As much as I rag on Delta SkyMiles, it’s almost entirely based around their mileage redemption program as opposed to their elite program. I find it ridiculous that Delta eliminated award charts and doesn’t value transparency.
However, I have to give them credit for their elite program, which has been improving lately, at least compared to their peers. For example, in 2017 Delta will be improving their Diamond Medallion upgrade options.
It looks like Delta SkyMiles is making another change to their elite upgrade program, as it pertains to companion upgrades.
Under the current policy, the companion of a SkyMiles Medallion member only receives complimentary upgrades day of departure. Furthermore, if an elite member and companion are on the same reservation, upgrade chances are significantly worse, since the elite member can only clear at most 24 hours out. Here’s how Delta describes companion upgrades:
- You and companion have different reservation numbers:
Your upgrade will clear based on your individual member status and confirmation window. Your companion’s will clear no sooner than 24 hours prior to the flight’s departure.
- You and companion share same reservation number:
Both your upgrades will clear no sooner than 24 hours prior to the flight’s departure.
Delta elite members don’t see very many upgrades when traveling with companions
This will be changing soon. As of this fall, elite companion upgrades will clear based on the higher of the two status levels, for both first class and Comfort+. Per the SkyMiles News & Updates page:
We recently surveyed our Medallion members about our companion policy for Complimentary Upgrades, and a majority of you voted that Medallion members traveling with a companion should clear for Complimentary Upgrades based on the higher of the two status levels.
So, we’re investing in making things better. Starting this fall, Medallion members traveling with one companion will clear for Complimentary Upgrades to both First Class and Delta Comfort+™ based on the status of the higher-tiered member. Diamond and Silver traveling together? Your upgrade will clear at the Diamond level, when available.
It’s one of the many ways we’re striving to offer the best elite travel experience for our most loyal members. Be on the lookout for more details and the official start date for these changes that will be announced this summer.
These changes will apply to Delta Comfort+ upgrades as well
Objectively this is a positive change, and matches the policies of American and United, which also clear companion upgrades at the elite window of the higher status member.
I commend Delta for making this change, because I truly believe it’s based on member feedback. At the same time, I have to point out that companion upgrades are a double edged sword. I suspect how you feel about companion upgrades differs based on your status level and how often you fly with companions.
Keep in mind that there are fewer and fewer first class seats to upgrade to. In 2011, only 31% of first class passengers paid something to sit there. Meanwhile in 2015, 57% of first class passengers paid something to sit there. By 2018 Delta is hoping that number reaches 70%.
The point is, there are fewer seats to upgrade to, and it’s ultimately a zero sum game:
- Should a Diamond Medallion on a slightly higher fare with a companion clear ahead of two Diamond Medallions on slightly lower fares?
- Should a Diamond Medallion on a low fare with a companion clear ahead of two high fare Platinum Medallions?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, and it totally varies based on your travel patterns.
I commend Delta for this change, because I think they’re trying to do something good for members here. It is a good change overall, though I think it’s worth looking at both sides. There are only so many first class seats to upgrade to, and everyone feels differently about the order in which those upgrades should occur.
Overall I like this change, as it sort of sucks to have top tier status with an airline, only to be treated poorly when you’re traveling with a loved one. But it also sucks to miss an upgrade when you’re alone because someone else has a companion. 😉
Which system do you prefer — companions clearing at the highest elite member’s upgrade window, or companions clearing after all other elites?
(Tip of the hat to Rene’s Points)