Delta Status Match Challenge Unlocks SkyTeam, Virgin Benefits

Access Virgin Australia lounges with Delta SkyMiles status
Access Virgin Australia lounges with Delta SkyMiles status

The Delta Status Match Challenge offers a little-known shortcut to elite status on Delta Air Lines. These status benefits extend to Delta’s partner airlines, including all SkyTeam alliance carriers and our very own Virgin Australia!

If you already have elite status with an airline outside of the SkyTeam alliance, such as Qantas, you may be eligible for 3 months of complimentary Delta status. You can then extend this status for up to 19 months by completing a “challenge” during this 3-month period.

Delta Medallion Status

Delta has four status tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion status. With Delta status you’ll get all the usual benefits including extra baggage allowance, priority boarding and lounge access, as well as complimentary upgrades when flying with Delta. However, Delta SkyClub lounge access is not available when flying within the USA on a domestic Delta flight. (Interestingly, lounge access is offered to Virgin Australia Velocity Gold & Platinum members flying on Delta.)

Medallion Silver status is equivalent to SkyTeam Elite status. The Gold, Platinum and Diamond tiers grant SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits when flying on any SkyTeam alliance carrier. SkyTeam airlines are often overlooked by Australian frequent flyers, but many actually fly to Australia. These include Garuda Indonesia, Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air, China Airlines, Xiamen Air and China Eastern.

Delta is also a Virgin Australia partner. Gold, Platinum and Diamond Delta SkyMiles members can access the following benefits when flying with Virgin Australia:

  • Virgin Australia Lounge access
  • Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage
  • Additional baggage allowance

Other key SkyMiles partner airlines include Air France, KLM, Aerolineas Argentinas and Virgin Atlantic.

How to apply for a Delta Status Match Challenge

If you’re eligible, you can apply for a SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge on the Delta website. You’ll need to already hold an equivalent status with another airline that is not in the SkyTeam alliance. Delta will match with many airlines including American Airlines, United, British Airways, Air Canada and Asiana. Qantas is not specifically listed on Delta’s website, but an Australian Frequent Flyer reader has confirmed to us that Delta will match Qantas status.

Delta is unlikely to match Virgin Australia Velocity status as Virgin is a partner airline. But they have done so in the past, so it could be worth a try.

You will be required to prove that your current airline status is valid and was actually earned through flying (i.e. not another status match). Delta asks that you include an activity statement with your application that shows you’ve earned the status by flying.

Delta says they will respond within 3 weeks, but it’s generally closer to one week. The challenge period will begin on the day that Delta responds to your request (you cannot choose an exact start date). You can only request a status match once every 3 years.

What you get during the 3-month challenge period

When your challenge begins you’ll have 3 months to enjoy the benefits of Delta SkyMiles Medallion status. You won’t receive a physical membership card, but your account will be updated and you will receive a virtual card through the Fly Delta app.

According to the terms & conditions on Delta’s website, you’ll only receive status benefits on Delta-operated flights during the challenge period. But there is anecdotal evidence that the status may still be accepted when flying with some SkyTeam partner airlines. It is not clear whether the status would be accepted by Virgin Australia during the challenge period. (Let us know if you’ve tried this and we’ll update the article!)

How to complete the status challenge

Your SkyMiles status will be extended if you earn a minimum amount of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) during the 3-month challenge period. US-based members are also required to earn a minimum amount of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) but this is waived for Australian residents.

Here’s what you’ll need to extend your SkyMiles status:

  • Silver Medallion status – renew by earning 6,250 MQM or 8 MQS within 3 months
  • Gold Medallion status – renew by earning 12,500 MQM or 15 MQS within 3 months
  • Platinum Medallion status – renew by earning 18,750 MQM or 25 MQS within 3 months

If you don’t meet the criteria for your requested challenge but do for a lower tier, you can keep the lower tier.

MQMs earned on partner airlines – including Virgin Australia – do count towards the Delta Status Match Challenge! You’ll earn MQMs on Virgin Australia at the following rates, with a minimum earn of 500 MQMs per flight:

SkyMiles earn rates for Virgin Australia flights
SkyMiles earn rates for Virgin Australia flights

In theory, you could meet a Gold status challenge by taking just one return Virgin Australia Business class flight from Sydney or Melbourne to Hong Kong! A round-trip Economy ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles, flying either Delta or Virgin Australia, would also suffice. And the same trip from Sydney to Los Angeles in Premium Economy or Business would be more than enough to complete the Platinum challenge.

Enrol in July to enjoy status for longer

If you enrol before 30 June 2018 and subsequently complete the challenge, your status will be extended until 31 January 2019. But if you enrol after 1 July 2018, your status is extended until 31 January 2020. So, clearly July is the best month to enrol for the Delta Status Match Challenge!

How can Australians benefit?

By completing a Delta Status Match Challenge, Australians can enjoy benefits when flying with Virgin Australia or any SkyTeam airline for up to 19 months! Although SkyTeam is often overlooked by Australian frequent flyers, there are plenty of SkyTeam airlines flying here.

If you fly to the USA, you’ll also receive complimentary upgrades on Delta flights!

Delta SkyMiles are sometimes considered to be poor value as a frequent flyer currency, when redeemed for Delta flights. Delta recently stopped publishing award charts, opting for “dynamic” award pricing. But SkyMiles can still be good value when redeemed on SkyTeam partner airlines, and there is excellent SkyTeam award availability in and out of Australia!

You can discuss the Delta status match on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Delta SkyMiles Status Match Discussion

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]