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 However, as of September 1, Delta decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates.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