What is Delta elite status worth (now that Global Upgrade certs are worth less)?

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Most airlines offer extra benefits to their most valuable customers. This is usually handled through elite status. If you fly enough with an airline, you can become “elite”. Of course, not all elites are equal. Most airlines have multiple elite tiers to differentiate their valuable customers from their really valuable customers. And, of course, airlines offer the best perks to their highest tier elites.

Delta does the same. They offer elite status tiers ranging from Silver status to Diamond status. Silver status perks are slightly better than those you get from holding a Delta branded credit card. Diamond perks, though, are very nice.

Since this post was last published, I’ve decreased the estimated value of Diamond elite status because Global upgrade certificates became less valuable. Delta will no longer confirm an upgrade in advance from cheap economy to Delta One business class. Instead, Delta will immediately upgrade you to Premium Economy and then put you on the upgrade list to business class 24 hours before your flight.  Full details about these changes (both good and bad) can be found here.  Ironically, the last time I updated this post was when I increased the estimated value of both regional and global upgrade certificates.  I had done so because both can now be applied to award tickets (huge value improvement!) and you can now see upgrade availability online (huge ease of use improvement!).  Luckily, those improvements are still in place.  Details hereNote that I did NOT reduce value estimates based on current pandemic travel conditions. This post is intended to estimate the value of elite status during normal times…

Delta Elite Status
Delta’s top level Diamond Elites can choose global upgrade certificates as a choice benefit. These can be used to upgrade from discount economy to lie-flat business seats on international flights, but upgrades to Delta One business class are no longer confirmed in advance unless starting with a Premium Economy ticket.

Lets take a look at Delta’s requirements for each elite tier…

Delta Elite Status Requirements

Delta Elite Status
Definitions:
  • MQMs: Medallion Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown. It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights. MQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • MQMs are earned on both paid flights with Delta or Delta partners where the flight is credited to your Delta account, and award flights booked through (and flying) Delta.
  • MQSs: Medallion Qualifying Segments are the number of segments flown. Unless you fly a very large number of short flights, you are unlikely to earn elite status through MQSs.
  • MQDs: Medallion Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your base-fare spend (e.g. doesn't include taxes) on Delta-marketed flights.
Explanation:
In general, to reach each elite tier, Delta SkyMiles members must earn the stated number of MQMs or MQSs and spend the targeted amount of MQDs. In other words, its not enough to just fly far or often, you also need to spend a lot of money with Delta.
Additional Details:
  • Award Tickets: Flights booked with Delta SkyMiles for Delta's own flights earn MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs.  Award tickets earn MQDs at a rate of 1 MQD per 100 SkyMiles redeemed (e.g. 1 cent per SkyMile).
  • Partner Flights: Paid flights booked on Delta partners earn MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs as long as the member's Delta SkyMiles number is attached to the ticket.  MQDs are calculated as a percentage of miles flown rather than the amount paid.  Details, by partner, can be found here.
  • Rollovers: Most airlines require that you fully re-earn status every calendar year. Delta is mostly that way too, but with one exception: as long as you earn Silver status or higher, any MQMs not used to reach status are rolled over to the next year. For example, if you earn 70,000 MQMs and meet Gold MQD requirements, you’ll earn Gold status (at 50,000 MQMs), and 20,000 MQMs will be rolled over to the next year to give you a jump start towards re-qualifying.
  • MQD Waiver: There’s an easy exception to the MQD requirement for Platinum status and below: Simply spend $25,000 or more with Delta branded credit cards and the MQD requirement goes away.  This feature requires having a Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve card, but the spend can be on other cards (such as Delta Blue or Delta Gold) or mixed across Delta cards.  Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve credit cards offer bonus MQMs for high spend, so it is possible to tackle both requirements (MQMs and MQDs) through spend without setting foot on a plane. Unfortunately, Delta requires $250,000 in credit card spend (across all Delta cards you have) to get a MQD waiver for top tier Diamond status.

