When I compiled summaries of airline upgrade policies earlier this year, each had its own quirks. But what really struck me was how negatively Delta viewed complimentary upgrades for the companions of elite members. You could get upgraded days in advance, but your companion would be prioritized dead last, after every other elite member cleared the list. Well… I guess SkyMiles companions do clear before travelers with elite status on Alaska Airlines. 😉
Is this good or bad? Most other loyalty programs group the companion with the primary traveler at the same level — specifically the higher level. That means you and your companion are more likely to get upgraded together, but it also means that single travelers are less likely to get upgraded at all. There’s more competition from companions that leave low-status singletons stuck in coach. Delta’s policy was great for solo travelers.
Renes Points shared an update from Delta Air Lines on a new companion upgrade policy coming this fall. (To find it, click on “Medallion Program Updates” and then “Coming This Fall….”) Apparently Delta surveyed their members and found that most people didn’t like the existing policy, so Delta’s changing it to match the status quo among other U.S. carriers.
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.
I personally like this change. The upgrade matters more when traveling with my wife, and if she can’t clear with me then the rule is we both sit in coach. Together.
But still, I’m a little surprised that so many people voted in favor of the new policy. The most frequent travelers are likely to be business travelers who buy expensive fares — the most valuable customers, from Delta’s perspective. These business travelers are more likely to be flying alone. Wouldn’t they see the value in the current model that helps even Gold and Silver Medallion members clear the upgrade waitlist?
Or, could it be that these two groups aren’t competing for the same upgrade space after all? Business travelers tend to fly on weekdays while leisure travelers — who are more likely to bring a companion — tend to fly on weekends.
Whatever the reason, it’s a noteworthy change for those who travel often with a companion, and it may affect your upgrade strategy going forward. Keeping both passengers on the same reservation may be important, whereas before some people would split the reservations so they could upgrade separately.