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

Delta and I have had issues over the past year.

I’ve dealt with operational meltdowns, mechanical issues, and skymile devaluations. Still, Delta consistently offers the best experience of any major U.S. airline and suits my needs as a frequent business and leisure traveler to New York City. So, at the end of the year, when I noticed that I was about 5,000 MQD short on my Medallion Qualification dollar balance to be able to requalify for the Medallion, I knew I had to do something.

Spending over $5,000 on airfare was not in my budget. So I started looking for my partner’s girlfriend’s MQD run so I could get it at a discount. It’s the same strategy he used last year when he booked a relatively cheap Aeromexico business class ticket to Europe to close the gap between his platinum and diamond medallions.

This year, I settled on a partner-operated flight to South Africa. This allowed him to earn nearly 5,500 of his MQDs at a fraction of the cost. Below are details about my criteria, what I booked, my experience on the flight, and the SkyMiles credited to his account. This wasn’t the simplest MQD run of the year, so let’s take a closer look at how it went.

Reserved to hold the 2023 Diamond Medallion

Andrew Knesh/The Point Guy

I spent countless hours looking for a partner MQD run that would earn me at least 5,000 MQD and allow me to visit new countries with ease, within a budget of about $2,000.

I have seen many different destinations in Asia, Africa and Europe. Still, I found it difficult to find end-of-year premium economy or business class fares that fit my budget. Travel is back in full swing, and airlines know they can get top dollar on many of these routes. Especially at the end of the year when many Americans take time off from work to travel.

I finally found a $2,013 flight in premium economy on Virgin Atlantic from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) via Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport (JNB). rice field. The itinerary wasn’t perfect — over 16 hours in premium economy was exhausting and my return flight required a long layover in London — but it fit my core requirements.

All Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy fares, regardless of the fare class booked, will earn you the following benefits when you earn SkyMiles: Percentages are based on actual miles flown. You can see partner win rates for all Delta partner airlines on this landing page.

dollar for medallion entitlement Medallion Qualifying Miles Basic SkyMiles earned Bonus SkyMiles Earned Total SkyMiles Earned
30%. 150%. 100%. 50%. 150%.

So I booked and paid for the ticket American Express Platinum Card® Earn 5 points per $1 spent on flight purchases (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) when you book with Amex Travel. This gives you a whopping $201.30 value per TPG rating, enough to book a one-way domestic ticket with transfer partners like British Airways Avios and Avianca LifeMiles.

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Also, after all this, a long layover in London did not occur. I booked my flight well in advance, but Virgin Atlantic rescheduled my return flight. Because of this, he was able to rebook the return leg with a 3 hour layover time without paying any extra charges.

The most important part of your journey is earning elite status and mileage. Earned over 45,000 redeemable SkyMiles, approximately 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 since the pandemic started so he didn’t need the MQM but Delta rolls over the status tier into the next elite year so it will help next year .

dollar for medallion entitlement Medallion Qualifying Miles Basic SkyMiles earned Bonus SkyMiles Earned Total SkyMiles Earned
27,216. 27,216. 18,144. 30,844. 48,998.

Problems crediting flights to your SkyMiles account

Like most things in the world of points and miles, this mileage didn’t go 100% to plan.

It’s been a few days since I returned to New York and I noticed that my travel miles weren’t reflected in my account. I first submitted a mileage request online, but did not receive a response. After two weeks, I started to get a little worried, so I contacted Delta support via iMessage.

When I rebooked my ticket after rescheduling, the entire itinerary was reissued with a new ticket number. So the representative asked for the correct ticket number and submitted the request on my behalf. Miles was reflected in his account two days later and the crisis was averted.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is (almost) excellent

As for my experience on board, I was a big fan of Virgin Atlantic’s hard and soft products.

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

The A350 was the star of the show. The aircraft’s new premium economy seats were comfortable and offered excellent in-flight entertainment. Plus, we had affordable, fast, and reliable Wi-Fi for the entire transatlantic hop from New York to London.

In fact, the A350 gave me one of the best in-flight Wi-Fi experiences ever, with very little downtime. Wi-Fi costs £20.99 ($25.36 at the time of writing) on ​​flights between JFK and LHR, which I think is reasonable for a solid connection.

Virgin Atlantic

On the other hand, the Boeing 787 product is great, but it’s starting to age. The in-flight entertainment selection is about the same, but the in-flight Wi-Fi didn’t work properly to and from Johannesburg. On a short trip from LHR to JNB, I purchased a messaging plan that only included 20MB of data, but I was unable to send or receive messages. Within minutes of connecting, my data limit was gone.

Andrew Knesh/The Point Guy

Service in all four segments was top notch. Loved the traditional British options, especially the full English breakfast. Additionally, the galley had a take-out snack counter filled with light meals and beverages to keep me full during the flight. Considering that the flight between JNB and LHR was over 10 hours, this is very welcome.

Diamond status gave me access to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses at JFK, LHR and JNB. They are all excellent and offer many food and drink options delivered directly to your table.

Want to learn more about Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic? Check out TPG’s complete review of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 products.

Was it worth it?

Andrew Knesh/The Point Guy

So was spending a $2,000+ weekend in Johannesburg worth it to maintain elite status? Absolutely.

I had a generally positive experience as a Diamond Medallion in 2022. Over half of my flights were upgraded and I used all of my Global Upgrade Certificates, even though they were devalued earlier this year. Additionally, the Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (another Choice Benefit we choose each year) allows you to access the Sky Club with your partner or friend, perfect for when you’re traveling with your partner or friend.

With all the operational issues this year, the faster access to support was a godsend. I had an overall good experience with the Diamond Medallion line. This support has been invaluable and has helped me stay sane many times before as a frequent business and leisure traveler.

Additionally, the 48,998 SkyMiles earned on this trip are worth $690.87 based on TPG’s valuation of 1.41 cents per Skymile. This was a great rebate for my expenses and the miles went towards funding my return flight to Chicago while on vacation.

Of course, visiting Johannesburg for a few days was also great. Next year she will be traveling to South Africa for two weeks in June, so now I’m even more excited.

Related: Is Delta Airlines Elite Status Worth It?

Conclusion

It took me a little while to get the flight credited to my account, but I’m glad I booked and flew the MQD run at the end of the year this year.

This mileage run makes sense since I receive over $2,013 in rewards each year from Diamond Medallion rewards. I wish it wasn’t so much of a hassle getting flights reflected in my account, but Delta’s support was more helpful than iMessage. When he runs out of MQDs at the end of the year, he won’t hesitate to do the same next year.

Should I do a similar MQD? It depends on how often you fly, what status level you are running, and how long you want to fly with Delta in the future. If you want to close the gap between platinum and diamonds, I think it’s worth the investment if you have the time.