Elite Benefits

Delta’s descriptions of elite benefits can be found here. Here's a summarized chart:
SILVER GOLD PLATINUM DIAMOND
Miles per dollar earned on paid flights 7 8 9 11
Free domestic upgrades to 1st Class Begins 24 hours before departure Begins 72 hours before departure Begins 120 hours before departure Begins 120 hours before departure
Free domestic upgrades to Comfort+ 24 hours before departure 72 hours before departure Shortly after ticketing Shortly after ticketing
CLEAR membership discount price $109 $109 $109 Free
Dedicated phone line Priority High Priority Higher Priority VIP Line
Free companion upgrades
Free preferred seat selection
Waived bag fees
Waived same day confirmed or standby change fees
Sky Priority boarding
Sky Priority expedited checked bags
Sky Team lounge access on international flights
Hertz elite status Five Star President's Circle President's Circle
Waived change & cancellation fees regardless of route
Choice Benefits: Choose 1: Choose 3:
Bonus miles 20K 25K
Gift medallion status Silver Gold
Gift card
Sky Club access
Upgrade certificates 4 Regional 4 Global (or 8 Regional or 2 Global & 4 Regional)
The elite benefits I’ve personally found to be most valuable are:
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades (when available, upgrade from coach to first class on domestic flights). Higher status leads to better chance of upgrades.
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees and waived same-day standby fees (switch to different flight on same day as ticketed flight). Requires Gold or higher.  Info about getting value from same day changes can be found here: Leveraging Delta’s Same Day Flight Changes.
  • Complementary Preferred seat selection (choose exit row seats with lots of legroom)
  • Complementary Comfort+ Seats (more leg room, free drinks, better snacks).
  • Regional upgrade certificates. Puts you to the front of the line for regional upgrades. This is great to use for flights where upgrades are most important to you. For example, I use these for flights of about 3 hours or longer. This is a choice benefit for Platinum and Diamond status.  Upgrade certificates can be applied to both paid and award tickets.
  • Global upgrade certificates. Use these to upgrade from coach to business class on any international flight when upgrade space is available. Delta will no longer confirm an upgrade in advance from cheap economy to Delta One business class. Instead, Delta will immediately upgrade you to Premium Economy and then put you on the upgrade list to business class 24 hours before your flight. This is a choice benefit for Diamond status only.  Upgrade certificates can be applied to both paid and award tickets.
  • Free award changes and cancellations. This used to be huge, but now all awards originating in North America are free to change or cancel.  Requires Platinum or higher for free changes on awards originating outside of North America.

What is Delta elite status worth?

Subjective Value

The value you get from elite status is extremely subjective.  If you get more legroom, what is that worth?  To a very tall person, it’s probably worth a lot, but to a shorter frequent flyer, not as much.  Elite status value is also extremely dependent upon how often you fly.  The more you fly, the more you’ll benefit from elite perks.

My approach to estimating the value of each level of Delta elite status is to start with a subjective valuation for bottom tier Silver status, and then add estimates for the incremental benefit that each higher level adds.  In a previous post, I estimated that someone who flies enough to earn Silver status may value that status at $260.  Most readers thought that I had drastically undervalued aspects of Silver status.  My approach, though, is not to estimate the total value received, but rather, how much would you reasonably pay for these benefits if they were available through subscription.  For example, you may get $400 in value from flights in which you were upgraded to first class, but you probably wouldn’t pay $400 per year just for the chance of being upgraded that often.

Delta Silver Status Value: $200

  • Free Upgrades to First Class: $75
    Rationale: While Silver status first class upgrades aren’t common, they’re great when they come through.
  • Free Upgrades to Comfort+: $50
    Rationale: For some, the free alcoholic drinks in Comfort+ can be valuable.  If you’re not a drinker, it’s probably worth less than $50.
  • Complementary Preferred Seats: $25
    Rationale: I punted on this and simply estimated half the Comfort+ value.  Note that a number of readers in my previous post on this topic thought that I had far undervalued this benefit.
  • Waived bag fees: $50
    Rationale: This is the hardest one to estimate. If you already have a Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve credit card, then you already get a free checked bag.  How much is a 2nd bag worth?  Probably not much to most frequent flyers.  But the value isn’t zero.  Having Silver status means that you could optionally drop the Delta credit card and still get free checked bags.  That’s worth something. On the other hand, this feature could be quite valuable for those who don’t have a Delta credit card.  You could save a lot of money, especially when traveling with a group (everyone on the itinerary with you, up to 8 guests, gets a free bag).  But it would be wrong to value it more than the $95 annual fee on the Delta Gold credit card since that’s an alternative way to get the same benefit.  So I picked half of $95 and rounded up.
  • Earn 7 miles per dollar on paid flights (2X more than no-status): $30
    Rationale: If you spend $1,500 per year on Delta flights (half the amount required for Silver status MQDs), then this benefit is worth an extra 3,000 SkyMiles.  If we conservatively value each mile at 1 cent, then this works out to a $30 benefit.
  • Total: $230

