Elite Status Series: Delta Platinum Medallion

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

Being a Delta Platinum Medallion has some big benefits.
Being a Delta Platinum Medallion has some big benefits.

In earlier posts, I covered the ins and outs of Delta’s lowest two tiers of elite status: Silver Medallion and Gold Medallion. This piece is targeted at those newly minted Platinum Medallions (read: road warriors) on Delta. As I’ve said in earlier posts, congrats! I remember how much travel it took for me to reach Platinum Medallion for the first time, but the array of additional benefits really makes it worthwhile. Here’s everything you need to know about the next 15 months, including a breakdown of qualification levels and key benefits.

Qualification

Delta Medallion Qualification Levels.
Delta Medallion Qualification Levels.

Platinum Medallion is Delta’s second-highest tier of elite status. (In fact, it used to be the highest level one could earn, as Diamond Medallion has only been around for a few years.) It is earned after flying 75,000 Medallion Qualification Miles or racking up 100 Medallion Qualification Segments. In other words, Platinum Medallions spend a lot of time at 30,000+ feet!

Keep in mind that Delta recently decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates, muddying the qualification waters a bit. As always, double-check this chart to see if your partner flight will count towards status.

Medallion Qualifying Dollars

As mentioned many times before, a new qualification requirement goes into effect next year: Medallion Qualification Dollars (or MQD’s). 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 Platinum status during the 2014 year, you would need to have at least $7,500 MQD’s plus fly the 75,000 MQM’s or 100 Medallion Qualification Segments.

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

Even though this won’t affect your current status or qualification, Delta has set up tools so you can track your current year-to-date spend through your SkyMiles profile, and when you are purchasing a flight, the confirmation page already includes 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 Platinum 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:

Upgrade to first class dining.
Upgrade to first class dining.

1. Complimentary Upgrades: Platinum 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, like Gold Medallion flyers, Platinum Medallion members 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).

If space is available, full Y fares will clear at time of booking, while all other classes will clear 5 days in advance (usually between 5 – 6pm six days before the actual flight date) if available. Remember that Delta recently removed the ability to search this inventory on ExpertFlyer, and just because there are open seats on the seat map doesn’t mean that they will automatically upgrade Medallions in advance. If, however, your upgrade doesn’t clear at the five-day window, 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 travelers.

Just like before, your chances of scoring the upgrade really depend on many factors, but Platinum Medallion members should see significantly better percentages than Silver and/or Gold members. I would say that a 75% upgrade percentage would be reasonable to expect, but again, that could vary significantly given your route, time of travel, and fare class purchased.

2. Mileage Bonus: Platinum Medallion members actually receive the same 100% mileage bonus as Gold Medallions. Remember that 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 Platinum Medallion member 1,000 miles.

3. Preferred Seating: Platinum 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. Platinum flyers also can enjoy free Economy Comfort seats on both domestic and international flights, with additional legroom and (for long-haul Delta- and KLM-operated flights), additional recline and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits. The ability to grab these seats on the longer flights for free is a significant jump in benefits from Silver and/or Gold Medallion, both of which are entitled to discounts (25% and 50%, respectively). Just beware, the booking process can be rocky, as TPG experienced flying KLM to Cape Town in September.

Delta's Economy Comfort.
Delta’s Economy Comfort.

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 both a Gold and Platinum Medallion member.
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow: Economy Comfort for this long-haul flight can be purchased by anyone for $79 each way, while a Platinum Medallion flyer could sit in that same seat for free. In contrast, Gold members would need to shell out $39.50, and Silver Medallions would have to pay $59.25.

4. Baggage Fee Waiver: Platinum 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.

Delta coach
As a platinum, switch your flight for free.

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

6. Waived Award Redposit/Reissue Fees: Here’s where things really begin to take off for Platinum Medallions, and this is a huge benefit for reaching this level. As a Platinum flyer, you are entitled to unlimited changes and cancellations on the award tickets you book (as long as changes are made at least 72 hours before the first flight…TPG discussed this terrible new policy when it was first announced back in 2011). Given how stingy Delta can be at releasing low-level (saver) award seats, this flexibility can be huge:

1)     If your desired flights are only available at the mid (standard) or high (peak) levels at the time of booking, you can get miles back for free if low (saver) seats open up closer to departure (again, as long as it’s more than 72 hours prior to your departure).

2)     If the only routing you can find with saver availability includes an early morning flight, four segments, an unwanted overnight, or is otherwise less-than-ideal, you can switch to a more direct routing for free if one becomes available after booking.

