After a Year of Having Delta Status, I’m Convinced It’s Overrated – Even With the Upgrades

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Many frequent travelers value their airline elite status as it comes with all sorts of perks and upgrades.  In 2017, I was flying very frequently for work with Delta as I am based in Salt Lake City, and earned Delta status as Delta Silver Medallion member.

It isn’t a huge deal as many readers of ours earn much higher statuses, but I still did a happy dance when I earned it.  The flight attendants on my flight to Austin, Texas when I earned my status even made me a care package and gave me a bottle of wine!

Throughout all of 2018, I flew Delta primarily for leisure, and did enjoy a decent amount of upgrades.  However, it was pretty overrated in my opinion. And I don’t think airline status is worth going out of your way to earn.  And some of the perks, like free checked bags, you can get just by having a certain Delta credit cards, like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, or Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express.

My Delta Elite Status Got Me Upgraded on Half of My Delta Flights

I flew on Delta 16 times in 2018.  Of the 16 times, I was upgraded 8 times.  Of those 8 upgrades, 4 were to First Class.  But I was mostly upgraded on shorter flights.  For example, I was upgraded to First Class on a Salt Lake City to Burbank most recently.  First Class upgrades sound great except when you are in the air for less than 2 hours.  And with Delta now selling upgrades for points, these complimentary upgrades are likely to be available to elite members less frequently.

For flyers looking to become loyal to one airline and gain status, I would argue airline status is only worth it if you fly multiple times a month consistently.  I estimate if I would have traveled for work in all of 2017 instead of just a few months, I would have reached Gold if not higher.  At that point, it may have been something worth having.  But I wouldn’t recommend it as something worth chasing.

Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate any upgrade possible.  My wife and I were upgraded to First Class from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and back, and even a quick 45 minutes in the air sitting up front is enjoyable.  However, as more efforts to devalue frequent flyers are occurring, it makes elite status benefits less valuable to the semi-frequent traveler.  And if upgrades only occur on occasion, or only on short distance flights, it just seems really overrated to me.

Unless you are traveling very often, these low level statuses with airlines really aren’t that great.

Do you have low-level status with an airline?  Have you found it to be overrated?  Or extremely lucrative?

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JC
1 year ago

I am a Silver Medallion myself, and I don’t even bother hoping for upgrades, but some of the other perks are nice. I got Silver just before Christmas 2018; given that I was flying out of LAX just 2 days before Christmas, it was super convenient using the Sky Priority check in for dropping off my bags. It was also busy, but not as bad as the regular drop off area, where the line had barely moved by the time I was on my way to security. Since I tend to do longer trips and usually check a bag, the SP check-in is a good benefit for me.

Even though upgrades are rare as a Silver, some of the preferred seats are sometimes better than Comfort+ (like 27A on the A321). I guess it varies for everyone, and I fly just enough that even those perks are worth it.

Sam
1 year ago

I agree with most who have responded. It is a “Rewards” program. Yes at silver or even Gold you may not reap a lot of Rewards, but as one response mentioned, you would never be booted from over sold, you do get Free upgrades and benefits. Once you reach a higher status the Rewards get higher, thus Reward for utilizing Delta. I have been Gold or equivalent on other airlines and Delta kick their butts.
I am currently Diamond Elite Medallion and have been for 8 years and it has been a choice I want to make to stick with Delta.
Oh! And Rewards, Choice benefits this past year I have received: Clear Membership paid for by Delta, Free SkyClub Membership, 50,000 Bonus Miles, Global Entry fee vouchure that paid for my Global Entry/TSA PreCheck….. upgraded from coach booking automatically to Delta Comfort and then to 1st Class over 90% of the time. All for just doing what I would have to for work. Oh also, my wife and I use Miles to fly Free on vacation a couple times a year.

So, like that 3% Cash Back Credit Card you have, if you only spend $100 dollars you only get $3 cash back. You get Rewarded for consistency in using.

Angge28
1 year ago

I have Elite Plus status (Gold Medallion) with Delta. From all my international travels, I only saw the benefits of an Elite Plus in Asia with partner airlines. They treat you like royalty.