Gut Check: If I had no status, but was about to fly often on Delta, would I pay $230 per year for Silver status?  Truthfully, that feels just a bit too high, so I’m arbitrarily reducing the value to an amount I think I would pay in that situation: $200

Delta Silver Status Value: $200

Delta Gold Status Value: $200 (Silver) + $200 (incremental Gold benefits) = $400

Looking only at the incremental advantages of Gold over Silver:

  • Free Upgrades to First Class Beginning 72 Hours Before Departure: $30
    Rationale: This is my subjective incremental valuation given that Gold elites are more likely to get upgraded than Silver elites.
  • Free Upgrades to Comfort+ Beginning 72 Hours Before Departure: $30
    Rationale: Gold elites are more likely to find Comfort+ seats available than Silver members (thanks to clearing 72 hours in advance), so this feature is worth a bit more at the Gold level.
  • Waived Same Day Confirmed or Standby Change Fees: $50
    Rationale: I love this feature, especially when I’m already booked into first class.  First class same day changes have fewer restrictions and so it’s usually possible to pick your preferred flight of the day even if you paid for the cheapest flight of the day.
  • SkyPriority Boarding: $10
    Rationale: If you have carry-on bags, this can be key to getting on the plane before luggage space fills up.  I didn’t value this higher, though, because most of Delta’s newer retrofits include large luggage bins that reduce the chance of running out of space.
  • SkyTeam Lounge Access on International Flights: $25
    Rationale: I valued this pretty low only because many readers may not fly internationally very often.  Additionally, there are many Delta fliers on international flights who would get access to the SkyTeam Lounge anyway: Business class (Delta One) fliers get automatic access. Delta Reserve (and Amex Platinum, but not Delta Platinum) cardholders get free access to the Delta SkyClub when flying Delta.  If the exceptions don’t fit you or your flying patterns, then you may want to value this much higher yourself.
  • Hertz 5 Star Elite Status: $25
    Rationale: It’s nice to get free upgrades and access to Hertz’ 5 Star Aisle (pick your own car) when available.
  • Earn 8 miles per dollar on paid flights (1X more than Silver): $30
    Rationale: I valued Silver at $30 based on Silver earning 2 miles per dollar more than non-elites, so that would argue for valuing this at only $15 (since the extra earnings are only 1X more).  However, we can also assume that Gold elites fly more often than Silver and so it seems reasonable to assign $30 here.
  • Total: $200

Gut Check: If I had Silver status, would I pay $200 to jump to Gold status?  Definitely.  If anything, the valuation should be higher, but I prefer to keep my valuations conservative.

Delta Gold Status Value: $200 (Silver) + $200 (incremental Gold benefits) = $400

Delta Platinum Status Value: $400 (Gold) + $600 (incremental Platinum benefits) = $1,000

Looking only at the incremental advantages of Platinum over Gold:

  • Free Upgrades to First Class Beginning 120 Hours Before Departure: $50
    Rationale: This is my subjective valuation of the incremental chance of getting upgraded as a Platinum elite rather than a Gold elite.
  • Free Upgrades to Comfort+ Shortly After Ticketing: $50
    Rationale: Getting the upgrade to Comfort+ immediately after ticketing is a big benefit since it’s then possible to pick your flight based on which one has the best Comfort+ seats available.  Additionally, Comfort+ often gets filled up, so you’ll have much better luck getting into Comfort+ as a Platinum elite than Gold.
  • Dedicated Higher Priority Phone Line: $20
    Rationale: I don’t have any way of knowing how much better the Platinum “higher priority” phone line is than the Gold “high priority”. But I guess I’d throw in at least $20 for the promise of better phone service.
  • Hertz President’s Circle Elite Status: $25
    Rationale: I have no good way of knowing how much better President’s Circle status is compared to 5 Star status, so this estimate is a complete guess.
  • Earn 9 miles per dollar on paid flights (1X more than Gold): $30
    Rationale: Same reasoning as Gold, above.
  • Waived award change/cancel fees: $20
    Delta offers free award changes and cancellations to everyone for flights from North America.  Platinum elites, though, get free award changes and cancellations for all awards regardless of the flight departure point. Those who often book award flights that originate outside of North America may see a lot of value in this benefit.  I wouldn’t be willing to pay much, in advance, for this extra capability, but I’d throw in $20.
  • Choice Benefits: $400
    Rationale: My favorite Platinum Choice Benefit is the 4 regional upgrade certificates. Now that it’s possible to find upgrades online and apply upgrades to award tickets, these certificates are worth more than ever before.  I’ve argued before that they’re worth $100 each, but later backed off that estimate.  With the latest enhancements, though, I’m back to my original estimate: $100 x 4 = $400.  See also: Best uses for Delta’s Regional Upgrade Certificates.
  • Total: $600

Gut Check: If I had Gold status, would I pay $600 to jump to Platinum status?  Yes, that seems reasonable to me.

