Delta Update (New MQM promotion!)

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A HOLIDAY GIFT FROM DELTA. TICKET readers have been waiting with baited breath for this one: Today Delta rolled out a short-term program that helps busy SkyMiles members avoid those time-consuming end-of-year mileage runs and instead buy their way into Medallion status in 2012.

Here’s how it works: Between now and [UPDATED) December 30, you go to and top off your account by buying bundles of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) at the following rates:

  • 2,500 miles for $295
  • 5,000 miles for $495
  • 7,500 miles for $695
  • 10,000 miles for $895.

Delta SkyMiles head Jeff Robertson told The TICKET: “We know that many of our customers are just one trip short of the next Medallion tier toward the end of the year, so hopefully this will make it easier for them to get there.”

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This program is similar to the one Delta ran last December, which offered MQM’s to SkyMiles members who donated to a variety of charities. Sources tell us that the charities (such as AID Atlanta and Grady Hospital) brought in about $800,000 each as a result of the promo. This year, the promo’s similar in terms of the quantity of MQM’s you earn per dollar spent, but the charities are left out.

What do you think? Will you plunk down the cash to earn or maintain status, or take a mileage run? Please leave your comments below.

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DELTA CUTS DEEP AT ATL. As we near the ribbon cutting in spring of 2012 of Atlanta’s new international terminal F, several flights will be missing from the departure boards. They include Athens, Copenhagen, Guayaquil, Moscow, Prague, Shanghai, and Tel Aviv. The routes, most of which were already seasonal, will not be restarted in 2012 due to the economic slowdown. Delta is not cutting ties with any of these cities. In fact, all of these cities (minus Guayaquil) see nonstop service from JFK with the exception of Shanghai, which keeps its nonstop service from Detroit. JFK-Copenhagen will get an upgrade from a skinny B757 to a wider B767 in the summer.  It is sad to see fewer destinations at ATL with the new terminal opening, but markets are cyclical and many could return in the future.

DELTA BIGGER IN BIG APPLE. Additional frequencies will beef up Delta’s schedules at JFK to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Juan, and Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic. The network also expands with new flights from JFK to Austin, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Fla., and Milwaukee. LaGuardia will also see new, nonstop service to Nassau, Bahamas.

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SKYTEAM FOCUSES INWARD. SkyTeam CEO Michael Wisbrun (yes, airline alliances have their own CEOs who manage the grouping) spoke at London’s World Travel Market and outlined that the Delta-led alliance is nearing completion of its network. While this does not rule out the addition of carriers to the alliance (especially in places like India and Brazil), it does indicate that the alliance is finished with its major growth phase. Wisbrun stated that the next phase is focusing more on customer benefits with improved IT infrastructure (sorely needed since many airlines’ reservation systems still cannot “talk” to each other) and opening additional SkyTeam-branded lounges in places like Beijing and Tokyo. Already on the books to join the alliance in the coming couple of years are Aerolineas Argentinas, Middle East Airlines (MEA), Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Garuda Indonesia.

SKY CLUB UPDATES IN MOTOWN. Delta’s got big plans for Sky Clubs around the system refurbishing and overhauling them to a stylish, new concept. However, the Detroit clubs have a cozy, residential feel left over from their Northwest days that many travelers have come to love. In a previous version of The TICKET, we incorrectly reported that these clubs will be overhauled to the new club decor. However, travelers will be happy to know the Detroit clubs will keep their same homey aesthetic with fireplaces and cozy sitting nooks. The central Sky Club in Detroit’s terminal A will be reconfigured to provide more space for customers by removing conference rooms and adding more seating. Swiveling tables over the chair’s armrest and convenient electrical outlets will continue to be one of the club’s most popular features. It is not clear when these clubs will have the full makeover like the swanky new style in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Miami, or the A-17 and D clubs in Atlanta. But, for now, these clubs are holding up well and are perfect on those chilly and snowy Detroit travel days.

BIG BONUS FOR LONDON FLIGHTS. Fly round-trip between London Heathrow and the US in paid BusinessElite (Fare Classes: J, C, D, I, or S), now through December 31, 2011, and earn 25K to 150K bonus miles.  To get the miles, you must register by December 15, then book and fly now through December 31, 2011.