Beets
1 year ago

Unfortunately, a silver medallion is only the beginning of earning status. There are literally thousands of Diamond Medallions who have spent thousands of dollars on Delta to earn that status. Even people with 3 to 6 million flying miles. Just like anything else, you work your way up. Even some Diamond Medallions have to sit in coach once in a while. I think the reward is worth it, if you keep on flying! Most airlines also don’t really give a lot away until you reach Gold status.

Scott
1 year ago

Also, you didn’t mention that you can use the Delta Sky Lounge for free if you’re a
gold member or above, we went on a cruise and coming back from Japan we got to the airport 4 hours early where you get food to eat you get a great place to sit and relax, they even let my mother in also for no extra cost. Also when I am traveling with friends or family, if if I booked their ticket with mine they also upgraded. We landed in Seattle. And then from Seattle to Salt Lake I got upgraded to First Class. Believe me that was the best couple of hours sleep I’ve ever got I think it was even better than my bed at home!

Beets
Reply to  Scott
1 year ago

The Gold status when flying only International will get you in the sky club. No domestic first class. Overcrowding!

FlyBy
1 year ago

Delta silver, that is cute. I have silver on some airlines by just being a partner with some hotels! And not even flying with them at all.
Delta is actually one of the good loyalty programs. When you really fly a little, Delta diamond gets you international upgrades, worth thousands of dollars, for free!

John
1 year ago

Delta Silver. Welcome to mediocrity. Write us when you earn real status

Deener
Reply to  John
1 year ago

I’m platimum and was wondering what all the fuss is about gold and below. I get upgraded quite frequently but only on short flights. And platinum is in the same group as gold and other sky priority folks so I don’t see a ton of benefit. But hey, at least I got that platimum card I can dangle from my carryon for the next 10 years and pretend I’m important.

Richard
1 year ago

United is over rated as well. 1 k and starting to fly Turkish airlines. United is just the arm pit of airlines

Beets
Reply to  Richard
1 year ago

If you keep flying airlines that are funded by their government, all of our American Airlines carriers will go to hell!

CristyR
1 year ago

I have been silver on United in the past and I am currently Gold on American. The only plus was with United Silver Status and being able to get even more space economy seats for free at check in. I got this every time. I could careless about free checked baggage and boarding early. With American I see no significant change with having a status. To be frank, I am flying more United this year because cash is king and why pay more to fly American if you are not getting free space in an alreasy cramped economy seat!

Valerie
1 year ago

Hey

Rob
1 year ago

I disagree with this article. You didn’t mention the biggest perks that you get with gold and above – sky priority check-in and security. I think it’s worth it to avoid a 2-hour disaster through bag check and security. If you fly a lot it’s awesome to know you can arrive 45 mn before a flight.

CristyR
Reply to  Rob
1 year ago

Fly allot is key wor here. If you live out of your suitcase then yes you should work towards a status better than the low tiered status offered to the occasional flyer. As Gold on American because work flew me over seas twice on American last year. I see no benefit being gold or aiming for Gold next year, as the perks for Platinum and Platinum Elite are way better. But I dont see the inside of an airpane every week so getting to an elite status isn’t obtainable for me. This was the point of the article.

Gary Cline
1 year ago

I used Delta exclusively for many years, as well as having a Delta credit card. I had accumulated nearly 500,000 miles and received quarterly reports telling me I could fly anywhere in the world first class using 100,000 miles. I decided to fly my family of 4 to Hawaii first class using the miles. To my surprise Delta did not have a single flight that year where I could take the family using my miles. I was told they had one seat on several flights and in some cases I could not return home for several weeks if I used my miles. More shocking was Delta told me I could take the family using my miles on any flight where seats were available if I doubled the miles, needing 200,000 per person instead of their advertised 100,000 miles. We ended up flying coach and the first thing I did after returning home was to cancel my Delta credit card. I found Delta had so many restrictions and hidden rules that trying to accumulate the miles just wasn’t worth the effort. Since then I use whatever airlines best suit my needs and have no allegiance to Delta.

Scott
Reply to  Gary Cline
1 year ago

Well as in 2007 I rarely flew, so I don’t know how things were back then I know most airlines are always changing the rules and their mileage and everything else constantly so who knows what will be like next year! This past year they really screwed people who have the SkyMiles card because before you could get up to.diamond with $25,000 spent in the year now you need $250,000! But then you need to qualify on another part 2 so they are always messing around with you. I’ve tried to read all the fine print and details on exactly how it works! But I’m not an attorney! So I don’t really get it all!