Delta Platinum Status Value: $400 (Gold) + $600 (incremental Platinum benefits) = $1,000.

Delta Diamond Status Value: $1,000 (Platinum) + $1,500  (incremental Diamond benefits) = $2,500.

Looking only at the incremental advantages of Diamond over Platinum:

  • Free Upgrades to First Class Beginning 120 Hours Before Departure: $50
    Rationale: This is my subjective valuation of the incremental chance of getting upgraded as a Diamond elite rather than a Platinum elite.
  • Free CLEAR Membership: $50
    Rationale: I like having CLEAR since it speeds me through security even when TSA pre-check’s ID verification lines are very long.
  • Dedicated VIP Phone Line: $40
    Rationale: It’s great to have the phone answered right away when you call (note: this has not been the case during the pandemic, but hopefully it will become true again in the future).  Plus, they’re often willing to bend the rules for Diamond elites.
  • Earn 11 miles per dollar on paid flights (2X more than Platinum): $60
    Rationale: Since the difference between Platinum and Diamond is twice the difference between Gold and Platinum, I valued the incremental value at twice as much.
  • Choice Benefits: $2,250
    Rationale: When you reach Diamond status, you can choose three Choice Benefits.  In my opinion, the most valuable choice is the 4 global upgrade certificates that can be applied to any paid fare (when flying Delta or certain partners) or award ticket (when flying Delta marketed flights).  Other valuable choices include: Gift Gold status, Sky Club Individual Membership, Sky Club Guest Pass or Sky Club Executive Membership (the former requires that you have access from a credit card, the latter requires that you have an individual membership), and 25,000 SkyMiles.  I would pay up to $1,000 per year for the 4 global upgrade certificates (Due to no longer being able to advance confirm upgrades from economy to Delta One, $250 each is way down from the previous $400 each), up to $400 to gift Gold status, and up to $250 for 25,000 SkyMiles.  Those three add up to $1,650.
  • Total: $1,650

Gut Check: If I had Platinum status, would I pay $1,650 to jump to Diamond status?  That sounds a little high.  Is it too much?  I think it all hinges on whether or not you can get great value from the global upgrade certificates.  If you can, then $1,650 is arguably too low.  Otherwise, it’s too high.  My gut tells me to moderate the value downward. Adjusted valuation: $1,500 even.

Delta Diamond Status Value: $1,000 (Platinum) + $1,500 (incremental Diamond benefits) = $2,500.

Delta Elite Status Summary

Via the above subjective (very subjective) estimates, I came up with the following valuation for what Delta elite status is worth (e.g. how much would I pay to reach each level?):

  • Delta Silver Status: $200
  • Delta Gold Status Value: $400
    $200 (Silver) + $200 (incremental Gold benefits)
  • Delta Platinum Status Value: $1,000
    $400 (Gold) + $600 (incremental Platinum benefits)
  • Delta Diamond Status Value: $2,500
    $1,000 (Platinum) + $1,500 (incremental Diamond benefits)

Keep in mind that these estimates are determined by imagining a reasonable price to pay up front for the status (if that were possible). The only reason to pay up front would be with the expectation of getting more value than you paid.  So, frequent Delta flyers with similar biases to my own should get considerably more value from their status than the dollar amounts shown here.

What is Delta elite status worth: Conclusion

High level Delta elite status can be extremely valuable, but any dollar estimate of the value is highly subjective.  The value you get will depend upon how much the perks are worth to you, how much you could have paid for the benefit outright, and how often you fly Delta.  The more you fly, the more valuable your status will be.

See also: Manufacturing Delta elite status in 2020 and beyond

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NK3

It is always interesting to see how others value elite status. Having been Diamond Medallion since 2016, a few reasons I value it more:

Earnings: Adding up the values in each section, it looks like you value 11x earnings at $150. Since I earn a minimum of 15k MQD per year, and I get 6x extra Skymiles per dollar than a general member, I earn an extra 90k Skymiles per year. Even if you value Skymiles at 1 cent/mile, that is $900.

