Delta, The Long Goodbye – Part 1


“What’s the matter?” Susan asked. She could tell something was bothering me as I paced about the house. “I think I’m going to stop trying for elite status with Delta” I answered. “Really!?” Susan was surprised. “But Delta has all those great people on their planes and they always treat us so nice” she countered.

Susan was right. We were always treated nice by Delta, and they’ve been a good airline to have elite status with. But things have changed.

I’ve been a Delta Medallion elite for the last 10 years – alternating between Platinum and Diamond at different times. After 10 years I’m what you might call an expert user. In the past the benefits had been mostly good, especially in the beginning. After the changes during the last few years the benefits have been really watered down, and/or, completely eliminated by Delta. Originally the benefits I found so attractive were:

  • Complimentary Medallion First-class Upgrades
  • Complimentary Preferred Seats including Economy Plus (up to 8 individuals including yourself on the same PRN)
  • Rollover Miles
  • Hefty Flight Miles (including elite bonuses)
  • Priority Check-In, Security and Boarding
  • Dedicated Elite Phone Line
  • Priority Treatment During IRROPS
  • Choice Benefits including System Wide Upgrades and being able to locate them on Expert Flyer.
  • Waived Baggage Fees
  • Waived Award Redeposit/Reissue Fees
  • Choice Benefits to select system wide upgrades

Along the way I also picked up the AMEX Delta Reserve Card. It really worked well with my travel patterns because: 1) After 30k and then 60K in spend I would receive the 15K and another 15K in additional MQMs. This really helped with maintain elite status on busy years. 2) It gave me (and 2 guests) access to the Delta Sky Club. Sure $450 was a high annual fee, but hey, I really valued my Delta Platinum Status and this card really dovetailed into my program.

During the last several years’ things have really changed. Delta starting selling first class seats (FCM – First Class Monetization). The program changed to a revenue based model. Sky Club access became really expensive for a full membership and Delta downgraded the Delta AMEX Reserve card to an individual membership. Delta did away with their published award charts, and took away visibility of its flight information from ExpertFlyer. These changes, as well others, have made the program very opaque to its own Medallion members.

The most recent changes by Delta include the substantial paring of the Comfort+ seating benefits from the platinum and diamond members. Formally a platinum/diamond member automatically received any available Comfort+ seating for themselves, as well as, eight more passengers traveling on the same itinerary. After May 16th 2016 this benefit was eliminated. Platinum/Diamond members now have to go through additional steps to “upgrade” themselves to Comfort+ seats (pending inventory) and have zero guesting privileges.

Because of these changes Medallion status with Delta is significantly less valuable.  Today the program benefits that I value have been shorted to:

  • Dedicated Elite Phone Line
  • Priority Treatment During IRROPS
  • Waived Award Redeposit/Reissue Fees
  • Choice Benefits to select Regional or Global upgrades.

Rollover miles are not the advantage they once were because the program itself is so much less valuable. TSA PreCheck has superseded the priority security benefits and waved baggage fees that are easy enough to get with a Delta credit card.

I’ll discuss my how these changes have convinced me to make changes in my long term plans for airline elite status on part 2 of this post.

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