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The Delta pseudo-sorta-now & then JFK upgrade fiasco – any way to run a major airline?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

NYC free

I have been waiting to post about the news that Delta has, due to competition from a superior product (Mint or AA), backpedaled on something I have blogged about HERE and HERE and HERE and a bunch more. The idea that flyers will pay more for Delta’s product when they can connect and have an upgrade chance or fly another airline was ridiculous. Delta’s move shows they are scared of mass defection of top HVCs! And if I lived or wanted to get to NYC direct transcon from LAX/SFO/SEA I would be either on another airline or connecting via ATL (at least under the current Skymiles as it is worth it).

So why did I wait to post about this news? I had some follow up questions to the new Skymiles rep but was told the same stock answer all the other bloggers have received, that is basically this is a test, it is when they feel like it, and don’t bank on this being official any time soon. Nothing more could be shared for now. What a way to implement a major policy; I am sure it makes you swell with trust in Delta Air Lines! I wanted to know:

  • Just how these upgrades will be processed.
  • How will it work with the Delta APP.
  • Will the DM & PM line be able to put these requests in.
  • When will it show up on in print.

After that I now also would also like to know what about SWU (old ones) and if now, since this IS again an upgradeable route, can we use Regional Upgrade certs as burning a Global Upgrade is to me the same as setting it on fire. Lastly how much of this choice for upgrade is computer driven and what is human driven; along with that, is it based on some REV MGT. equation? I could go on and on but I doubt we are going to hear more about this as they test this mess out.

The “facts” seem to be DM & PM can request this upgrade 6 hrs before flight. Skyclub requests work. The rest of the ways should work but again we have no real direction as this is not really official as you will not find it on, the real source for accurate Delta medallion information.

Don’t get me wrong, this is going in the right direction. The choice to not allow upgrades for ANY medallions is just ridiculous. Offering it only to DM & PM is fine as I doubt very many GM or FOs have a shot at these slots anyway due to the medallion heavy loads on these routes.

The only thing this shows me, and that we can all hope for, is that once Skymiles2015 hits flyers in the face, Delta will be smart enough to backpedal the same way and fast! – René
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Hi there – I’m a PM and will be taking the JFK/LAX flight tomorrow and will test out what you mentioned above. Thanks!

  2. I read on one of the other blogs (I think PM&M) that a DM was saying once he requested the upgrade in the club it showed up on his app. Meanwhile, I just did the math, and if I was under 2015 Skymiles rules, I’d be ahead of where I am now! (grin)…we’ll seeeeee…

  3. Any word on whether this works for non-medallion companions on the same PNR?

    • @Tom – and ANOTHER outstanding question I/you/we would love to know but they are not saying noth’in – grrrr! 😉

  4. Shana Gainey-Lewis Reply

    I am indifferent to transcontinental upgrades since I never fly those routes, but I am looking forward to Skymiles 2015 because I will get more miles (and I don’t buy expensive fares…I just fly short distances every week). I think the current system that rewards flyers based on distance flown is extremely unfair. I only wish elite status would be calculated the same way as redeemable miles for the new system, then I could finally get Diamond status!

    • @Shana – two Delta AMEX Reserve cards ie on biz and one personal gives you 20k mqms. it is EZ to MFG 120k spend and you have in year 1, without flying, 80k MQMs and DM should be no problem! I get 30-60k MQMs this way each year. Anyone who is not DM and flys 50k plus is not trying hard enough and DM is so worth it.

