Advertisement

Elite Status Series: Delta Gold Medallion

by on December 6, 2013 · 28 comments

in Delta, Elite Status

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG contributor Nick Ewen takes us through the basics of Delta Gold Medallion status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

Medallion benefit cover

Being a Skymiles Gold Medallion member offers big benefits.

In a prior post, I covered the ins and outs of Delta’s lowest tier of elite status: Silver Medallion. Just getting any level of status with an airline takes a lot of flying (or a lot of credit card spend), but this piece is targeted at those newly minted Gold Medallion travelers on Delta. First of all, congrats! Gold Medallion isn’t easy to obtain (well, maybe if you spend a lot on Delta credit cards) but offers some significant benefits over Silver, so here’s everything you need to know about the next 15 months, including a breakdown of qualification levels and key benefits.

Qualification:

As stated above, Gold Medallion is Delta’s second-lowest tier of elite status, though many consider it the first “true” level (given the relatively paltry benefits that Silver Medallion provides). It is earned after flying 50,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (or MQM’s, for short) or racking up 60 Medallion Qualification Segments.

Check which partner airlines you can earn miles on.

Check which partner airlines you can still earn miles on.

This used to be very simple, as virtually all flights with Delta and many of their partners earned full mileage credit, regardless of the channel through which they were booked. However, as of September 1, Delta decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates. As always, double-check this chart to see if your partner flight will count towards status. Some airlines (including Korean, a full member of SkyTeam) no longer count at all.

Medallion Qualifying Dollars

You may have to do some spending on your Delta Amex card to get Medallion Status.

You may have to do some spending on your Delta Amex card to get Medallion Status.

Something US SkyMiles members must also take into consideration is the new Medallion Qualification Dollars (or MQD’s) requirement. TPG discussed this new requirement when it was first announced back in January, but the basic crux is that all Medallion members will need to spend a certain amount of money on Delta in addition to hitting the mile/segment levels above (or alternately spend at least $25,000 on a Delta-branded American Express card in the calendar year).

To earn Gold status during the 2014 year, you would need to have at least $5,000 MQD’s plus 50,000 MQM’s or 60 Medallion Qualification Segments.

Check out this post for more information on What Spending Counts Towards Medallion Qualifying Dollars.

You can track your current year-to-date spend through your SkyMiles profile, and when you are purchasing a flight, the confirmation page will include details on how many MQD’s you will earn on that flight. Remember though that this year, you are only required to fly the segments or miles to earn status through February 28, 2015. The MQD requirement only goes into effect for the 2014 qualification period, during which you will earn status through February 29, 2016.

Benefits

Once you’ve earned Gold Medallion Status (and the change is reflected in your profile online), you can begin taking advantage of numerous benefits on Delta (and certain partner airlines). A full listing is available here, but here are some additional details to help you begin navigating the sea of elite status:

Enjoy first class dining with a complimentary upgrade.

Enjoy first class dining with a complimentary upgrade.

1. Complimentary Upgrades: Gold Medallion members are eligible for space-available complimentary upgrades on coach tickets in all fare classes for flights within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Bermuda, Canada, Central America, and Northern South America. This also extends to one companion on the same flight. In addition, unlike Silver Members, Gold Medallion flyers can earn upgrades on both award tickets and Pay With Miles tickets (the latter is only available to holders of the Gold, Platinum or Reserve Delta-branded American Express cards). These tickets come after all Gold Medallion revenue tickets in the upgrade priority, but they still beat out Silver Medallions on non-Y fares.

If space is available, full Y fares will clear at time of booking, while all other classes will clear 3 days in advance (usually between 5 and 6pm four days before the actual flight date) if available. However, keep in mind that upgrade inventory is different than open seats on the seat map, and unfortunately, Delta recently removed the ability to search this inventory on ExpertFlyer. If your upgrade doesn’t clear in advance, you will automatically be added to the gate list when you check in, though you will be behind medallions on full Y fares and all Diamond and Platinum flyers.

As a Gold Medallion member, your chances at an upgrade are definitely better than a Silver flyer, though again, the likelihood depends on your route, day of travel, time of year, and other factors. As always, it’s a complete crapshoot. I would say that a 50% upgrade success would be the absolute best you could hope for, but be prepared for that number to be significantly less if you are flying elite-heavy routes during prime business travel time.

2. Mileage Bonus: Gold Medallion members also receive a sizeable 100% mileage bonus for every flight. As I mentioned in the Silver post, these bonus miles do not count as MQM’s but instead are additional redeemable miles that can be applied towards future award tickets. For example, a simple one-way flight between Orlando and Atlanta would earn a regular member 500 miles; that same flight would earn a Gold Medallion member 1,000 miles.

