Ask Gadling: How do I extend the benefits of my elite status?

This week’s question comes from Julie in Ann Arbor, Michigan

“This year I have Gold Medallion status on Delta, which I probably won’t ever have again. Are there any good programs or perks that I qualify for now that I won’t in the future and should consider taking advantage of?”

Gadling: The Gold Medallion status that you’ve earned on Delta Airlines is a valuable perk. With it, you’re entitled to a 50% 100% earned mileage bonus on all of your flights, select seating (including bulkhead and exit row seats) and two free checked bags, among other perks, during this year’s travel. You can find a full list of benefits on Delta’s website.

If you earn 50-75k miles this calendar year you’ll be able to retain these perks, while if you fly only 25-50k miles your status will drop to silver. Below the 25k mark, your status will drop to nothing on the 1st of March, 2011. Those two extra months in the beginning of 2011 are rollover months during which you’ll retain your 2010 status (and perks) but against which you’ll earn miles for the 2011/2012 years. So if you don’t earn 25k miles through the end of this year, well, you can try to earn 25k in January and February of 2011 to keep your status active.

But if your status is due to expire irrespective of your travel plans, there is not much you can do to extend your benefits into next year. The best way to take advantage of 2010’s status is to coordinate and travel as much as you can (perhaps at the whim of one of your friends) before February 28th, 2011. In addition to the upgrades and bonuses that you’ll get as a gold, you’ll also be entitled to numerous other benefits including Delta’s new Sky Priority service.

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One forward reaching benefit that you may want to consider is enrollment in the Delta Sky Clubs. While not as nice as they once were, Sky Clubs provide a pleasant oasis from the normal airport hubbub with free limited snacks, televisions, soft chairs and wireless internet. Memberships range from one year to three years to a full lifetime, and those rates are discounted based on your elite status.

Though there aren’t many ancillary benefits that Skymiles Gold can afford with other companies, you may want to consider trying to “status match” to another airline. At year’s end, get in touch with a competing airline, tell them that you’re switching preferred carriers and ask for similar status. They’ll ask you to send over your credentials and depending on their policy, should give you some sort of status. I’ve done this with British Midlands (bmi) before and have been very pleased with the accompanying benefits from Star Alliance Gold.

If you haven’t earned enough miles by March 1 2011, it’s not unheard of for the airline to offer you a “soft landing” from gold to silver, though given Delta’s recent revenue management tactics this may be a far reach. A polite letter to Skymiles indicating your planned flights (ie revenue) upcoming may further validate your case.

Until then, take advantage of your status and hoard as many miles as you can. Skymiles has been particularly stingy on releasing inexpensive rewards lately, so you’ll need every single mile that you can get your hands on.