Want SkyTeam Elite Status? Ditch Delta Medallion Status For Flying Blue
For those seeking SkyTeam elite status, I recommend that you give up on Delta Medallion status and pursue Flying Blue instead. Why? We’ll look at the 2 programs and compare the path to elite status. After breaking down how to earn status in the 2 programs, I think you’ll agree with me that SkyTeam status is much simpler through Flying Blue than Delta Medallion.
Delta Medallion Status
Those from the US are probably familiar with Delta Medallion and are vaguely aware of status in this program. With Delta’s myriad of credit card offerings and elevated welcome offers, we’re at least more familiar with this program from the start. However, earning status in the Delta SkyMiles program is not as simple as “fly lots of miles, get status”. On this page, Delta outlines how to earn Medallion status. You need a combination of multiple elements.
MQDs – Medallion Qualification Dollars
They waste no time letting you know there’s a dollar sign in the status qualification. You need to spend a certain amount, in order to qualify. These MQDs are based on how much you spend with Delta.
The lowest threshold is $3,000 for Silver Medallion status, and Diamond requires $15,000. You can waive these requirements if you spend $25,000 in a year on a Delta credit card.
Because there is a dollar / spending requirement, this means that finding a great deal on a fare saves you money but doesn’t help you add up to the necessary spending requirement.
MQMs – Medallion Qualification Miles
Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) are the part you probably think of. Fly with your butt in the seat and earn miles. Some things count for more, like a first class seat will earn more miles than a basic economy seat. Some Delta credit cards, like the American Express Delta Reserve Credit Card (read review here), will give you some MQMs to start with when you open the card. Once you meet a certain threshold (Silver, for example), if you don’t earn enough to get to Gold, your ‘extra’ MQMs beyond the Silver requirement will roll over to next year to help get you started.
MQSs – Medallion Qualification Segments
Instead of miles, you could earn status via segments. Each flight is a segment. If you fly from Orlando to Atlanta to St. Louis, that’s 2 flights. 2 segments toward your MQS requirement.
Putting It All Together
For Delta Medallion status, you need a combination of flying (miles or segments) and spending (dollars spent with them or on your Delta credit card).
Flying Blue Status
Flying Blue is the combined program of several airlines: Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways, and a few you might not be familiar with (Transavia, Aircalin, & TAROM). Rather than the flights + segments path to earn Delta Medallion status, you earn Flying Blue status through XP–experience points.
Earning XP (Experience Points)
You earn XP through flights. Fly farther=more XP. Fly in a higher class=more XP. There is no dollar value associated to this, which means getting a great deal (saving money) helps you achieve status more efficiently. XPs are earned by flight distance and travel cabin according to this chart.
XP are earned according to distance (across the top) and flight cabin (down the left side). You can see distances in the chart, or you can use the calculator here to find out what your flight counts as.
You also can open the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard from Bank of America to earn more XP. Upon account approval, you get 60XP to start with. Each year on your account anniversary, you get 20XP.
Domestic Flights Are Worthless
The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s a separate category for “domestic” flights. Given that the program is based on airlines from France, Netherlands & Kenya, those domestic flights are pretty short. However, for those in the US and Canada, this is a disadvantage. Boston to Seattle or Vancouver to Toronto earning just 2XP doesn’t help you much.
International Flights Are Where It’s At
International flights move you out of the “domestic” slot and into the others that earn much better rates of XP. You’ll also notice that flying in a higher cabin earns more XP. If you can find a great deal on a business class flight crossing into another country, you save money while earning status faster. You can often find short flights like Seattle-Vancouver or Detroit-Toronto for $150 one-way in business class. $150-200 for getting from Florida or Texas down to Mexico. Any of these flights will earn 15XP one way, 30XP round trip. Before the border closed for the pandemic, Detroit, Seattle & New York had cheap, short flights to Canadian cities for these prices, as well. Watch for those to come back!
Another good example is the image above. This round-trip business class deal is $440 in lie-flat seats from New York to Bogota, Colombia. $440 round trip would earn you 48XP, since it’s Long 1. That’s basically half way to Silver.
While finding a great deal on higher cabins helps you, a word of warning: be sure to check the earning rates on Flying Blue. Deeply discounted premium economy fares with partners may only credit as regular economy. Be sure to check the details.