3. Preferred Seating: Gold Medallion members are also entitled to preferred Economy Class seating at the time of the reservation; these seats include rows closer to the front of the plane as well as exit rows. Gold flyers also can enjoy free Economy Comfort seats with additional legroom on flights in the U.S./Canada/Mexico/Caribbean/Central America, and they can also purchase Economy Comfort seats on long-haul and transcontinental flights at a 50% discount. This latter option applies to both Delta- and KLM-operated flights, though be aware of the difficulties reserving KLM seats that TPG experienced earlier this year. These seats include additional recline and complimentary beer, wine and spirits.

Economy comfort offers extra space.

Economy comfort offers extra space.

Let’s take a look at two examples of this:

  • Orlando to New York-LaGuardia: On a shorter flight like this, a regular SkyMiles member could purchase Economy Comfort for $49 each way; a Silver flyer would need to pay $24.50 in advance, while the same seat would be free for a Gold Medallion member.
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow: Economy Comfort for this long-haul flight can be purchased by anyone for $79 each way; Gold members could purchase that same seat for $39.50 (compared to the $59.25 required of Silver flyers).

4. Baggage Fee Waiver: Gold Medallion members are able to check one free bag over the standard allowance on every flight as well as two free bags on domestic flights. This benefit extends to up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation as the Medallion member. A complete breakdown of fees by destination is available here.

5. Same-Day Confirmed/Standby Fee Waiver: Earlier this year, Delta gutted the benefits its Same-Day Confirmed program (though they did backpedal on certain changes just a few months later). If your originally booked fare class is available on another flight within 24-hours of your scheduled departure, Gold Medallion members can now switch to that flight for free, and even if the fare class isn’t available, Gold flyers can standby on the desired flight for free as well. Both of these options cost Silver Medallions and non-status flyers $50.

6. Priority check-in, Security, and Boarding: Gold Medallion members are entitled to full Sky Priority benefits on all Delta flights, regardless of the class of service they have booked. This allows them to utilize Sky Priority check-in lines and access preferred security lines (where available). It also offers what’s known as “Sky Zone” boarding; this occurs after First/Business class but before Silver Medallion members and the rest of Zone 1.

7. SkyTeam Elite Plus Status: Gold Medallion members traveling on a SkyTeam flight will automatically have their status recognized as “SkyTeam Elite Plus,” which offers significant benefits above and beyond “SkyTeam Elite” status offered to Silver Medallions. Gold flyers still enjoy priority check-in, boarding, airport standby, and preferred seating (when available), but they also receive priority baggage handling and lounge access for them and a guest when traveling in any class of service on an international or connecting SkyTeam flight. Simply show your boarding pass with your status at the lounge entrance (though you may want to have your Gold Medallion card in case the status isn’t reflected on the boarding pass). A complete list of accessible lounges is available here; just be sure to filter to those locations for “Delta SkyTeam Elite Plus Member” at the right-hand side. Note that these benefits may not be available on every flight or at every airport; a complete breakdown is available here.

The Delta Sky Club.

The Delta Sky Club.

8. Discounted SkyClub Membership: In addition to gaining access to SkyClubs and partner lounges when traveling internationally, Gold Medallions can also purchase one- or three-year discounted SkyClub membership. A one-year membership costs $400/50,000 miles for the member or $650/80,000 miles for joint membership (with a spouse, family member, etc.). Regular SkyMiles members would pay $450/70,000 miles or $700/100,000 miles for one year. For a three-year term, Gold flyers pay $990 (or $1620 for a joint membership), while regular flyers would pay $1215/$1965.

I would only recommend taking advantage of this slight discount if you travel almost exclusively domestically and frequently fly into or out of an airport with a SkyClub. I personally travel entirely within the U.S. for work, and since I can choose from Orlando, West Palm Beach, or Fort Lauderdale (all with SkyClubs and within 90 minutes of my house), I found it worthwhile to pay for membership back when I was Gold. Remember though that any trip with a SkyTeam international flight (even if you are starting with a domestic flight or two on Delta) still allows you lounge access without a full membership.

9. Crossover Rewards with SPG: Like Silver flyers, Gold Medallion members can also take advantage of the new Crossover Rewards program with Starwood Preferred Guest. This allows travelers to earn one mile for every dollar of eligible spend at Starwood Properties. If you also happen to be Gold or Platinum with SPG, you can also earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta flights. Both of these bonuses are in addition to the regular Starpoints/SkyMiles earned for the stay/flight. Members must link their two accounts at www.delta.com/crossoverrewards to be eligible; for more details, check out Brian’s post from earlier this year.

