Chasing Diamond: Why I flew to South Africa for 3 days to requalify for Delta elite standing

Estimated read time 8 min read

Delta and I’ve had points over the previous 12 months.

I’ve handled operational meltdowns, mechanical points, and skymile devaluations. Nonetheless, Delta constantly presents the very best expertise of any main U.S. airline and fits my wants as a frequent enterprise and leisure traveler to New York Metropolis. So, on the finish of the 12 months, after I seen that I used to be about 5,000 MQD quick on my Medallion Qualification greenback stability to have the ability to requalify for the Medallion, I knew I needed to do one thing.

Spending over $5,000 on airfare was not in my funds. So I began searching for my companion’s girlfriend’s MQD run so I might get it at a reduction. It is the identical technique he used final 12 months when he booked a comparatively low cost Aeromexico enterprise class ticket to Europe to shut the hole between his platinum and diamond medallions.

This 12 months, I settled on a partner-operated flight to South Africa. This allowed him to earn practically 5,500 of his MQDs at a fraction of the fee. Beneath are particulars about my standards, what I booked, my expertise on the flight, and the SkyMiles credited to his account. This wasn’t the only MQD run of the 12 months, so let’s take a more in-depth take a look at the way it went.

Reserved to carry the 2023 Diamond Medallion

Andrew Knesh/The Level Man

I spent numerous hours searching for a companion MQD run that might earn me at the very least 5,000 MQD and permit me to go to new international locations with ease, inside a funds of about $2,000.

I’ve seen many alternative locations in Asia, Africa and Europe. Nonetheless, I discovered it tough to seek out end-of-year premium financial system or enterprise class fares that match my funds. Journey is again in full swing, and airways know they will get high greenback on many of those routes. Particularly on the finish of the 12 months when many Individuals take day off from work to journey.

I lastly discovered a $2,013 flight in premium financial system on Virgin Atlantic from John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport (JFK) in New York to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) by way of Johannesburg OR Tambo Worldwide Airport (JNB). rice discipline. The itinerary wasn’t excellent — over 16 hours in premium financial system was exhausting and my return flight required a protracted layover in London — but it surely match my core necessities.

All Virgin Atlantic Premium Financial system fares, whatever the fare class booked, will earn you the next advantages whenever you earn SkyMiles: Percentages are primarily based on precise miles flown. You possibly can see companion win charges for all Delta companion airways on this touchdown web page.

greenback for medallion entitlement Medallion Qualifying Miles Fundamental SkyMiles earned Bonus SkyMiles Earned Whole SkyMiles Earned
30%. 150%. 100%. 50%. 150%.

So I booked and paid for the ticket American Categorical Platinum Card® Earn 5 factors per $1 spent on flight purchases (as much as $500,000 on these purchases per calendar 12 months) whenever you guide with Amex Journey. This provides you a whopping $201.30 worth per TPG score, sufficient to guide a one-way home ticket with switch companions like British Airways Avios and Avianca LifeMiles.

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Additionally, in spite of everything this, a protracted layover in London didn’t happen. I booked my flight effectively upfront, however Virgin Atlantic rescheduled my return flight. Due to this, he was capable of rebook the return leg with a 3 hour layover time with out paying any further expenses.

A very powerful a part of your journey is incomes elite standing and mileage. Earned over 45,000 redeemable SkyMiles, roughly 5,500 MQDs and over 27,000 of his MQMs with a 50% Cabin Bonus and 120% Diamond Medallion Bonus. Delta has rolled over his MQM for the reason that pandemic began so he did not want the MQM however Delta rolls over the standing tier into the following elite 12 months so it should assist subsequent 12 months .

greenback for medallion entitlement Medallion Qualifying Miles Fundamental SkyMiles earned Bonus SkyMiles Earned Whole SkyMiles Earned
27,216. 27,216. 18,144. 30,844. 48,998.

Issues crediting flights to your SkyMiles account

Like most issues on the planet of factors and miles, this mileage did not go 100% to plan.

It has been a number of days since I returned to New York and I seen that my journey miles weren’t mirrored in my account. I first submitted a mileage request on-line, however didn’t obtain a response. After two weeks, I began to get slightly apprehensive, so I contacted Delta assist by way of iMessage.