WELCOME XIAMEN AIRLINES. SkyTeam is already the largest airline alliance in China, and it just got bigger now that Xiamen Airlines has announced plans to join by the end of 2012. Critics are quick to point out that SkyTeam is bringing in airlines of lesser quality than other alliances, but there is no doubt the network in China is the strongest available. Xiamen operates a mostly domestic route network with a fleet of 737 aircraft. It has placed an order for six Boeing 787 Dreamliners with plans to fly long haul to Australia, Europe, and North American in the future.

ATL’s TERMINAL F nears completion…By May 2012, international travelers will have a whole new world to discover at Atlanta airport when terminal F goes into full operation. Together with Terminal E, there will be a total of 40 gates for international flights. This new terminal will also eliminate the need for ATL-bound travelers to recheck their bags and clear TSA security again to leave the airport making it easier for arrivals. Keep an eye on for photos and more information on Terminal F.In case you have not been watching, here’s a very cool time lapse video of terminal construction from groundbreaking until now:

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  • Hotfeet

    Delta website says that the MQMs through either a skyclub membership or direct purchase are available until Dec 31, 2011, not Dec 14. and

  • D. Whit

    The Porsche idea is brilliant. Anything to help the local economy. We are hemmoraging good jobs in Atlanta.

    I am Platinum and only need 2300 for Diamond, but do not want the bump as I am getting 75% upgrades and enjoyed the EC free on ATL/LHR for my measly 687.00 fare. I want to roll over substantially and am happy with what I get. Good return on my outlay.

    Too many have gamed the airline rewards programs for too long and think they should get something for nothing forever. It is a business.

  • Stephen Gaskins

    Let see, a Delta Gold American Express card holder who doesn’t travel frequently now gets priority boarding just like I do (I’m Gold Medallion); I now have to use a kiosk in the Sky Priority line at London Gatwick (so much for personal service, and I’m sure more kiosks are coming at Sky Priority check-in locations); I now sit behind non-medallion Economy Comfort passengers who are willing to pay for those seats; and to actually use the miles in my account I have to brace myself to use 40K-50K miles even for short distances (example: a short flight that I checked this morning from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach was 50K miles.

    No thank you. The program has become a joke. I realized that when I was #75 for an upgrade on a trip from SFO to ATL.

  • evan torch, m.d.

    I would like to answer Jason and make my complaint more clear–I meant international BUSINESS CLASS seats being impossible to obtain !

  • Chris

    sent via Facebook from reader CL:
    Not really as good a deal as last year. As I recall, it was 5k MQM’s for each $500 contribution. So, for $1,000 (tax deductible), you got the same 10k as they’re offering for $895. If you’re going for any of the elite levels, you surely are in a tax bracket where the tax deduction resulted in a lower net cost. And, the fact that the charities benefited was a major plus. Here, the money only goes to DL.

  • Jason

    Evan, I’m going to the “Orient” — Bali and Singapore — for 180,000 miles in Business from Washington, DC this coming Friday. Incidentally, I could’ve found seats for 120,000 miles — but I chose to fly Delta metal on the return to avoid having to connect in China. Last year, I went to Egypt for 120,000 miles in Business. The year before, I went to Cape Town via Dakar for 120,000 miles in Business. And the year before that? I went to Dubai for 120,000 miles in Business. And so on. The point is, the seats are out there. I have plenty of problems with Delta, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not exaggerate things.

  • evan torch, m.d.

    I cannot believe that anyone still takes this program seriously.

    My wife is a Platinum and I am a Silver Medallion—although she has occasionally been upgraded, I never am. That’s the good news!

    Since passing off the low/medium/high mileage scheme as “opening up more award seats”, Delta has abandoned any semblance of fairness and consideration; now, for example, try going to the Orient for less than 350–400000 miles (PER PERSON).

    I won’t spend a dime–what good will any level be?

  • Bryan

    The new international terminal at ATL will make it easier for Atlanta-bound passengers that will be using a car to reach their final destination. It will make things SUBSTANTIALLY more complicated for Atlanta-bound passengers that will be utilizing MARTA by requiring an extra bus ride just to reach the MARTA station at the main terminal. Solves one problem by creating another – typical for ATL.