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Getting the most out of Delta’s MQM Rollover policy

November 26, 2012 39 comments

There’s only a month left until the end of year, which means that those with elite loyalty status with airlines and hotels are in a rush to reach the next tier … except some of us with Delta. Delta allows rollover MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles — the elite status counter) and in a lot of cases, it’s better to stay slightly short of an elite status tier and have a bulky rollover than it is to slightly meet that higher tier.

A brief overview of Delta’s elite tiers

Keep in mind that Silver Medallion (FO) is awarded at 25,000 MQMs, Gold (GM) at 50,000 MQMs, Platinum (PM) at 75,000 MQMs, and Diamond (DM) at 125,000 MQMs. Here’s a rundown of major benefits.

Silver is definitely better than no status, and you do not rollover any MQMs under 25,000. While many of the benefits of Silver can be reproduced with holding a Delta American Express, there are a few things you get that non-status members don’t, including:
– 25% bonus Skymiles when flying.
– 1 free bag (on top of 1 free bag with Amex).
– Priority check-in and security (if available to Silver Medallions at airport).
– A shot at upgrades.

Silver to Gold is a huge huge jump for everyone, in my opinion.
– 100% bonus Skymiles (instead of 25%).
– Free Same-Day Confirmed (SDC) Changes on domestic itineraries (down from $50).
– 2 free checked bags.
– Sky Priority – priority check-in, security, and access to Pre-Check without Global Entry.
– Skyteam Elite Plus, Skyteam’s higher of the 2 alliance-wide elite status, which mainly gives international lounge access.
– Free domestic economy comfort at booking. Silvers have to wait until check-in or pay a discounted price.

Gold to Platinum is a great jump for international flyers and for those who have lots of miles to burn in the next year.
– Free international economy comfort (only 50% off for Golds) on Delta and KLM.
– Free award cancellations and changes outside of 72 hours to departure.
– Platinum choice benefit, such as a $200 gift certificate, 20K miles, or SWUs (only usable on highest fares).

Platinum to Diamond is a huge jump for heavy domestic flyers.
– Diamond choice benefit (on top of Platinum choice benefit).
– 125% bonus Skymiles (instead of 100%).
– Free SkyClub membership (you can use the SkyClub when flying any airline).
– Best shot at domestic upgrades.

Taking advantage of Delta’s rollover policy

If you earned status in 2011, that status is good for the 2012 calendar year, and good until February 28, 2013.

If you earn status this year, that status is good for the 2013 calendar year, and is good until February 28, 2014.

I earned Gold Medallion last year, and that’s good until February 28, 2013. I will end the year at 49,976 MQMs, just barely short of Gold again. I will rollover 24,976 MQMs on January 1. However, if I fly 25,024 MQMs before February 28th, I will requalify for Gold before I lose this year’s Gold status.

The huge benefit to that is I will requalify for Gold in the 2013 calendar year, which means that it’s good for the 2014 calendar year and until February 28, 2015! That’s a full year than if I jump over 50K just 2 months prior. And I’ll have 10 months to rack up MQMs for Platinum status, my final goal.

At any other airline, it would be a good idea to get as high of an elite tier as possible before the end of the year, but not so at Delta. If you’re a mainly international flyer who is Platinum, getting Diamond has barely any marginal benefits for you. You get a 2nd choice benefit and 25% MORE Skymiles. However, you need another 75K MQMs in 2013 for Platinum and 125K for Diamond again. If you stop at 124K for Platinum, you only need 26K for Platinum again, which is useful if your travel is dropping off but you want the Platinum choice benefit and free award changes.

My current trips this year will take me over a threshold but I want rollover … what do I do?

There are two good options here … one is to credit to Air France/KLM Flying Blue, where you can credit any Skyteam flight. What makes AF/KLM miles valuable is that they are American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners, so you can always top off any miles you earn. They also allow one-way awards, so there are instances to use Flying Blue miles over Delta Skymiles.

Another option is to credit to Alaska Airlines if you have flights on Delta, Air France, or KLM, all of which are “free agent” partners with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Alaska is only partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, but they also have a Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa that offers a way to top off Alaska miles. Also, Alaska is partners with American Airlines and other OneWorld airlines like Cathay Pacific and British Airways, so you can earn/use miles on each of those airlines.

