Why I Purposely Failed Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Match

First class on Delta.

Like many legacy airlines, Delta Air Lines offers a Skymiles Medallion Status Match. The Medallion Status Match Challenge is the airline’s attempt to have frequent fliers switch to Delta. If you have elite status with another airline, Delta will give you the equivalent Medallion Status for three months – complimentary — and you’ll have the opportunity to extend your Status past three months if you successfully fly a certain number of flights or miles. While I was accepted into Delta’s Skymiles Medallion Status Match, and I only had 2 more flights to go before my trial period, I decided not to pursue it. In fact, I purposely failed to take the two flights.

First, before you even consider doing the status match, you need to determine if you’re eligible. The main requirement is that you can’t have done the status match challenge in the past three years, and you must currently have elite status with a qualifying airline, like American Airlines and United Airlines (biggest competitors). You definitely have to prove your current status by emailing proof to Delta. You can find out more about qualifications here.

Delta Airlines planes
Delta Airlines planes

Once you’re accepted, you have Medallion status for three months. The Medallion status tier is determined by what status you have with the other airline. Delta matches the equivalence. So if you have Platinum status with American Airlines, like I did, you’ll have Gold Medallion with Delta.

The real point of the status match is to give you an easy way to get Delta status for the remainder of the year. To extend your status for the year, you must meet MQM requirements in the three months you have the status. For Gold Medallion on Delta, that’s 12,5000 MQMs you must earn, so, basically, 2 to 6 flights, depending on destinations. If you’re flying from NYC to Los Angeles four times (or two round trips), you definitely make the MQM. Passengers receive about 5,000 MQM per NYC- LA flight.

Delta boarding gate
Delta boarding gate

You also have to spend minimum $1,500 MQM. One flight from NYC to LA is about $929 MQM, so you would make that threshold with just 1 round trip.

Delta Status match tier

As I mentioned, I got Delta Gold Medallion benefits through the Status Match challenge. Gold Medallion is the second tier up (Silver is the first tier), and the benefits are great. I earned 8 miles per dollar, unlimited rollover MQM miles, unlimited complimentary upgrades to First Class and Delta Comfort, waived baggage fees, and waived same-day standby. I also received priority wait list, a dedicated phone line and Skyteam Elite Plus status, which allows me entrance to any Skyteam business class lounge when I travel internationally.

With my status match, I had only 2 more flights to extend Gold Medallion status for the rest of the year. I could have taken a quick flight from NYC to Washington D.C (the shortest flight I could think of) and I would have had it.

But I didn’t.

And there are many reasons why. But before I tell you, click the TripAdvisor link to book travel!


  1. New York City is a huge hub of frequent fliers, meaning my chances of upgrades were slim.

Delta Sky Priority LaGuardia Airport

So many frequent fliers live in NYC, or they connect through NYC (LGA, JFK and Newark). It’s a massive business travel destination. This means that even though I’m Gold status, there will be thousands of Delta fliers that are more elite than me.

This was evident on a recent flight from LGA to Atlanta. Although a Delta Gold member can get upgraded from Main to Delta Comfort, then Delta Comfort to First Class, all on one flight for free, higher tier members will obviously get those empty seats first. Because I wanted to increase my chances of getting an upgrade to First Class, I went ahead and booked a Delta Comfort seat. As you can see, I was 10th in line for an upgrade. 10! Even with a purchased Delta Comfort ticket! (Delta prioritizes upgrades with status tier and how much you spend on a flight).

Upgrade standby list Fly Delta

The same was on the way back from Atlanta to New York City. I was even further back at 13th in line. This definitely gave me indication that I would almost always never get an upgrade unless I picked really odd times to fly and less busy airports.

Delta First class standby list

Oh, the other thing… on my LGA to Atlanta leg, I deliberately booked an off-peak flight on a Saturday afternoon to ensure I would increase my chances for an upgrade. As you can see, it did not work in my favor (the flight was actually FULLY BOOKED). Upgrades were my main reason for keeping status, but if you’re never going to get an upgrade, what’s the point? Also before you argue that this could have been an isolated incident, trust me: I’ve been Delta Gold for at least 6 years. Upgrades to First Class were nearly impossible unless I was flying from like Charlotte to Memphis or whatever.

2. Do I really need those Gold Medallion perks?

JFK highest number of TSA COVID-19 Cases
Boarding lanes on Delta. First class (to the right) boards first.

So, now we know that Gold isn’t going to get me upgrades from NYC to other destinations, unless I’m incredibly strategic about flying off peak (which, again, did not work in my favor), and I’m not about 6 am flights.

As for waived baggage fees, that doesn’t affect me much as I rarely check luggage. Also, I will pay for Delta Comfort, which already includes waived baggage, and I’m a Delta American Express Platinum card member. I already receive waived baggage through that. The other perk is waived same-day standby, but I think the last time I flew stand-by was back in college. The 8 miles per dollar is cool, but I really don’t need those other perks. The only thing I would miss is the dedicated Delta Sky Priority Check-In. Delta Comfort does have that as well, but it’s not as great as the priority lane for first and business class passengers and Gold and Platinum passengers.

Delta first class
Delta flight.

The other perk that was actually great is priority boarding. But did you know that Delta Comfort passengers get priority boarding over Delta Gold members? That’s sort of crazy. Just book a Delta Comfort ticket.

Anyway, if you really hate boarding last on a plane, here are 4 tips to board sooner or even get free priority boarding.

3. Will I really fly a lot this year?

Delta first class
Delta first class.

I probably should have done my status match at a later time because I don’t have plans to fly much this year. I’ll probably visit my parents once or twice this year, but that’s it. I’m OK buying Delta Comfort for those flights, rather than spending triple as much trying to make status again for 2022.

More stories:

Inside Delta’s new Terminal D at LGA Airport

I took my first flight in 16 months – here’s what flying post Covid-19 is like

3 sustainable travel trends for 2021, according to Kind Traveler

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

One thought on “Why I Purposely Failed Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Match

  1. Im right there with you, I did the challenge last year, never flew because most plans didn’t even come to fruition. I have the Delta Amex, I already get Boarding group 1 and baggage fees waived and companion tickets (Delta added 3 bc of ‘demic) I already get lounge access with amex plat. So no real reason to go for Gold.

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