Elite Status Series: Delta Silver Medallion

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

Being a Delta Silver Medallion has some valuable benefits.
Being a Delta Silver Medallion has some valuable benefits.

As 2013 draws to a close, that can only mean one thing…the end of the elite status-qualifying year is almost upon us! Though I have held status with Delta for almost 7 years now, I still remember being that freshly minted Silver Medallion and wondering why I was being paged to the podium for my first ever complimentary upgrade. Since then, I have become much more knowledgeable about the program, and this post is the first in a series on the different levels of Delta’s Medallion program. If you are a new  Silver Medallion, welcome! Here’s everything you need to know about the next 15 months, including a breakdown of qualification levels and key benefits

Qualification

For starters, Silver Medallion is Delta’s lowest tier of elite status, and it is earned after flying 25,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (or MQM’s, for short) or racking up 30 Medallion Qualification Segments.

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 However, as of September 1, Delta decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates.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

In addition to these changes, there will be a new component for the 2014 qualification 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 Silver status during the 2014 year, you would need to have at least $2,500 MQD’s plus 25,000 MQM’s or 30 Medallion Qualification Segments.

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

While this new requirement certainly ruffled some feathers in the frequent flyer community (and likely prompted similar changes by United), it was announced with plenty of notice, and Delta has even added MQD trackers to their website. These are displayed during the ticket purchase process, and a running total is now displayed in your account (after logging in, click on “My Delta” and then “My SkyMiles” to see your current spend level). This is especially helpful, since only the base fare of a ticket plus certain surcharges will count, and only flights purchased through a Delta channel are eligible. 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 Silver 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:

If you are lucky, your Silver Medallion Status could help you get a complimentary upgrade.
If you are lucky, your Silver Medallion Status could help you get a complimentary upgrade.

1. Complimentary Upgrades: Silver Medallion members are eligible for space-available complimentary upgrades on paid 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.

If space is available, full Y fares will clear at time of booking, while all other classes will clear 1 day in advance (usually between 5 and 6pm two 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 towards the bottom of the list.

Unfortunately, unless you are on a full Y fare (and thus ahead of all other medallions not on Y tickets), the chances of these upgrades are relatively slim, though the likelihood depends on a number of factors, including the day of the week and route you are flying. Saturdays and Wednesdays tend to have lighter loads (and fewer elite members), and the holidays are also slightly easier, since many road warriors are at home. Still, it’s a complete crapshoot; I would say that a 25% upgrade success would be the absolute BEST you could hope for, but be prepared for that number to be significantly less.

2. Mileage Bonus: Silver Medallion members also receive a 25% mileage bonus for every flight. Note that these bonus miles do not count as MQM’s but instead are additional redeemable miles that can go 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 Silver Medallion member 625 miles.

Economy comfort at a discounted price for Delta Silver Medallions.
Economy comfort at a discounted price for Delta Silver Medallions.

3. Preferred Seating: Silver 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. Silver members can also purchase Economy Comfort seats with additional legroom at a discounted price. Economy Comfort seats on long-haul and transcontinental flights include additional recline and complimentary beer, wine and spirits. For flights in the U.S./Canada/Mexico/Caribbean/Central America, the discount is 50% (or free, if available, within 24 hours of the flight). For all other international flights (including those on KLM), Economy Comfort is available at a 25% discount.

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, which means that same seat would be $24.50 for a Silver Medallion member. Silver members could also wait until the check-in window (within 24 hours of departure) and access the same seat for free.
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow: Economy Comfort for this long-haul flight can be purchased by anyone for $79 each way; Silver members could purchase that same seat for $59.25.

4. Baggage Fee Waiver: Silver Medallion members are able to check one free bag over the standard allowance on every flight, and 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.

You get Priority Check In as a Delta Silver Medallion.
You get Priority Check In as a Delta Silver Medallion.

5. Priority check-in and Boarding: Silver Medallion members are able to access designated check-in lines at most airports, but please note that this is not always the SkyPriority lane. I’ve found that certain locations have separate ones labeled “Silver Medallion/Alaska MVP” so be sure to look for your designated line. In addition, Silver members are automatically assigned Zone 1 boarding if they haven’t been upgraded in advance, allowing early access to the overhead bins.

6. SkyTeam Elite Status: Silver Medallion members traveling on a SkyTeam flight will automatically have their status recognized as “SkyTeam Elite,” which offers a variety of benefits including priority check-in, boarding, airport standby, and preferred seating (when available). Note that these benefits may not be available on every SkyTeam flight or at every SkyTeam airport; a complete breakdown is available here.

Link your SPG and Delta accounts to get crossover rewards.
Link your SPG and Delta accounts to be part of Crossover Rewards.

7. Crossover Rewards with SPG: Silver Medallion members also can take advantage of the new Crossover Rewards program with Starwood Preferred Guest. This allows Silver Medallions to earn one SkyMile for every dollar spent at SPG properties; it’s only SPG Gold and Platinum members that earn a Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta. 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. There’s no question that Silver Medallion members are by far the lowest rung on Delta’s elite status totem pole, but nevertheless, having any status can make the travel experience much more pleasant.

Any Silver 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 Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and a final wrap-up post with additional considerations for earning and maintaining status with Delta.

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