So there you have it. I think you will all agree that Gold Medallion offers significant benefits over Silver; with double the required miles/segments/2014 spend, I would certainly hope so! Personally, I found that the leap from Silver to Gold status was a definite improvement in terms of perks and customer service.

Any Gold Medallion members out there with personal experience to share on your treatment, upgrade percentage or general thoughts on this level? Please feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for future posts on Platinum, Diamond, and a final wrap-up post with additional considerations for earning and maintaining status with Delta.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Marlene

    I think the Amex Reserve card makes more sense than a Skyclub membership. Status is irrelevant. Considering the companion in first class certificate, it’s much more cost effective.

  • steve

    The points guy,
    Do you know why I need pay income tax on 50000 thank you points from opening citi bank accounts But don’t need pay income tax on the points made from using credit card?

  • Allan Klein

    The only big huge benefit of the DL amex reserve is the companion ticket. Otherwise, Amex plat has far more benefits as far as lounge access goes (although losing AA/US shortly).

  • Nick Ewen

    Keep in mind too that SkyClub access with the reserve card only includes Delta lounges, not partner lounges. You also must be flying Delta. I’ve been able to access SkyClubs in PHL flying Southwest and PBI flying JetBlue that wouldn’t have been possible without a full membership.

  • Marlene

    I believe it also breaks ties on the upgrade list. Since I’m in Detroit, the club access is most valuable to me.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Very good writeup, thank you for that. Just a few comments/observations.

    1) DL Reserve versus AMEX Platinum: Both get you into domestic Delta Clubs, but one benefit of the Reserve is that there is a MQM bonus for spend (something like 15K MQM once spend $30K, another 15K MQM if you hit $60K). If you use this card for reimbursed business travel, you can have 30K MQM *and* meet the MQD for 2014.

    2) I do a lot of international travel in Asia; it is getting to the point that you do not get into the lounges unless you have a Business Class ticket. However, it is spotty whether you get in or not – this is a good reason to have the AMEX Platinum which gets you the Priority Pass (and into many of the lounges). It has been hit and miss. Domestically in China, I fly a lot of China Southern and China Eastern (both SkyTeam) – even showing my Platinum Medallion card sometimes does not work, so beware.

    3) SkyTeam Elite Plus Check-in for China Eastern and China Southern is very nice at larger airports (PEK and PVG). It is set up as lounge off the main hall and you are able to sit at a desk as the agent prepares your boarding passes and checked luggage tags (if applicable).

    4) SkyTeam Elite Plus Boarding depends upon the airport and whether the airline uses a “Bus Gate” system (where you have to ride a bus and lug your carry-ons up an old fashioned rolling stairway). The bus is better (actual seats for everyone) and you go up the stairs first. If you are in business class, you get a special bus and are driven right to the baggage claim area (as opposed to having to walk through the airport).

  • Nelson

    Relative newbie–I am currently silver, will hit gold in mid 2014. I would love a post to break down the confusing (to me) terminology. Sky Priority v Sky Team (Elite & Plus) v Medallion status…..I want to take advantage of all the benefits I am entitled to.

  • Nick Ewen

    Yes, if you are fighting for an upgrade with another medallion at your level flying on the same fare class, the Reserve will be a tiebreaker. I will cover this in my final wrap-up post.

  • Santastico

    I have Gold Medallion. It is better than have nothing but it won’t change your life. I almost never get upgraded in domestic flights. The other day I was #54 on wait list to be upgrade. Forget it.

  • Jim

    Amex Centurion Lounges are starting to pop up in certain airports, with more promised in the coming months, and they give access to AMEX Platinum members but not to Delta-branded cards of any level. Where these lounges exist in Mexico (Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, to my knowledge), these lounges give access to AMEX Gold members, too (though AMEX Platinum members have access to a private part of the lounge) — but still not to Delta-branded cardholders.

  • Jim

    Does having SkyTeam Elite Plus status as a Gold Medallion member really allow me access to any Delta SkyClub lounge in the US when I’m traveling Delta internationally in any class? (I’ve been Gold Medallion for 5 years and have always thought I had to be upgraded to business on the international leg in order to access the Delta lounges.) If so, reading today’s column has just made my life A LOT nicer!!

  • TSS

    Jim,

    You’ve been missing out the past 5 years. If you are Sky Elite Plus (GM or higher) and have an international leg in your flight the day you are traveling, you can use the Delta (and other SkyTeam) lounges. So say you have an ATL-JFK-CDG for the day, you can use the Delta lounge in Atlanta and JFK since you have an international leg for your flight.