3)     If something comes up that prevents you from taking trip, you can cancel the award tickets, get the miles back into your account, and get a full refund of the taxes and fees paid…no questions asked. No need to share (or create!) a sob story in an effort to find a sympathetic phone agent to cancel the trip without fees; that’s part of the benefit.

Let’s say (for example) that you wanted to book a round-trip flight from New York to Denver using your miles. Unfortunately, your ideal flights out west and back only have “standard” award availability, which means you’d need to shell out 20,000 miles each way. Since you really want to go and have no flexibility with the times, you book the flights at 40,000 miles. One week later, your outbound flight suddenly becomes available at the saver level, so you promptly call the Platinum line. The change is made without a fee, and 7,500 SkyMiles go back into your account. Then, two weeks after that, the return flight also opens up at the saver level. Again, you call, and again you get the 7,500 miles back without any fees. Each one of those changes would cost Gold and lower flyers $150.

I have also used this flexibility to lock in award tickets right at the start of the booking window when I thought availability might disappear. Last June, at exactly 330 days prior to departure, I grabbed the only two O class tickets (business awards) on AirFrance’s direct MIA-CDG flight. The two one-way tickets set me back 100,000 miles each + taxes & fees. Then, a few days later, I added on flights to the Seychelles; since this was now a one-way flight from the US-Africa, it took another 20,000 miles per person + minimal additional taxes. Then, about two weeks later, I called back to add the return legs from Madagascar to Paris to Miami, again right at the 330 day booking window. Since Delta prices one-way awards at the same price as round-trip awards, I didn’t need to pay any additional miles, and all of these changes were completely free.

The key lesson here is that any changes after booking do not get rid of existing award flights. When I added those last flights, the MIA-CDG flight had no availability, but since I had already locked that in, the reservation “remembered” that there were two O seats initially, and it kept that part of the itinerary intact.

7. Priority check-in, Security, and Boarding: Like Gold members, Platinum Medallion flyers 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.

SkyTeam airlines
Fly on Sky Team and get Elite Plus Status as a Platinum Medallion.

8. SkyTeam Elite Plus Status: Platinum Medallion members traveling on a SkyTeam flight will automatically have their status recognized as “SkyTeam Elite Plus,” which offers valuable benefits when traveling internationally, including priority check-in, boarding, airport standby, preferred seating (when available), 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 Platinum 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.

Have a beer at the Delta Sky Club.
Have a beer at the Delta Sky Club.

9. Discounted SkyClub Membership: In addition to gaining access to SkyClubs and partner lounges when traveling internationally, Platinum Medallions can also purchase one- or three-year discounted SkyClub membership. A one-year membership costs $350/40,000 miles for the member or $600/70,000 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, Platinum flyers pay $870 (or $1500 for a joint membership), while regular flyers would pay $1215/$1965.

As I discussed in the Gold Medallion post, I would only recommend taking advantage of this 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 back when I was Platinum. 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.

Choice Benefits.
Choice Benefits.

10. Choice Benefits: Once you have obtained Platinum Medallion status with Delta, you are automatically entitled to the “Choice Benefits” program. Platinum flyers can choose one of the following: four Systemwide Upgrade Certificates (though these can only be used on K+ fares in the U.S./Canada/Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico and M+ fares on long-haul flights), four Delta SkyClub one-day passes, 20,000 bonus miles (just redeemable, not MQM’s), a $200 voucher with Tiffany’s, a $200 voucher with Delta, or the ability to gift Silver status to a designated friend/family member. To make your selection, login to your account and then visit the Choice Benefits page listed above. Selections must be made by the end of your status year. In other words, if you qualify for Platinum in 2013 (meaning you will hold status throughout all of 2014), you have until February 28th of 2015 to make the selection.

11. Crossover Rewards with SPG: Like Silver and Gold flyers, Platinum 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. In addition, Platinum Medallion flyers also enjoy additional on-property benefits at Starwood properties, including elite check-in lines, late checkout, “enhanced” rooms (corner, high floor, etc.), and complimentary in-room internet access. This is basically like being Gold with SPG; remember, though, that Gold and Platinum SPG members also earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta flights. All 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 TPG’s post from earlier this year.

So there you have it. Platinum Medallion members are clearly better off than Gold Medallions, and I personally find the award ticket redeposit/reissue benefit worth its weight in gold (or platinum?). My upgrade percentage as a Platinum flyer was also quite high, and riding up front more frequently is ALWAYS a good thing.

Any Platinum 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 a future post on Diamond and a final wrap-up post with additional considerations for earning and maintaining status with Delta.

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