Scott
Reply to  Gary Cline
1 year ago

Interesting, not sure if I even believe you. Any Delta flight that I’ve ever wanted to book or look at I’ve always been able to use my miles on. Never found one that I couldn’t!

Rob H
Reply to  Gary Cline
1 year ago

That sir is not a true statement. Delta does not offer a credit card, nor do they have blackout dates for flights to Hawaii. I’ve booked a family of five on first class to Maui for 75000 miles per person. I think you just want to bad mouth a top rated airline to get your two cents in.

Gary Cline
Reply to  Rob H
1 year ago

Sir, I can assure you it was the truth, because in 2007 my family were witnesses to the incident. In addition, I spoke with Delta’s customer service department and wrote a letter to the CEO. I had accumulated mileage on the card for years. Before you decide to call someone a liar, you sure as hell better be sure you know what you are talking about. Just how much does Delta pay you anyway?

Henry Reader
1 year ago

I disagree. As I was a United Premier Executive Delta pried me away from United to Delta. I have been a Platinum member for fifteen years. They have been great to me as I get upgraded 80 percent of my flights no matter how long those flights are. Most importantly, when I phone them they are so cordial and help me.

Yan Zhang
1 year ago

I only travel when it is absolutely necessary. I prefer RV for short travel. I do like to watch flight attendants and using airport lounge. Yet I don’t really enjoy the small seats, tsa line, waiting, airport shuttles, parking.

They should make the airplane like a lounge inside. With quite room, casino, bar, lounge. Make travel an entertainment experience. They can make money on slot machine too. Seriously, that would make me want to travel by air much more.

Brad huston
1 year ago

Ya I’m gold medallion and just went to Miami and there was empty seats in 1st class and comfort seats and they said no up grades. I fly delta all the time. Al’s ok got free drink voucher by email as no they did not know how to use it cause could not scan it. I call bs

Valerie
1 year ago

TY

Trup
1 year ago

I did a mileage run to get Platinum status for one main reason. No cancellation charges on award tickets. I have a hoard of miles and with the Delta mileage sales its nice to be able to book them and not have to worry right away about taking of work or making other plans. Already have 3 family overseas trips booked in 2019 that I dont know if we will take, but hopefully we will.

Doug
1 year ago

I was generally a platinum on delta for years until they changed their structure, after which I struggled to make silver or gold. They’ve made it so hard and the benefits not really worth it that I’m planning on switching to American this year.

Hallie
1 year ago

It’s very hard to believe that as a Silver Medalion you got as many upgrades as you stated AND still complained! You must be trolling the entire Delta Elites community.

Ellen
1 year ago

Been Silver Medalian for two years and have NEVER gotten an upgrade to first class. Don’t know what you guys are talking about

Real flyer
1 year ago

An article by someone that it’s an irrelevant silver…your opinion is worthless.

Ivan
1 year ago

I think you are missing the point entirely of status with this article. As a non frequent flyer with a low status it of course is not that important. I am a frequent business traveler and the company policy is delta comfort or main. The extra room in first on a 2, 3 hr flight or longer is HUGE when trying to work. I need the seat to be my office when flying cross country (based in NY) first on a 6 hr flight, huge upgrade.

I also enjoy higher mileage credits which means my family flies for free on vacations.

Most importantly, on an oversold or cancelled flight I get early priority. I never get booted for oversold and always get a priority selection of a flight if weather or other issues screw me up

And no cost to catch an earlier flight to get me home to my family.

I understand to an infrequent traveler it is a moot point, but as a frequent flyer I do count heavily on my earnings.