Keep in mind, if you switch out the mileage number before the flight, you won’t be able to enjoy your current Delta elite status benefits, so there is a tradeoff.

Recap

Delta has an interesting rollover elite status system, where it might benefit some people to stop just short of a higher elite status threshold in order to situate themselves in a better position for next year’s elite status run.

Some people might benefit more from 2 years of mid-tier status than from 1 year of upper-tier and 1 year of lower-tier. Rollover helps maximize those benefits over the long term.

Alaska and Air France/KLM offer substitute mileage programs in which to bank extra miles.

Categories: Delta, Elite Status, Skyteam

Making sense of mileage earning on the TAM fare sale

November 26, 2012 1 comment

Via TheFlightDeal (MY NEW FAVORITE WEBSITE!), there is a great deal to South American cities like Buenos Aires (EZE), Lima (LIM), and Santiago (SCL) from New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and/or San Francisco. We’re talking $300-$400 roundtrip!

However, confusion arises about who is selling the ticket and whose planes are actually flying the routes.

The airline selling the ticket is Brazilian carrier TAM Linhas Aéreas. They are a member of Star Alliance (like United).

However, TAM is currently in the process of merging with Chilean carrier LAN, a member of OneWorld (like American).

The combined airline group, LATAM, is still two separate airline brands in the current short term. That means that TAM and LAN are still separate airlines that belong to separate alliances.  Brazilian and Chilean authorities have declared that the new group has to eventually merge into a unified airline. Of course, they also declared that they had to choose one alliance to stick with by August 2012. That decision was deferred to early 2013. It’s highly likely that LATAM will choose OneWorld, because AviancaTaca recently joined Star Alliance and there are anti-trust issues that arise if LATAM joins them.

Why am I explaining this? Because some of the flights that can be booked on this deal are TAM-coded, LAN-operated. This means that the flight number on your ticket is a TAM (JJ) flight number, but you check-in and fly on a LAN (LA) plane. And that affects the mileage earning.

Via JustAnotherPointsTraveler, notice how some flights are “Operated by LAN AIRLINES.”

United states that “if you purchase a ticket on a flight that is marketed by TAM but operated by another airline (known as a codeshare flight), the operating airline determines how many miles you earn for your flight.” Because LAN is not a partner of United, you would earn zero United miles on a TAM-coded, LAN-operated flight.

TAM-earning on UA.

American states that you can “earn miles when flying on LAN Airlines marketed AND operated flights [or] on LAN Airlines codeshare flights operated by oneworld carriers and oneworld affiliates.” However, this is a TAM-coded/marketed flight, so you would earn zero American miles because there is no LAN “code” on this flight.

LAN-earning on AA.

If the status quo of alliance membership remains, you would have to bank miles from these TAM-coded/LAN-operated flights to either LAN or TAM’s frequent flyer programs (I suggest LAN, for various reasons I won’t get into). If mileage earning is your thing, you should have 24 hours to cancel a current ticket that doesn’t earn miles and rebook another ticket that does earn miles (though I would rebook, then cancel if you really want to make this trip for reasons other than just miles).

It gets kind of complicated, but a good rule to follow is:
For United (and most Star Alliance programs), the METAL matters. Whose name is on the plane determines the miles.
For American (and most OneWorld programs), the CODE matters. You want LAN code on a oneworld partner for AA miles. Not happening with this deal, everything is on TAM code.

If you want to protect yourself on United miles, there are TAM-coded/United-operated flights from LGA/EWR-IAD-GRU (Sao Paolo), then GRU-SCL on TAM metal. You would definitely earn United miles on first two flights, and have access to Economy Plus and redeemable miles bonuses. The Flyertalk Mileage Run thread on this deal has some examples.

BUT, if LATAM decides to join OneWorld before your flight, then all this gets thrown out the window. You would earn zero United miles (because TAM would leave Star Alliance) and earn American miles because both LAN and TAM of LATAM would be in OneWorld.

Maybe this is why Christopher Elliot hates frequent flyer miles.