  5. @Tom, @Rene, unfortunately I don’t remember where I read it. Was on PM&M’s blog?
    Anyway, I think I read somewhere that PMs and DMs need to fly without any companion to be eligible for such a possible upgrade on the transcon flights.
    I don’t remember the exact wording nor the source of it.
    Well, since I can’t point you to some source, my comment is [almost?] useless 🙁

    • @Ralfinho – No no no! When a multi-billion dollar corporation puts a MAJOR policy change and does not publish it other than on blogs there is something very wrong. But maybe I am as useless as you for thinking this way? 🙁 #Sad #Fail But I THANK YOU for the input so much! #WINNING

  6. Shana Gainey-Lewis Reply

    Thanks for the tip, but I cannot put all of my spending on the Delta card because it is so difficult to use their miles at the low level… I’d rather spend on cards that earn Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points. I’ll just hope that they change the elite qualification structure next year, haha 🙂

    • @Shana – don’t put any of “your” spending make it all MFG spending (what I do mostly). They will not change their elite qualification for next year. The MQM for flying is the same next year as now and they have made it clear again and again that is the case. So, MFG and mileage runs will be just as good next year as this year (for mqms that is and elite miles)! 🙂

  7. Shana Gainey-Lewis Reply

    What is MFG spending? I thought it was using the credit card to buy things like Vanilla Reloads and adding them to Bluebird to pay bills? Is that not correct?Thanks!

    • @Shana – that is one way. Amazon Payments is another. There are many many many more ways to MFG spending.

  8. I find the conversation very interesting. I came over from NW post-merger having been a multi-year NW Platinum. The trans-con upgrade situation is like the old NW Phantom Upgrades, except I always just took the view that this was a neat surprise and if I got called to the desk 5 minutes before boarding that I was a lucky guy that day — same as op-ups but better because NW was showing its appreciation.

  9. Shana Gainey-Lewis Reply

    Thanks, would you please be able to send me links or something with information about how to manufacture $120k a year in spending. I don’t make that much in a year and all of my expenses together (rent, car, food, student loans, etc.) Don’t come to that amount, so I’m not sure how to manufacture it. Thanks so much! 🙂

  10. I was able to get transcon upgrades as a gold..20-25% of the time on non peak times.

  11. Deltasegmentflyer Reply

    I for one along with many others will be very upset if they go backwards on skymiles 2015 I just wish elite status was also based on that instead of segments/miles.

    I think there is almost no chance they go retreat from skymiles 2015. To many of us business flyers like it. Rene you are my favorite but your earlier examples of buying business tickets that far out is just unrealistic.

  12. I travel lax-jfk at least once a month. Was going through Atlanta/ Detroit to get the upgrades.
    This is good news for me, but I heard they were only upgrading pm dm elite PLUS, which I assume are million milers??

    Any truth to this??

  13. Hey Rene, saw your story on the sort of back-pedal on upgrades and thought I’d send you a quick update

    I just flew the JFK-SFO non-stop for the first time this year. I know I told you that this year I would NEVER fly the non-stops because there’s no way I’d get upgraded (I’m a Diamond Million miler as you know and do 10-15 SFO-NYC a year).

    I’ve mostly done trips through MSP and DTW this year, along with sampling some of the competing non-stops. But two weeks ago I had to do a last-minute change, so I gave up a Friday already-upgraded MSP transit from JFK to SFO and took the Thursday non-stop (I was unlikely to get any upgrades on any available connections that met my departure requirements).

    Luckily, I did get exit-row 19D. Alas, the experience was NOT what they promised.

    First the plane was old. Very old. The 757 lacked any in-seat entertainment, featuring just those in-aisle drop-down TVs from 1965.

    The first class cabin looked shabby, and featured the old seats that are more common on the 767.. One customer actually walked off right before they closed the door, opting to take a later flight rather than sit in those non-reclining first class “seats”.

    And the service was terrible. The Economy comfort coast-to-coast is supposed to be premium, right. But all we got was a free wrap (which was OK), and the same service interval as the rest of the plane. The flight attendants never mentioned any “premiums” like free drinks or other perks. And during 95% of the flight they all huddled in the back galley, WITH THE CURTAIN CLOSED, basically telling the entire plane to go play a game of hide and go F yourself. The front galley had nothing available (water, snacks, etc), and we probably saw the flight attendants once during the entire 5 hour middle of the almost seven hour trip.

    I’ll continue to change planes when I fly coast to coast, and continue to sample the competition. This flight was actually a major step back from my previous non-stop SFOJFK experiences – even when I was in coach. Terrible on almost all accounts.

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