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I hit Delta Million Miler in 2013 and have been debating what to do in 2014. Continue the march to Delta 2MM or set off on United or American?
The greatest difficulty is projecting long-term for benefits that can change at the whim of the airline, as found by many ticked off at United’s post-merger Million Miler program. A fairly heavy business traveler is looking at a 5-10 year flying investment and a lot can change.
1. I will continue to keep flying revenue tickets for business and pleasure, so the question is where to direct my time and spend, not if I should fly extra.
2. For the foreseeable future (unfortunately) I will continue to be based in the NYC area so can pick among the airlines.
3. I get roughly similar value out of miles from American, Delta and United. Some may scoff at that notion, however my peculiar travel patterns fit Delta’s SkyTeam partners pretty well and since I am currently based in NYC, I can often do international award trips without having to touch Delta metal, which keeps pricing under control.
4. United 1MM is equal to American 2MM and Delta 2MM.
United’s 1MM gives Premier Gold and Star Alliance Gold for the million miler and companion.
Delta 1MM awards annual Silver Medallion and SkyTeam Elite, which are nearly worthless, as most benefits can be had by holding a Delta co-brand credit card. Delta 2MM triggers Gold Medallion which comes with Sky Priority and SkyTeam Elite Plus, comparable to Star Alliance Gold.
American’s 1MM similarly gives skimpy AA Gold and OneWorld Ruby status.
There are significant differences in million miler earning criteria that shape the decision:
American (see Million Miler program details):
The good: partner flights count
The bad: only base miles count, so premium class tickets are partially wasted
Delta (see Million Miler program details):
The good: all MQMs count, even earned from credit card bonuses
The bad: partner MQM earning has been slashed on many Delta partners
United (see Million Miler program details):
The good: 1MM benefits are like 2MM benefits at the other two airlines, and at each successive million another status level is awarded in the only program to include top-tier status in its program (Premier 1K and even Global Services); class of service bonuses count
The bad: no partner flights except Copa count
The ugly: that means you have to fly United
When I consider this, I quickly eliminate American. 1M is so pitiful as to not even be a goal. Trying to go from nearly zero to 2MM on base miles is not appealing to me as long as I have a job that has business class on long international flights. OneWorld is the most limited alliance for my travel patterns, and as long as British Airways Avios has cheap redemptions for short flights, my incentive to purchase OneWorld leisure travel revenue tickets is very limited. Also, joining them during merger madness seems asking for trouble.
United puts me in a dilemma. I completed a 1K challenge so have that status for 2014. Newark is the most convenient airport for me. Having Star Alliance Gold for me and wife is appealing. Of course I could do the Aegean route, but still hesitate on plunking down on a program that I assume will not last, and going to the hassles needed every trip to get the benefits but then credit to a program I will use. My wife certainly isn’t going to mess with that.
The only appeal for me of United is its Star Alliance members. However to earn 1MM I would need to fly United a lot, which I do not want to do, and then earn miles that are being severely devalued for redemptions on those partners.
So I am back to Delta, which is not where I thought I would be at the beginning of this exercise. MQM earning is generous. I can still fly some of their partners and earn. The program works for me, despite its many glaring failings. 2MM will lock in Delta’s pretty good Gold status if I then decide to switch airlines. If I was starting from zero, though, it would barely be more attractive than American.
The overarching question is are any of these million miler programs worth chasing beyond ego boost? Probably not in a way that requires any special effort. With Delta, other than customer service agents always mentioning my million miler status, I have seen no discernible benefit. The Tumi suitcase gift I did sell for a tidy profit on Amazon.
For those who are traveling anyway, there is appeal for keeping mid-tier status when life changes and travel is reduced, however not too much that a few good credit cards can’t do.
Readers, your take? Am I nuts to double-down on Delta? Are you in chasing MM?