Comfort/First upgrades: Adding up values in each section, it looks like this is $335. As a tall person, I value this way way higher. Even taking a short regional flight on a LCC in Europe, I always pay more for extra legroom seats. While first class upgrades have gotten rarer over the years, the ability to lock in a comfort seat at booking is huge for me.

Bags: For me, the main reason to have an Amex Delta Gold card is for bags. I would value this benefit at least at $99. Plus with status you can get more bags, heavier bags and (supposedly) priority bag handling.

Upgrade certs: Always hard to judge these. This year I used my RUC to lock in lie flat suites (A330-900neo) to Hawaii, and my GUC to get business class seats on KLM from the US to Cape Town, South Africa. So I probably value the Choice benefits a little more, even though the certs are more restrictive than before.

All totaled, I have always said I would pay $4000 to have Diamond Medallion status, and I think that is still true. I think it is good to have a semi-quantitative estimate, because after years of being Diamond, there is an odd emotional component. The “surprise and delight” factor has hooked me in over the years, with better compensation when things go wrong, having local airport staff know you, the rare airside Porsche transfers, etc.

Sam

Thanks for the insight! So, what you are saying is you would spend $4,000 somehow to maintain your Diamond status each year? Thanks again!

NK3

More or less, yes, I would pay $4000.

I am super geeky about it, but I calculate a “relative return” on every ticket. This includes the miles earned from the airline and credit card, but also the progress towards status. Since I value status at $4000, I say I can spend an extra $2000 to get the MQDs (125K) and $2000 to get the MQMs ($15k). So for example, if I paid $1500 for ticket which earned me 12500 MQMs, it would get me 10% of the MQDs ($200) and 10% of the MQMs ($200) needed for status for that year. So if the Delta flight was $1500 and a similar United flight was $1100, the Delta flight has $400 more in relative value to me.

I usually make a vacation or two out of a “mileage run” each year to maintain Diamond status (I would not hit it organically), so I use these calculations to justify to myself if a particular trip is worth it or not.

DSK

Would appreciate some assistance. I am Delta Gold solely through credit card and would have been Platinum but for the five international Delta flights I have cancelled during the past two years. How exactly do upgrades work on Delta? If I have an aisle seat in coach, would Delta auto-upgrade me to a window or middle seat in Comfort + 72 hours before departure? If I decline the upgrade on the app in advance, can I then choose a Comfort + seat within 72 hours of departure or do I need to wait until check in 24 hours before departure or do I need to wait until I get to the airport? Keeping my aisle seat is more important to me than the extra three inches of legroom, but would prefer to get both if possible. Also, how does their auto-upgrade process work when travelling with a spouse (who is sitting next to me in coach)?

Austin

For at least just you, you can select seat preferences for Comfort+ and only accept the upgrade if an aisle is available. In the app or online, there’s a box you check/uncheck for that.

Not sure on traveling with a companion but would have to imagine it might split you and then have to play the musical chairs game to get reseated next to each other.

Harry

First I’m retired. Second I’m quite sure I’ve been flying Delta (born north Georgia) much longer than most going back to props and walking straight through the small ATL terminal to the tarmac up the steps to a DC prop. Third, I’m a million miler so lowly silver for life. However, earning more MQMs start at zero, not 25K as I think it should so why do it? Fourth, in my past remark to Greg over 1st upgrades, my experience has been what you pay for a ticket is almost up to Diamond for priority. Lastly, currently flying international on points is crazy, so I guess I have to “waste them” domestically. Again I’m retired and usually fly 1st, definitely when using points. Give me any of the international carrier’s FF program over our big three for points value. Oh, I get these sexy bag tags with a big 1 M on them…whoopee!

DSK

Youngster! Started flying into Atlanta to see family around 1960 and remember when the new terminal opened 42 years ago and those long escalators didn’t work and the robot voice told you to “Please Move to the Center of the Vehicle and Away from the Doors”. Lived in Atlanta for a decade in the 1980s. Key problem with Delta to me is that they trashed their frequent flyer program, which used to be excellent (still have my Delta Gold Medallion brag tags). Just difficult to get the same value out of it compared with American and United, which I have found very useful through the years, particularly international.

Reno Joe

If a person only books domestic first or Delta One and only books with points, given the perks in those cabins, is it safe to say that elite status is not worth pursuing? Assume lounge access is otherwise covered.