Fabio F. Santos
1 year ago

Apparently there’s a movement towards profitability that’s going straight against frequent flyers interests. I’ve seen it before and apparently we’re going towards a new era of loyalty. Even though I’m not in the US, I can see a linear movement in this industry all around the world. That said, I’m no longer loyal to any domestic airline in my country (Brazil) and won’t fly internationally on premium cabin with miles unless I can pay cash for the tickets. Looks like it’s going to be that way for a while…

Adrian
1 year ago

Extremely lucrative. Outside the US your Delta airline status often gets you access to partner airliner lounges. Even with Silver or Gold (and almost always with Platinum) my wife and I have received first class upgrades on flights to Europe and South America. But most importantly? I’ve often been given a seat on oversold flights when my original flight was cancelled over other customers without status. It can’t be overstated how incredibly valuable this is when you are traveling all the time for business and just want to get home to the family.

Kiki Bee
1 year ago

Its the people with million miles that have moved the rest of us down a notch. Agree with all of your points. Ive been an “elite” with Delta every year since the late 90s… (almost to my millionmiles). I have gotten little in exchange for my loyalty. Not the staff’s fault. Delta doesnt really care about their loyal passengers.

Timothy Pettus
1 year ago

Like the smart, informed comments.

Alex
1 year ago

Low level status with American has been very helpful. The main benefit is being able to same day onto a different flight for free. That allows me to cya in case I’m unsure if I can make an earlier flight. Also saves me money as it allows me to book cheaper flights and move up to more expensive ones.

AK
1 year ago

Silver Medallion is almost completely useless. Gold has its perks. Platinum and Diamond are definitely useful as you get upgraded to First on almost every flight. You also get a direct phone number to an actual human who answers with almost no hold time instead of waiting 1.5 hours on the regular line.

At the end of the day, chasing any status is more expensive than just paying to fly First. But they’re nice when you happen to earn them or gain them through a CC bonus.

YP
1 year ago

What about the “free baggage” perk? That has quite a bit of value.
I guess you’re traveling with carry on only.

Drank Sinatra
1 year ago

Although I book first and business class on every flight (with the rare exception of aircraft without a premium cabin) and hence don’t care about upgrades, I still appreciate having status because on the rare occasion that I have a problem on my trip, Delta makes sure I am taken care of expeditiously and to my satisfaction. They also very often waive change fees for my last minute changes.

Further, I feel very valued as a customer by the ground, Sky Club, and cabin staff. I am addressed by name most of the time and thanked for my loyalty. I appreciate that.

Jonas
1 year ago

I believe that something like miles is more valuable than status, since it enables you to get free flights. For example, one may have a job that requires one to fly frequently and therefore one can get a lot of miles to use for free flights to go on vacation.

Mike
1 year ago

I was Delta medallion from 1999 to 2010. The upgrades got fewer and fewer. I lost it, no problems. On my short flights under 2 hours I’ll stay in coach and pay extra for the seat. Longer flights I’ll just buy the first class seat. I love watching the bummed medallions going to coach.

LQ Jones
1 year ago

I buy the First Class upgrade when I fly. Last year in Delta from ATL to PDX, a loudmouth boarded screaming about being relegated to coach when he was Diamond.
He actually asked some of us our status and I replied cash is King.

Linda
1 year ago

I very seldom get upgraded

BP
1 year ago

I am also Silver Medallion since August 2019. I received a Delta hand written card saying “welcome to Silver Medallions” and I appreciated. The major disappointment for me is the lack of appreciation when the points counter for the next status is back to zero. If I just get the upgrade and you have on records that I traveling every month, I purchasing on flights and I pay my upgrades; how Delta think I going to feel like a customer?
Definitely is overrated, the analysis for status and upgrades is not filtered thinking in customers and forecasting loyalty.

Erin
1 year ago

It wholly depends on why you want status. I’m a business traveler and rather tall with long legs. Just having priority to be able to choose exit row, 99.9% of the time get the economy comfort for free, and free same day flight change is critical for me and worth chasing a status. First class upgrades are nice and I take them, but not at all the reason I chase status. Plus Delta has always done better than any other airline imo re:customer service and actually doing a good job getting people where they want to go. Tried to do a status match with American Airlines and in the span of like 5 trips with them, had delays 3+ hours long (not weather related) 3 times and drove to my location from connection more than American actually got me there. And seats were TERRIBLE on the flights I did take.

Clay
1 year ago

Only modest rewards. Delta Gold but also Military which = Free bags, first to board, skylounge access via Amex plat (member fees waived)

No first class upgrades but several to comfort +. Home base is ATL which is tough to compete in for upgrades.