base x 1.5 = 5,993

2 segments per trip x 1.5 = 3Outbound: 30,000 miles redeemed/100 x 1.5 = 450

Return: 30,000 miles redeemed/100 x 1.5 = 450

Atlanta (ATL) to New York-JFK in main economyOutbound: 760 base x 1.5 = 1,140

Return: 760 base x 1.5 = 1,140

2 segments per trip x 1.5 = 3Outbound: 37,500 miles redeemed/100 x 1.5 = 563

Return: 37,500 miles redeemed/100 x 1.5 = 563


Note that Delta bases MQMs on flight distance. In particular, Delta calculates the distance between JFK and MXP as 3,995 miles and the distance between ATL and JFK as 760 miles. You may notice that I broke up the outbound and return segments in the above table when calculating MQMs and MQDs. I did so because the rounding doesn't work out correctly if you don't calculate each piece separately as Delta does.

Related: Everything you need to know about maximizing Delta SkyMiles award tickets

Earning Delta Medallion status

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

To earn Delta Medallion status, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs plus 3,000 MQDs.
  • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs plus 6,000 MQDs.
  • Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs plus 9,000 MQDs.
  • Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs plus 15,000 MQDs.

As such, I'm currently 10,734 MQMs and 974 MQDs from earning Silver Medallion status until Jan. 31, 2023. I have several other trips planned with Delta and its SkyTeam partners this year. Unfortunately, some of these flights involve destinations that are still closed to tourists. But, assuming I can take at least a few of the SkyTeam flights I've booked, I'll snag Delta Silver status.

Of course, Silver is the lowest elite status tier with Delta. As such, it doesn't offer standout perks. But I'll get some value from the following perks:

  • Rollover MQMs: The MQMs earned above the required amount for Silver Medallion status will roll over to the next qualification year.
  • Earn 7 miles per dollar spent: Earn two more Delta miles per dollar spent than general SkyMiles members.
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades: Unlimited complimentary upgrades for the member and a companion to first class and Delta Comfort+ (beginning 24 hours before departure) and to domestic Delta One (on the day of departure).
  • Complimentary preferred seats: The member and companions can select preferred seats at no additional cost at the time of reservation, except when flying on a Delta basic economy fare.
  • First checked bag free: The member and up to eight companions get a first checked bag free when traveling on Delta flights (the member also receives a first checked bag free when traveling on select airline partner flights).
  • Priority check-in and boarding.
  • Preferred pricing on a Clear membership: Pay a reduced fee of $109 per year for Clear.

The best-sounding perk is unlimited complimentary upgrades. But Silver Medallion members are below higher-tier elites and their companions for upgrades, so I don't expect I'll get many upgrades.

Additionally, snagging Silver Medallion status would give me a first checked bag free. A free checked bag when flying Delta is one of the primary reasons I carry a Delta credit card. So, although I'll likely keep my Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card through the end of the year for its $10-per-month credit at U.S. restaurants, I'll need to reevaluate once that limited-time perk ends on Dec. 31.

Related: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying

Bottom line

A month ago, I hadn't considering earning Delta Medallion status this year. Instead, I was debating which SkyTeam member airline to use when crediting several other SkyTeam trips. But now, my unexpected trip to Italy has encouraged me to push for low-tier Delta status. If you have a stash of Delta miles, this year may be an excellent opportunity to redeem your SkyMiles and work toward earning Medallion status.

Featured image by (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.