In a comment on my post about the card that earns 2 Delta miles per dollar on all spend, Tokyo Hyatt Fan points out that there’s also a card that gives you Delta Gold Medallion status.
It’s an American Express card. And it’s issued in Japan.
US carriers in foreign markets have unique challenges. Generally speaking their benefits are geared towards US consumers, but with a substantial presence elsewhere they may try to tailor their offerings.
Delta in particular inherited a big Japan presence from Northwest Airlines (formerly Northwest Orient) in their merger. Delta, through their Seattle hub and with longer range aircraft, are now overflying their Tokyo operation to a much greater degree than in the past. But there’s a large historic tie to Japan.
Several US carriers used to offer non-US members complimentary lounge access based on their elite status, which wasn’t offered to similar status members in the U.S. (and so they were quite concerned to validate members ‘moving abroad’). They did this because their foreign competitors offered lounge access even on domestic itineraries via status.
Delta also reduces the value of the program based on geography. Since European airlines generally add fuel surcharges to award tickets, Delta adds an ‘international origin surcharge’ to awards which begin in Europe (New York – Paris – New York wouldn’t have this fee, but Paris – New York – Paris would).
And while United and Delta have minimum spend requirements for elite status, those requirements don’t apply to members with addresses outside the United States.
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