Once I rebooked my ticket after rescheduling, your entire itinerary was reissued with a brand new ticket quantity. So the consultant requested for the right ticket quantity and submitted the request on my behalf. Miles was mirrored in his account two days later and the disaster was averted.

Premium Financial system on Virgin Atlantic is (virtually) glorious

As for my expertise on board, I used to be an enormous fan of Virgin Atlantic’s exhausting and gentle merchandise.

My flights between JFK and LHR had been operated by the airline’s flagship Airbus A350, and the leg between LHR and JNB was operated by a Boeing 787 plane.

The A350 was the star of the present. The plane’s new premium financial system seats had been snug and provided glorious in-flight leisure. Plus, we had reasonably priced, quick, and dependable Wi-Fi for your entire transatlantic hop from New York to London.

The truth is, the A350 gave me among the finest in-flight Wi-Fi experiences ever, with little or no downtime. Wi-Fi prices £20.99 ($25.36 on the time of writing) on ​​flights between JFK and LHR, which I feel is affordable for a strong connection.

Virgin Atlantic

Alternatively, the Boeing 787 product is nice, but it surely’s beginning to age. The in-flight leisure choice is about the identical, however the in-flight Wi-Fi did not work correctly to and from Johannesburg. On a brief journey from LHR to JNB, I bought a messaging plan that solely included 20MB of knowledge, however I used to be unable to ship or obtain messages. Inside minutes of connecting, my knowledge restrict was gone.

Andrew Knesh/The Level Man

Service in all 4 segments was high notch. Liked the normal British choices, particularly the total English breakfast. Moreover, the galley had a take-out snack counter stuffed with mild meals and drinks to maintain me full in the course of the flight. Contemplating that the flight between JNB and LHR was over 10 hours, that is very welcome.

Diamond standing gave me entry to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses at JFK, LHR and JNB. They’re all glorious and provide many foods and drinks choices delivered on to your desk.

Wish to study extra about Premium Financial system on Virgin Atlantic? Take a look at TPG’s full evaluate of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 merchandise.

Was it price it?

Andrew Knesh/The Level Man

So was spending a $2,000+ weekend in Johannesburg price it to take care of elite standing? Completely.

I had a typically optimistic expertise as a Diamond Medallion in 2022. Over half of my flights had been upgraded and I used all of my International Improve Certificates, regardless that they had been devalued earlier this 12 months. Moreover, the Delta Sky Membership Visitor Cross (one other Alternative Profit we select annually) permits you to entry the Sky Membership along with your companion or good friend, excellent for whenever you’re touring along with your companion or good friend.

With all of the operational points this 12 months, the sooner entry to assist was a godsend. I had an general good expertise with the Diamond Medallion line. This assist has been invaluable and has helped me keep sane many instances earlier than as a frequent enterprise and leisure traveler.

Moreover, the 48,998 SkyMiles earned on this journey are price $690.87 primarily based on TPG’s valuation of 1.41 cents per Skymile. This was a terrific rebate for my bills and the miles went in the direction of funding my return flight to Chicago whereas on trip.

After all, visiting Johannesburg for a number of days was additionally nice. Subsequent 12 months she will likely be touring to South Africa for 2 weeks in June, so now I am much more excited.

Associated: Is Delta Airways Elite Standing Value It?


It took me a short while to get the flight credited to my account, however I am glad I booked and flew the MQD run on the finish of the 12 months this 12 months.

This mileage run is smart since I obtain over $2,013 in rewards annually from Diamond Medallion rewards. I want it wasn’t a lot of a trouble getting flights mirrored in my account, however Delta’s assist was extra useful than iMessage. When he runs out of MQDs on the finish of the 12 months, he will not hesitate to do the identical subsequent 12 months.

Ought to I do an identical MQD? It relies on how usually you fly, what standing stage you’re operating, and the way lengthy you need to fly with Delta sooner or later. If you wish to shut the hole between platinum and diamonds, I feel it is well worth the funding when you’ve got the time.

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