A Segment Run for Delta Status — Reader Success Story
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Garrett, who took a few extra flights to improve his Medallion benefits:
About a year ago, I accepted a new job that shifted me from never traveling for work to possibly having to travel every week. As a kid, my dad instilled in me a loyalty to Delta that has never wavered, and since my base of Orlando (MCO) isn’t a hub for any major airline, Delta was going to be my choice. With my airline established, my new business travels (all domestic) began.
Starting with no status meant lots of middle seats in the back of the plane, but soon the Medallion status came. Nearly all my itineraries had me connecting in Atlanta (ATL), meaning I usually earned four elite-qualifying segments per trip, and that's where my status came from (not from miles). By October I had hit Platinum, and when I mapped out my work travel for the rest of the year, I figured I'd end up 10 segments shy of Diamond status.
I might have settled for that if I had been earning status through miles, since any extra MQMs would roll over to my 2020 status qualification. However, I was going to be about 25,000 MQMs short, and since extra segments don't roll over, I decided it was going to be Diamond or bust. The three extra Choice Benefits were just too tempting.
I used the Google Flights map feature to find cheap round-trip fares on Delta for weekend mileage (segment) runs. I ended up with a Saturday trip to Destin, FL via Atlanta (MCO-ATL-VPS-ATL-MCO). Then I chose a multi-city trip for a Saturday-Sunday to catch a college basketball game in Birmingham, AL, and then grab the two extra segments needed by flying through Nashville (MCO-ATL-BHM-ATL-BNA-ATL-MCO).
I hit most of the MQD requirement through work travel, so I used Delta’s Pay with Miles option (thanks to my Platinum Delta SkyMiles card) and shelled out 20,000 miles to save myself $200. Since I already had over 200,000 SkyMiles and the holidays were fast approaching, saving $200 on those trips was worth more to me.
I never dreamed I could earn Diamond Medallion status in one year, but thanks to a new job, reading TPG daily, and paying close attention to the details, I was able to do it. Even though my wife thinks my venture for status was a bit crazy, I’m sure she'll appreciate it when our Global Upgrade Certificates clear on a future international trip. I can’t wait to begin reaping these new benefits as 2019 begins!
In general, I think it's easier to qualify for airline status on miles than segments. The requirements for top-tier status are a stretch for most leisure travelers — for example, you'll need 140 segments (roughly one every 62 hours) to qualify for Diamond Medallion status. There are also more abundant opportunities to earn elite miles inexpensively if you're close to a status threshold, such as discounted fares to Australia or Europe, which can knock out a large chunk of your mileage requirement. Cheap segments are a little harder to come by in short order.
That said, you shouldn't ignore segments as a potential path to elite status, especially if you take a lot of shorter flights. Earning a large block of segments en masse is challenging, but you can easily add qualifying segments to each trip by selecting itineraries with layovers over nonstop flights — that kind of strategic routing probably won't boost your elite miles proportionally. Segments are also a little easier to schedule and track, so mapping out your elite qualification plans is more straightforward, and you're less likely to fall short due to a miscalculation. Garrett's approach won't work for everyone, but it's worth considering if you're scrambling to qualify late in the year.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Garrett a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!