Harry

For the most part 100% agree. However, domestic first is almost worthless except for getting on and off the plane quicker. That’s about it for me but do love a good bourbon/water, but about one is all that’s offered these days and on the ground almost never. Delta One, if Delta does not get off this 495,000 points to Europe, I guess I’ll have to burn my many miles domestically which in the past I hardly ever. Lounge, yes Amex Platinum.

Aloha808

Are you still going to pursue Delta Diamond status Greg?

BetNel

I have Delta Platinum status as well as the AE Delta Reserve credit card. Both of these should give me priority for seat assignments & upgrades. My recent experiences with Delta having these 2 ‘status’ elements has been less than satisfying. I paid for 2 tickets in main cabin & did get upgraded to comfort+ outbound. However, on the return flight (same plane type) my seat was changed to main cabin & I was separated from my traveling companion. Another benefit of a ‘dedicated’ help line took over an hour to sort out the seats.
On these same flights, a passenger had PAID for 1st class but was bumped to main cabin & separated from his travel partner. He complained enough that a uniformed airline employee voluntarily moved to main cabin (non-rev psngr takes a seat from a revenue psngr?).
My opinion – I’m considering closing my Delta reserve card for 2 reasons: the promised benefits are not uniformly applied and I feel like I can have a greater than 1X earnings rate from other cards on non-airline spend.

Captain Ron

Greg,
I first qualified for Platinum status last year (was Silver for several years) so now have RUC’s in my SkyMiles account. I have found them very difficult to use. There is good availability on short 1-2 hour flights. However, I’m on the East coast and have family in Seattle; there is almost no availability to use RUC’s (unless one flies overnight and has 2 stops). Any advice on getting good use from RUCs? Very disappointing.

Reno Joe

Cap, the same is the case with system wide upgrade (SWU) certificates on AA.

At AA, Revenue Management has two sides to a given booking code: cash and award. On routes with F, one can always book F for cash and F for points (at the F points rate).

At a point in time, RM releases a certain number of seats to A. BUT, it only releases those seats to A revenue and not to A award / upgrade. And, on certain premium routes RM might never release seats to A award / upgrade (which would be at lower points rates).

In the end, for practical purposes, SWU certificates are unusable on juicy routes. And, practical use of SWUs are relegated to mediocre routes.

If I had to guess, the same thing is happening at Delta . . . and other airlines.

Stefan Krasowski (@rapidtravelchai)

Yesterday, two Delta experiences (am a Diamond): (1) first time that I can remember that a SDC went through from a low price award ticket and (2) a SEA-ATL leg was not available for RUC, only GUC due to only that fare code available. I did not realize this nuance on RUC-eligible flights that they can only be available for GUC depending on upgrade fare code availability. The agent said, “You wouldn’t want to waste your GUC on that flight.” No, and also not to pay double to triple the typical ticket price to book into premium select (which looks barely indistinguishable from regular economy) just to use a GUC. I have way devalued Diamond for my purposes. Also, not related to the status, the broken partner award pricing engine and partner availability across the board abysmal compared to OneWorld and Star Alliance the past two years.

Darin

The inability to see RUC availability on the website is a major backtrack for DL for both Platinums and Diamonds. The requirement for GUC availability on domestic flights is so broad that they shouldn’t even bother to show it on the website, meanwhile RUC availability is extremely limited and it’s now impossible to find the needles in the haystack. It’s not helpful to see every flight available for upgrade when the vast majority of customers will never want to use their certs in this manner.

khatl

I think your valuation of GUC’s is way too high. I get it IF you actually get an upgrade… but the issue is the “if”. Delta doesn’t make a single seat available on many flights for the use of GUC’s, even on the day that the ticks are first released 331 days out. I called for months on using GUC’s from ATL-NRT using a +/- 1 week in February, and the only route consistently available was thru HNL. There was some spotty availability eventually thru MSP… but that was it. Nothing on any other routing ever. Being waitlisted for the upgrade is worthless. Who wants to waitlist a 15 hr flight in the “hope” of an upgrade.

Miamiorbust

You’re valuation is way too low. If you fly frequently, you are likely on an expense account. Couldn’t care less about free drink or even the meal in first. Buy what you want. However, the ability to choose exit row seat is hugely valuable. Not all employer will pay for seat assignments. And to be guaranteed not to have 4 year old kid next to you – priceless. More legroom than first class. On most although not all configuration you can still keep bag under seat in front of you. Easily worth $20+ per flight. Even low level elite that alone is 2x your valuation of status.

