Early last December, Delta revamped their unlimited complimentary domestic upgrade elite policy and transition to a program similar to United which still offered unlimited complimentary upgrades on most routes but required Global Upgrade Certificates to be used on premium transcontinental routes between JFK and Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and long haul routes between Hawaii and the East Coast. Prior to these changes, Delta offered Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades (UCU) on all non-BusinessElite routes within North and Central America, but did not allow UCU to Hawaii. These changes were supposed to satisfy elite travelers by providing them the options to upgrade to Hawaii and introduce both Regional upgrades which secured a seat upfront on routes that were covered by the UCU policy and introduce a new Global Upgrade Certificate which could be redeemed on long haul routes and premium routes such as those from JFK.
The problem with this policy is that many of Delta’s most elite fliers are extremely unhappy with the change. In the past, they’ve been able to receive UCU on this premium route (JFK to SEA, LAX, SFO) and now Delta is requiring a Global Upgrade Cert on this same route, not a Regional Upgrade such as the one that is required by United. A Global Upgrade Certificate is much more valuable than Regional Upgrades Certificates, as Regional Upgrade Certificates can only be used on routes that already offer UCU while Global Certificates are actually system wide upgrades and can be used on transpacific, transatlantic, or Transamerica routes. Therefore, burning a Global Certificate on a JFK-LAX routes is a complete waste, when one could instead use it on a long-haul international route. Furthermore, the new upgrade policy completely eliminated upgrade availability for Platinum elites (those flying 75,000 -119,000 miles a year on Delta) as Global certificates were only given to Diamond Medallions.
- Diamond Medallion members may choose either four (4) Global Upgrades or eight (8) Regional Upgrades.
- Platinum Medallion members may choose four (4) Regional Upgrades.
With the introduction of these revised policies, as you can imagine Delta’s most loyal customers were dissatisfied, especially those who fly coast to coast. American Executive Platinum (100,000 mi/yr) are still receiving UCU between JFK and LAX and SFO which offer service on the three class A321T (my first class review on the A321T) and United allows the use of Regional Upgrade Certificates (not Global/SWU like Delta) on PS flights between JFK and LAX/SEA. This made Delta the only carrier to require valuable Global Upgrades to be redeemed on a domestic transcon flight.
Elites Respond to Delta new policy, Delta now backpedals
With the change in policy Delta’s most elite fliers shied away from transcontinental nonstop flights. Instead of booking direct flights, many elites would choose to fly via a hub to get to the east coast as a midcontinent stop would still allow for the possibility of an upgrade without the need to burn valuable Global Upgrade Certificates. Furthermore, Elite’s ensured Delta heard their complaints and emailed Delta informing them of this dissatisfaction. Yet, with each complaint came Delta’s automated response:
I understand your disappointment with the changes to Transcontinental
Complimentary Upgrades. As a [Elite level] Medallion and [being a Million Miler], we very much care about your business and want to ensure any concerns you
may have are addressed.
The decision to make these changes to the transcontinental upgrades was
not taken lightly. A large portion of our revenue comes from selling
BusinessElite seats. In addition, the spread of fares between coach and
the premium cabin on these aircraft are typically much wider than that
of other domestic flights. As such, we don’t want to push people away
from buying those seats, or from thinking of them as a more exclusive
product. If we continue to provide them as Complimentary Upgrades, our
ability to sell BusinessElite would be diminished.
I do want to let you know we are working on a product which will allow
customers to upgrade with miles on delta.com and be confirmed at the
time of ticketing. It is in the test phase right now but we hope to
roll it out more broadly over the next month. Further, as a SkyMiles
Diamond Medallion, you are able to select Global Upgrades as one of your
Choice Benefits. Global Upgrades are valid for use systemwide on
published Economy Class fares booked in Y, B, M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X
or V class. You would be able to use them on available transcontinental
Additionally, you may wish to consider taking advantage of connecting
routes to LAX through cities such as Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas,
Portland, etc. as Complimentary Upgrades are still available on these
Lastly, it is important to have a broader picture of transcontinental
upgrades on our competitors as well- United similarly does not allow
complimentary upgrades on their flights from JFK to LAX/SFO and American
only offers upgrades to Executive Platinum members or Platinum/Gold
members when flying in the top two Economy Class fares.
We value your input and understand your concerns; I want you to know
you’ve been heard and understood. Although I realize the changes to our
policies is disappointing, I can only hope that you will find some sense
of fairness in our rationale as we make improvements to our
BusinessElite product worldwide.
We do take customer feedback seriously, and your comments will be
forwarded to our SkyMiles Leadership Team for consideration.
Despite all these automatic response, complaints on Flyertalk and Twitter, Delta is finally realizing that they had to respond to their disgruntled Elite base. All three legacy carriers offer lay flat seat coast-to-coast and even the hybrid low cost carrier JetBlue is offering Mint, a lay flat seat with Business class amenities for as low as $500 compared to $1000+ on the legacy carriers. Delta’s product is not the crème de la crème and requiring Global Upgrades Certificate for an upgrade is absurd!
Well, good news, it appears as though Delta has finally pulled their head from under the sheets and has realized that those premium seats are not being sold and upgrade certificates are not being wasted, but instead the seats have been given to people flying on buddy passes or airline employees commuting for work or leisure. Angry medallions tired of seeing Delta employees relaxing in the front are finally getting their way, as Delta is quietly providing complimentary upgrades to both Diamond and Platinum fliers as of June 20, 2014 starting 6 hours before departure.
The new policy has not yet been updated on the Delta medallion upgrade website, but has been confirmed by René on Deltapoints and by individuals on FlyerTalk and by Travelskills. Although the upgrade policy is not yet an official policy, more and more people are claiming that they are receiving complimentary upgrades day of departure. I would highly suggest speaking with the gate agent or the Skyclub agent if you’re a Diamond or Platinum Elite flying on one of these three routes, as you too may be eligible for an upgrade. And if it fails, it never does any harm to ask.