Is Delta Status Worth It?
Last year I decided to give myself a try at Delta status. With all of the covid rollovers and extensions I figured I could earn Delta status for several years with minimal effort, mainly since I had a big head start. I also thought it would be a good thing to track and see how well I did overall through the different tiers of status. The data points are anecdotal for sure, but it should hopefully help you answer the question, is Delta status worth it?
So much of your personal results will depend on what your home airport is and which routes you fly. I am based in Detroit, a pretty major Delta hub, so I had to fight with more elites than some others might. Routing plays just as big of a role too though, just try to get a first class upgrade to Florida these days!
I didn’t fly exclusively Delta Airlines because their prices were often no where near the best. If I had to guess I would say 30% – 35% of my flights were with Delta over the past 18 months or so.
These results will not be totally indicative of normal times since so many elites were rolled over. I am curious to see how 2023 goes in comparison, as I imagine some elites are dropping off the books. I did secure Platinum status once again for 2023 so I should be able to track the changes there, if any. Having said that, it probably won’t be pre-pandemic levels until 2024 though.
My Upgrade Results On Delta
Here are my results as a Delta elite over the last year plus. Once you take a look let me know how you would answer, is Delta status worth it?
I had Delta Silver status for one round trip flight before I finished the $25K spending waiver on my Delta Reserve card. Once that was completed I got bumped up to Platinum status. I had the MQMs for Platinum status but not the MQDs at the time of earning Silver status.
- Detroit to Baltimore – Comfort+ upgrade
- Baltimore to Detroit – Free preferred seat
I wonder if I got the comfort plus on the way to Baltimore with just Silver status because it was my first flight after earning status. It came pretty early, and I doubt the flight was that devoid of elites, but that is just a theory on my part.
Platinum Status With Delta Reserve
Now into the meat and potatoes of my status journey. I had a Delta Reserve for a good chunk of my flights, about half. Here are the results when I had Delta Platinum status while also carrying a Delta Reserve card:
- Detroit to Orlando – Comfort+
- Detroit to Washington DC (DCA) – First Class
- DCA to Detroit – Comfort+
- Detroit to Las Vegas – First Class
- Detroit to Baltimore – Comfort+
- Detroit to Las Vegas – First Class
- Las Vegas to Detroit – Comfort+ (this one stung since it was a redeye with lie flat beds in first)
As you can see I had much better luck departing Detroit versus coming home. I found this interesting. Most of my flights were on a Friday to Sunday time frame.
Platinum Status Without Delta Reserve
I ended up downgrading the Reserve to a Delta Platinum card half way through 2022 so we will get to see how the two compared somewhat. I chose to switch to the Delta Platinum card since I already had lounge access from my Amex Business Platinum and I preferred the $25K requirement for the MQM boost plus the improved earning structure on the card. I didn’t feel like the opportunity cost was as high spending on the Platinum since it earns 2X at grocery stores. Here are the results:
- Detroit to Baltimore (with companion) – Comfort+
- Seattle to Detroit (with companion) – Comfort+
- Detroit to St Louis (companion pass booking) – Comfort+
- St Louis to Detroit (companion pass booking) – Comfort+
- Detroit to Austin – Comfort+
- Austin to Detroit – Comfort+
Went 0 for on the first class upgrades after ditching the Delta Reserve. That is a bit misleading, though, since the majority of my flights were with a companion. That greatly reduces my chances of an upgrade to first.
Is Delta Status Worth Chasing, To Me?
I used most of my Amex airline incidental credits on Delta over the last year plus to help hit my numbers. I also had to spend $30K on the Delta Reserve card at the end of 2021 to get to Platinum status. Then I did $25K on the Delta Platinum in 2022 to secure it for a second time. Spending $55K on a card earning Skymiles comes with no small cost. Let’s call it 1.5% less than I could have earned elsewhere had I not been earning Skymiles. That is essentially a cost of $825 for this status.
Do I think I recouped that money from my upgrades listed above? I do, at least from a sticker price point of view. Did I really need an upgrade on some of those shorter flights though? No, not really. So I imagine in reality I broke about even. Some of that is because I didn’t fly Delta as much as I would have liked because of the cost compared to the competition.
Will I Chase Delta Status Again Next Year?
I have 104,000 MQMs right now so that means 29K will roll over to next year. That is enough to already secure Silver status if I hit the $25K MQM spending waiver. That would also net me an additional 10K MQMs putting me most of the way to Gold. I doubt Gold does a ton for me but it is fairly easily earned at that point. Especially with Delta award flights now counting towards status earning.
My plan is to let the first half of the year play out and see where I stand. If I have a shot at Platinum status again, organically, then I may jump on the $25K spend bandwagon. I may do it anyway if I get bored since I’d get some status from doing it anyway. I guess I am the sucker after all. In my defense, I was left trying to create things to do these last few months since I maxed out all of my spending bonus cards already for the year. There is the true reason I think I end up back on that status hamster wheel next year. Either way I think it will be my last go around.