Sam

Greg- Safe to assume you do not have plans to spend your way to Diamond any longer? Just curious and thank you!

J P

My wife has access to Delta Skyclubs through a credit card. Can I use a Diamond choice benefit to get her the Skyclub guest pass (she travels with friends more than I do)?

Merry Chris Moss

Re: Gold-“Waived Same Day Confirmed or Standby Change Fees: $50
Rationale: I love this feature, especially when I’m already confirmed into first class. First class same day changes have fewer restrictions.”

That’s slightly incorrect as you can be confirmed in F through a complimentary upgrade and not receive the same SDC flexibility. Should probably clarify the flexibility is with paid F, awards in F, or if confirmed by a RUC or GUC, and only domestically with the exception being international tickets with only domestic segs remaining.

rich

Does anyone know if you can use the free night Hilton certificates at Waldorf Astoria ?

ffI

All right you have reassessed the value of Diamond for your needs.
As you have pointed out, cost of lost cash w BofA Visa + Plat honors = 2.625c / $ spend
Even in the new system with all bonuses – the cost of DM is too high for a high Amex spender.
75k MQM for spending 120k = at least 3150$
55k MQM for spending 90k = at least 2350$
Total = 5500$
Value of DL miles = 210k = 2100$
Real cost about 3500$ for DM, not worthwhile for anyone
It may be cheaper to buy the upgrades

The loss of extra value of free award changes is a huge negative to status with Any Airline – time to just fly the cheapest and put up with a few hours in economy once in a while. or buy the cheap business class tickets

renzhen

Greg, most airlines offer free change/cancellations for award tickets. One thing I am a little confused is the expiration date of a changed/cancelled award ticket. They say the ticket is valid for one year from date of original purchase. Does that mean the revised travel has to be completed within a year too or you can book beyond that time frame? Second, what if I still do not want to travel within a year, and then do I have to pay to get the miles back? Thanks.

Skor

I have the same question

Harry M Lothridge

As a lowly silver for life (million miler), my experience before the virus was simple. It’s what you pay for your ticket. I would buy comfort class like 14-21 days out at a decent price and probably had a 50% chance of being upgraded to 1st on my return (for me when it counted). I had a lot of diamonds next to me or talking in boarding line, but here I was silver.

Harry M Lothridge

I read the same sometime in the past. Supposedly, elites are first then $$$ second. However, it’s hard to argue with, “cash is king” as it were. In this day and age where all businesses are trying to capture as much cash as possible, IMO Delta would be more apt now to put one in the front of the bus on a good cash ticket.

As I’ve posted before, MQM mean nothing to me. The first 25,000 MQMs, tickets or card spend, go to silver status. Hey, I’m there already yearly. So those MQMs are wasted. Hard to bite that bullet and I’ve complained to both Delta and AmEx. So my Reserve card (2 years) will have to go next year, 60K mileage retention and $100 card fee reduction renewal or not. I need one of the (4) AmEx credit card slots for a Marriott card when my Chase Marriott reaches 24 months.

Steve

I have to disagree with the choice benefit amount for diamond. The GUC are worth way more than 1700 when used right (and most people who earn them indeed use them right from what I see on Flyertalk) I know my own 2020 GUCs got me 2 D1 tickets with a savings of nearly 8K and last year I had almost 10K in savings with scoring the LAX-SYD at a last minute flight with a cheap Econ purchase

On top of that the automatic at booking free C+ upgrade saves me thousands of dollars a year especially on international flights where the upgrade is 100+ each way

Gene

@ Greg — Your math for the incremental value of extra RDM earned at each status is incorrect. Assuming you earn your MQD via BIS flying with Delta (not via flying with partners or via AMEX credit card waiver) and assuming each mile is worth 1 cent, the value of the extra RDM you earn at each status level are as follows:

Silver = 2x$3,000x.01 = $60
Gold = 3x$6,000x.01 = $180
Platinum = 4x$9,000x.01 = $360
Diamond = 6x$15,000x.01 = $900

Therefore, the incremental at each status level are as follows:

Silver = $60
Gold = $120
Platinum = $180
Diamond = $540

Gene

Excuse my poor editing of the words, but the numbers are correct! 🙂

Gene

Another point — these are the values assuming that you have said status all year. If you are newly qualifying, the values as you climb the ranks are $60, $30, $30, and $120 (similar to your numbers above)

Markj

I was a Diamond elite until last year and now I am Platinum. Getting close to 2,000,000 miles but probably not worth making a special push to get there. Being able to cancel award tickets for free was always a great perk. Many times I would book a flight to or from Asia with Skymiles only to replace it later with a premium cabin on another airline when seats opened up.