Here’s what you need for Flying Blue status qualification:
- 100 XP for Silver status
- 180 XP for Gold status
- 300 XP for Platinum status
The Math Matters
Not only do you need to keep track of the XP you earn, you need to track the calendar. When you move up to a higher level, you have 15 months of that status. However, you need to re-qualify for that status within 12 months, meaning you get to enjoy it for a little longer even if you didn’t do enough to keep it. Remember: 15 months to enjoy it, 12 months to do enough to keep it for next year.
When you move up to a new level, the XP required for it are taken away from you. It’s like you are buying the status. However, you do keep the extras to keep moving forward. If you get to 105 XP, they take 100 XP from you to earn Silver status, but you keep 5 to help you work toward Gold or re-qualify for Silver.
So, why do I think you should ditch Delta Medallion status and go for Flying Blue status with SkyTeam? Here’s a comparison.
Both programs allow you to credit flights from partners for the sake of segments / miles flown. Both programs are part of the SkyTeam alliance, so you can fly on any of the partner airlines while working on your status. You can fly KLM while working on Delta status and can fly Delta while working on Flying Blue. That part doesn’t matter. However, while Delta will often slash what you earn when booking/flying their partners, XP are still XP if you’re flying in the correct cabin. You don’t need to fly a certain number of Air France/KLM flights as a bare minimum to qualify!
You cannot save money while meeting Delta’s spending requirement. You must spend at least $3,000 minimum (Silver status, more for higher levels). Even without the credit card from Bank of America, I could do some short, international business class flights and earn Silver status with Flying Blue for roughly $1,500. You don’t have to spend x amount of money with Flying Blue, so finding a good deal actually helps you.
Number Of Flight Requirements
While Delta’s program has a requirement for a number of flights or miles, Flying Blue doesn’t. Just get enough XP. You could make a round-trip booking in first class that’s over 5,000 miles. Fly out, fly back…Silver status is done. Should you do that? Not really, but the point is that you don’t have to meet a certain number of flights. It’s advantageous to earn more XP on each flight to make it go faster.
Pluses & Minuses
While there are some down sides to this, I think they are overcome. Firstly, when you earn miles with Delta from a credit card and go to redeem them for free flights, your Delta account will be associated with the flight. Thus, you won’t have your status perks from Flying Blue (upgrades, for example). This would matter for longer award flights booked into economy. If you redeem for economy plus or business class, it won’t really matter. The question becomes how often you redeem awards with Delta miles for long-haul flights in economy and are depending on upgrades. If that’s “all the time”, it can matter. If not, I think Flying Blue is a better program for status’ sake.
Domestic flights / basic economy flights are also worth noting, due to checked baggage. If your status is with Flying Blue, but you redeem miles from Delta, your status won’t get you free checked bags. The account on that ticket is your Delta account. However, simply holding a qualifying Delta credit card would take care of this.
Additionally, Flying Blue awards can be puzzling. That’s true. Delta is a bit better on this, but not by a ton. Both have dynamic pricing, where the number of miles you need for a flight can change constantly. There is no set redemption table. While I find that Flying Blue’s awards sometimes make less sense than Delta’s, you can still find great awards for redemption. And you can also have miles in both programs to use whichever one is better for your next trip.
Winner: Flying Blue
1 category is the same. Another category highlights that both have strengths & weaknesses. The other 2 (which I find most important) are heavily skewed in favor of Flying Blue. You can achieve status with them in fewer flights and with less money spent.
While we are likely more familiar with Delta’s program, I think pursuing Medallion status is not worth it. If you want to achieve status within the SkyTeam program, Flying Blue is better. It requires less money and less flights. Then, when you fly in North America with Delta or Aeromexico, they will still recognize your status from Flying Blue to give you upgrades, free checked bags, lounge access, etc.
I find the “must spend x” disadvantageous to the customer. From the airlines’ perspective, it can make sense to make sure those earning elite perks are spending big money with you. For me as a consumer, I can’t get behind the idea of “finding a discount hurts your progress”. If you’re looking to earn elite status with SkyTeam, Delta Medallion status will cost more and take more work than earning status with Flying Blue. If you’re getting status for free, because your work pays for a bunch of Delta flights, that’s awesome. For anyone out their spending your own money, see if Flying Blue is a better option for you.