Delta Air Lines granting elite status to top Georgia elected officials

I’ve seen a couple of reports in the last month where Delta Air Lines has upgraded several of Georgia’s current and former politicians with Gold, Platinum and even Diamond Medallion status. The first report surfaced last month when a WSBTV Channel 2 story slammed Delta for giving out Gold and Platinum status to several top Republicans.

The first round of status upgrades was valued by Delta at $1,600 for Gold and $2,400 for Platinum, so well within the guidelines for campaign contributions as they were so termed. Channel 2’s consumer advisor Clark Howard disagreed and claimed they were worth more to the tune of $10,000 to $15,000 per year, which is incredibly high in my opinion. Yes, Golds and Platinums on Delta get many nice perks such as priority airport services, complimentary upgrades, waived fees and more, but I disagree with the valuation by Mr. Howard. Whereas I may reap a significant benefit from my elite status given my knowledge of how to manage my miles and benefits, I don’t think that’s the case for the entire population of elite travelers. Also, redemption of accrued mileage in the SkyMiles program is well known to be an issue at the lowest mileage levels with virtually no availability, and their Systemwide Upgrades require much higher purchased fare classes to even use them for an international upgrade.

I believe some of the criticism in the first article is due to the fact that only Republicans received the perks, and it appears that Channel 2 is owned by Cox Communications, a well-known contributor to the Democratic Party. Another criticism was that at least one politician received Platinum status and then decided not to run for reelection. That is a little questionable, but otherwise I don’t really have an issue with Delta granting status as campaign contributions.

This week, it was also reported that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and his wife received the highest Diamond Medallion status “to promote economic development.” Here, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, another Cox Communications company, claims it was Delta’s way of saying “thank you” to the governor for signing a tax break into law which reportedly will save Delta approximately $30 million in jet fuel taxes over the next two years. Could it have been a thank you? Unofficially yes, but I also see the benefit for senior politicians to have status to make their travels more comfortable.

So that brings me to wonder how you feel about airlines giving out status to elected officials who wouldn’t have normally earned it as we do by flying the required amount. Do you agree or disagree? I’d love hear your comments, including how you feel about the valuation of each status level.




  1. I think this granting of status is totally inappropriate. I can add this to the list of reasons why this Charter Diamond Medallion will be earning ZERO MQMs on DL after 2011.

    I estimate the value of DL Diamond at about $10,000.

  2. As someone who used to work for politicians in Washington, I don’t really have a problem with them having Elite status if they earn it. Frankly, there’s probably enough travel for the year to get at least Gold for a governor. The senator I worked for flew in and back every week. He was Platinum easy.

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