Raising prices on partner awards had a big impact on me. It was the last place of good value outside of award ticket flash sales.

I admire Delta as a company but it’s hold on me is fading…especially after they taught me…through lack of First Class Class upgrades…that flying domestically in an extra legroom seat is just fine.

[…] Greg the Frequent Miler is a Delta guy, and he recently wrote a very solid article, What Is Delta Elite Status Worth? I found Greg’s analysis to be very thoughtful (as usual for FM) and helpful. One of the […]

MarkG

Greg…a few questions. You wrote 4 Global Certificates can be used on paid tickets. That means they can’t be used on award tickets? Can you use them on alliance partners? Since you are Diamond…what would you say is the % of times that you are upgraded? Thanks

Foolishrunner Bill

You are seriously underestimating the value of platinum to get immediately into Comfort+ seating without having to pay the exorbitant fee increase from main cabin pricing to Comfort+. I save at least $150-200 each roundtrip and double that with my wife on the same reservation by buying main cabin only.

ASFDASDF

I GET COMFORT PLUS BY BEING NICE TO THE AGENTS, AND IF I WANT FIRST I BUY FIRST, UNLESS YOU ARE 6’1″ OR TALLER THERES ALMOST NO DIFFERENCE AND DONT TELL ME YOU CAN GET 50ML OF WHISKEY BIG DEAL

MSer

My wife is a 6-year consecutive BIS Delta Diamond and considers it entirely worthless for an international business traveler. Zero point zero added benefits as she never flies DL domestically. Absent her work schedule requiring her to use SkyTeam, she’d be back to Star Alliance in a heartbeat. For those of us on the West coast using award miles, Delta is far less useful (obscene amount of points), particularly as they consistently want to route thru their shitty east coast hubs rather than offering nonstops.

The notion some will get multiple Delta cards to “earn” Diamond is cringeworthy.

CaveDweller

Me too ORD.. Their call center is Trash but they were good from NCE to get me out months after the attacks and to a US connecting Flt. I never had anything on Delta that went right..
Glad it works for Greg .
CHEERs

Derek

I think Hertz benefit is quite undervalued, we easily get $0.12 to $0.15 in value per point. With the new earning structure with bonus percent points, 5 Star easily equals an EXTRA 3%-4% value back on each rental. President’s circle, 6-8% value back. Sure, if you don’t rent with Hertz, no value, but if you do President’s Circle can easily be an EXTRA $50-$100.

ASDFASDF

NATIONAL IS BETTER, I DON’T KNOW I GET GOOD DEALS AND USE AUTOSLASH AND PICK FROM EMERALD EXEC AISLE AND STUFF

Lazar

I have a platinum, Is there any chance of being upgraded from coach to business from us to Europe? and does it make a difference if it is a flying blue award ticket ?

losingtrader

It has a negative value if you’d fly first class anyway, because you have to fly Delta a hell of a lot , or spend a hell of a lot, to achieve top status.

losingtrader

My take is because you’ll likely be taking many less direct , less comfortable, or for those whose employers or clients pay, more expensive flights, just to earn status to do it all over again next year?

I’ll always take a nonstop in first versus a connection, and I’ll always take MINT over any other carrier on a direct route.
I’m certainly not putting spend on a DL card.

So , is there a valuation to the time spent connecting?

Am I missing something when you get as many, more valuable points booking the flight on the Amex Plat or Citi prestige as when you fly?

michael

Hey I received a pair of Delta Skymiles socks in the mail yesterday as a thank you for being a Medallion Member…gotta be worth something in your valuation 🙂

ASDFASFD

BACK UP YOUR STATION WAGON AT THE DELTA STORE AND YOU CAN BUY ALL SORTS OF KNICK KNACKS AT A DECENT PRICE

Brent Alexander

It’s hard to put a price on being on a canceled flight and the Diamond agent confirms you on the next flight (which is already oversold) and you make it home two hours late instead of the next day.

SDFASFD

ANECDOTAL STORY, IMPOSSIBLE TO VERIFY

Joe - former delta PL

It seems to me that the revenue premium to fly delta over other airlines should be accounted for in your estimated values.

Omatravel

With Hertz going to a pick you car model at many of it’s locations with better cars usually in the Elite areas I think you are undervaluing this especially for those who prefer SUVs to cars.