    Enjoy!

  • Jim

    THANK YOU, TSS.
    I am glad to know this! I travel internationally on Delta several times /year! I will miss out no longer!

  • JustSaying

    What are the upgrade chances out of SFO?

  • rmp

    Please explain the companion’s chances for an upgrade with the gold medallion member. If the companion is silver, does this raise their priority to that of the gold member?

  • RMP

    Please explain the companion’s chances for an upgrade with the gold medallion member. If the companion is a silver medallion, does that raise
    her priority level to that of the gold member companion?

  • Slee

    Depends on the time/day and destination. Along the West coast and to non-hub cities? Pretty good. Eastward to a hub? Zero. Being out of Atlanta, I’ve only once ever gotten an upgrade to/from SFO at Gold and that was flying on a holiday.

  • Slee

    I enjoy an amazing 15% upgrade rate.

  • Slee

    If i got a DL Reserve card, I could be #50 instead of #51 on the UG list! Woohoo!!! :P

  • Nick Ewen

    No, unfortunately, if a Gold and Silver are traveling on the same reservation, they will be pulled down to the Silver window for advance upgrades. Then, once you check-in, they will be separated based on their respective statuses. My wife (Gold) and I (Diamond) will occasionally score an upgrade in advance, but it always comes at the Gold window, and we are then separated at the gate, where I almost always clear, while she rarely clears. Of course, she winds up sitting up front…happy wife = happy life!

  • Nick Ewen

    Jim, TSS is spot on. Glad to hear that your international trips just got much more comfortable!

  • Nick Ewen

    Hi Nelson,

    Here’s a basic break-down:

    SkyPriority: This refers to services you will receive as a Gold Medallion (or higher) flyer on any SkyTeam airline. It includes priority check-in, baggage handling, security lines, and boarding. It is being rolled out across SkyTeam airports around the world; look for the red and white “SkyPriority” sign when traveling. More info is available at http://www.skyteam.com/en/Why-SkyTeam/SkyPriority/ and http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/airports-and-aircraft/sky-priority.html

    SkyTeam Elite Plus: This is basically your “status” when traveling on other SkyTeam carriers (besides Delta). It includes all of the above services as well as lounge access when traveling internationally on a SkyTeam flight. It also gives you additional baggage allowance above and beyond the standard amount (both in weight and # of pieces). More info is available at http://www.skyteam.com/en/Why-SkyTeam/SkyTeam-Benefits/.

    Medallion program: This is Delta’s elite status program, and generally speaking, it will only offer published benefits on Delta flights and recognition within the Delta network. In other words, if you travel on China Southern, they most likely won’t care if you are Gold or Platinum; since both those Medallion levels are treated as “SkyTeam Elite Plus” customers, both will (in theory) be entitled to the same benefits (outlined above). The only exception I’ve heard involves oversold flights on Air France and KLM where they need to bump coach passengers to business class. In that case, I’ve read reports where they will prioritize Diamonds over Platinums, Platinums over Golds, etc. However, that is a VERY rare case, so 99% of the time, your Medallion level really only helps on Delta.

    Hope this makes sense, but feel free to post any other questions!

  • Ami

    I just reached Gold Status on Delta in the middle of my 3-flight return trip last week.
    1. Will the two additional flight segments flown this month roll over to next year’s MQS totals? (I have little hope of any status with miles.)

    2. Do flight segments paid partially with “pay-with-miles” count toward MQS’s?

  • LN

    I could pay $450 to buy my way into Gold Delta status. I also have a Delta Platinum Credit card. Is it worth it to pay for Gold? I travel 5-6 times a year within US and 1-2/year internationally. Thoughts?

  • Bret Landauer

    If I hit Gold Medallion in 2014 (just did), do I increase that year or not until 2015?

  • john

    It takes effect immediately (or within a few days of the miles being entered into the delta system).

  • ALH

    I’m gold, but the last two times I’ve flown domestically with a companion, Delta either didn’t place either of us on the upgrade list or didn’t place my companion on the list. We reserved together through the website and requested upgrades on the upgrade eligible flights. When I asked at the airport about this, I was either told that they just didn’t know why but couldn’t do anything about it, or that only I was eligible for upgrades but not my companion, or that they didn’t know Delta’s policy. On one flight from EWR to MSP, first class was almost entirely empty.

  • MAH

    Same experience with my companion/wife not being put on the upgrade list when flying from DCA to OMA. The gate agent didn’t know why since we were on the same record locator. There were multiple empty seats in first class.

Print This Page