My Most Unexpected Upgrade Was My Final One For The Year
I finished off the year with probably my most unexpected upgrade win. It isn’t on the list above because I don’t fly it until 2023. I booked Detroit’s upcoming non stop flight to Iceland on Delta (route launches in May). The interesting thing was I used Virgin Atlantic miles to book it. It was a $900 flight but only cost 30,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. An easy win and well below the Skymiles cost too.
I have noticed that Delta often offers me upgrades on Virgin bookings, via miles or points, when I go to select my seats. I wouldn’t have expected that to be an option on partner bookings but it is with these two. When I initially checked the booking on Delta I was offered an upgrade to Comfort+ for $190. Well worth it for an overnight 6 hour flight, at least in my opinion. First class, actually called Premium Select on this flight since it is domestic first class, was well over $1,000, and not worth it.
I had planned on using an Amex airline incidental to pay for the $190 upgrade after the first of the year. But, when I swapped out my Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer number with my Delta one, mainly so it stays in my trips section on Delta’s site, I was offered the upgrade free with my status. That is a $190 status win right there, one that I would have gladly paid for.
Is Chasing Delta Status Worth It: Final Thoughts
As with all status, your mileage may vary. It will all depend on how often you fly the particular airline and where you are flying to. I think it was about a break even proposition overall but I am glad I gave it a try. I am still undecided if I will chase it again next year or not.
Either way, I did end up with these amazing bag tags after all….
Q: What is something that will never go on my luggage?
— Mark Ostermann (@DetroitMark) December 21, 2022
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No value in the RUC’s?
There is value there for sure but I think that depends on how much each individual labels them. I took the miles last year cause I didn’t have any flights that would be of good value for them.
If your company is paying for the flight, go for it!
I’ve been Delta Gold & Silver in past years. about 50-50 uupgrade success. Probabl;y since I fly out of smaller cities into hubs.
Since Covid I just go with whoever has the cheapest fare. I’m dollars ahead. I’ve got a Delta Amex & Citi AA 1st tier, so the bags go free. It just doesn’t seem to be worth it for the expensive cards unless you’re flying on the Company dime.
Different calculation if flying for work for sure.
No reserve card but Diamond status that was earned for 2022 rather than one of the folks that got status rolled over. I batted about 65% on first class upgrades which felt disappointing. I moved to ORD early in 2022 so I didn’t fly Delta as much this year and am only at gold status going into 2023 (tons of MQMs not much MQD). We’ll see if I pursue status on Delta again since I should have 125K MQM rolled over but the upgrade success rates certainly don’t give me much incentive to, especially as I now live in a United hub as well (although I’m generally anti-United).
Tough to chase it when there are not as many options for sure. Side benefit is should be less competition on a lot of those flights though.
Tier status does not provide lounge access on purely US-domestic flights.
Tier status for most does not see upgrades at a rate that is meaningful.
What’s left is free bags, priority check-in, priority security, and priority boarding.
The Amex Delta Platinum will give you those for $250.
Anyone up for a $1k MQM/MQD run?
Personally, I don’t see the value. Granted, others might.
As a Platinum with 1,500K Delta miles, flying out of Atlanta, I almost never see 1st class, but 99% of the time, I get comfit. We will not see a drop off until 2024 when gifted Platinum/Gold/Silver will end, then Platinum will have weight.
That is when it will be fully back to normal for sure. I think there will be a little drop off next year with it requiring you to actually earn it (with the help of big rollovers for sure) but it wasn’t an extension of status this time.
Mark, thx for sharing. I’ve kept track of my “upgrade hit rate” since 2013, for first/biz class only, and thought you’d appreciate the data points here. I’m NYC-based (usually LGA or JFK). I’ve held an AmEx Reserve the entire time. As you can see, I was doing pretty well pre-pandemic, and now my hit rate is horrible. I attribute this mostly to FCM (1st class monetization) with leisure travelers buying up to 1st class way more than pre-covid. It’s frustrating, but even with major JetBlue and United hubs in my area, delta has still worked out well for me (immediate Comfort Plus on almost all the flights below).
2013 as Gold medallion: upgraded to first 12 times in 22 flights
2014 as Platinum: upgraded 25 out of 26 flights
2015 as Plat: 12 for 16
2016 as Diamond: 23 for 28
2017 as Diamond: 22 for 24
2018 as Diamond: 24 for 27
2019 as Diamond: 13 for 18
2020 as Plat: 8 for 9 (all were Jan-Mar 2020)
2021 as Plat: 8 for 16
2022 as Plat: 4 for 20 (!!!!)
That is awesome info and quite the drop off for sure. I think people buying into first class plays a big role too, good point there. Let’s hope 2023 starts to trend more to the norm.
Another blogger maintains Silver. In 2022, he was 2 for 14 on upgrades. He said that his true motivation for maintaining Silver is NOT upgrades (no kidding, Sherlock) but rather is seat selection. That’s something that readers might consider.
Preferred seats are a decent little perk for sure
Do you think the increase in travel in summer of 2022 resulted in fewer upgrades more than the downgrade of your reserve card?
I think it was a mix of the two for sure, plus so many of my flights were with a companion (which I think played the largest role).