Monday, November 29, 2010


Though many college students attempt to thwart the system, admittance to bars serving alcohol is limited to those who have attained the age of 21. In a Las Vegas casino, the right to visit the VIP lounge is restricted to those high rollers who have spent at least a certain amount on the gambling floor. Amusement parks occasionally offer rides that require ticket-holders to be a certain height. Throughout life, we regularly run into places we’d like to go, or things we’d like to do, that require us to have the proper qualifications or credentials. Without them, there is always a little mystery in our minds as to what we might be missing.

This year, Delta Airlines has created a brand new elite status they call Diamond Medallion. Their Medallion program starts with Silver, then Gold, and then Platinum, which until this year was the ultimate level. The highest status I’ve attained in the past is Gold Medallion, and I couldn’t wait to see what awaited me on the other side of the Platinum Medallion door! I thought it might be great to achieve that ultimate level. And then they upped the ante and created the Diamond level. However, through a series of special promotions, as of October 31 I had done it! I achieved Diamond Medallion status and am now enjoying the best perques Delta has to offer.

While not guaranteed, it isn’t unusual for Diamond Medallion passengers to be upgraded to first class. Since early October, I’ve been upgraded on every flight. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I won’t dwell on the fact that the service is only marginally more attentive, and the meals are really nothing to write home about. However, the real benefits to first class seating are the ability to board early without waiting in long jetway lines, and the opportunity to be among the first to deplane at the arrival gate. The extra room is also welcome, though I often had more room when seated in the exit row aisle seat in coach class.

The entire airport experience becomes much more pleasant at the higher status levels. Complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club often means comfortable seating, free snacks and beverages, and very adequate office cubicle accommodations with power outlets for laptops and cell phones. Combine that with a quieter, more mellow atmosphere, and waiting for a flight is no longer marked by wading through crowds, fighting for access to a power outlet, and hoping to find a seat. Not to mention the incessant high noise level and constant flight announcements.

Airport check-in is much less of a hassle at the Diamond level. Wanting to reward their most frequent fliers, Delta often provides special lines for checking in, as well as for passing more quickly through the security checkpoint. Even upon arrival, the experience is improved. At the higher status levels, my checked baggage is specially tagged so that it is often one of the first bags to arrive in baggage claim. The time savings is noticeable!

Delta has also thrown in some additional benefits, including the ability to earn a higher miles bonus with each flight, free companion upgrades, and a couple of “congratulatory” gifts. I was given 50,000 miles, and I received $400 in travel vouchers to use for my personal flights. This new status has made my flying experience much more pleasant, and when your work requires frequent air travel like mine does, the extra benefits are very much appreciated. I’d have to say, now that I’ve achieved the ultimate status level, that Diamond is a (travelin’) guy’s best friend!

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