Starting today, Delta has provided new rules for its upgrade process, expanding it to include both award travel and also tickets booked with companion fare discounts. (HT to Frequent Miler) These companion fares are included with the Platinum and Reserve versions of Delta’s American Express cards and let you book a free companion (plus taxes and fees) for a companion ticket when booking travel in the contiguous 48 states.
Overall it’s great news for Delta SkyMiles members. Perks like this make it much easier to use benefits –redeeming miles or discount certificates — without making sacrifices elsewhere, on things like upgrades.
Comparison to Alaska Airlines
What I found most interesting is how closely this tracks some policies of Alaska Airlines, which has always permitted upgrades and normal earning rates on companion fares, as well as a recent change that Alaska made to permit upgrades on award tickets. There seems to be some copy cat activity here. On the other hand, Alaska recently started serving Biscoff cookies and Woodford Reserve Bourbon, so Alaska’s copying them, too. These are all signs that the “Battle for Seattle” is not over yet!
Different restrictions exist for redeeming companion fares and for upgrading award tickets on each carrier, so I’m not sure that one is better than the other. Both are good in different ways, and it remains important for you to think about your own travel habits before picking a carrier.
An Update on My Personal Rankings
Long-time readers know that I’ve never been a fan of the SkyMiles program, in large part because of its ungenerous redemption rules and secret award pricing. However, many (not all) of these issues have been improving lately, and the recent failings of the American AAdvantage program have pushed down the competition.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and in light of today’s news I’m confident in saying SkyMiles is at least better than AAdvantage. However, I remain pretty stoked about United MileagePlus and Alaska MileagePlan largely because of how much more transparent they are in how their programs operate, the ability to handle more booking functions, and their comparatively lower fees for award travel.