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Cutting through the Delta “OFCMB” seat marketing spin & how to game it (& get gamed)!

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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.


tale of two emails about new c+ seats
What PR email did you get?

Yesterday sure was an interesting day (after an interesting weekend). Delta has grown much more private about sharing info pre-release with the press and blogs and with this one I can see why they REALLY wanted to just spring it on all of us and hope, as many news outlets and blogs did, that they would just post the PR release word for word disseminating the company spin.

Problem was, some like yours truly and my fellow BA blogger Gary, could immediately see that not much had changed and there were real problems ahead with this new “arrangement” of seats. Then as the day went on some in the mainstream press went way off the company line and cut through the hype!

air france premium comfort
From Air France website

It really is a shame Delta did not take this chance to make a REAL change with this announcement. When I say REAL I mean put in a product that is not quite business class but is MUCH better than any coach seat. Think about Air France and their Premium Economy product. I can tell you, if I as a TOP Delta elite who flies over 100 segments a year, missed an upgrade but got this seat as the runner up prize, I would be a happy camper. Or, on international flights, due to my status I could book this seat for the cost of coach – JOY! But that did not and will not happen as that would cost money not make them money (apparently).

ofcmb the new names for deltas old seats delta points blog

We need to follow the money as with Delta, as I have been preaching over and over again it is all about the dollar and nothing else. The dollar is what the company is loyal to – not us. This new set of scrabble letters has created a new acronym for us to use (on the plus side it is a 14 point word score now)! Delta will AGGRESSIVELY market and sell this “new” seat to the mass market and make a boatload of money on it. Most folks will think, “hey ALL the free drinks and premium snacks I want, lots more room, PVT overhead space and free entertainment – yeah I am all for that”. Good spin. Problem is reality is just a little bit different.

sceen shot from new delta video
From Delta PR Video YouTube

I also got a copy of the PDF that was sent to FA s yesterday. It did not quite follow the company spin and was clearly targeted to not get them so upset they went running to form a committee to become unionized over a greater workload. In fact some FAs I chat with on Twitter first reactions were basically “NO WAY – NO HOW” as they cannot keep up with what they do now – Ruh Roh Delta. I see an implementation problem right from the get-go! Not just that, the internal company memo basically said the ONLY thing that will change for them on 1MARCH15 is having to bring a snack basket by for the C+ rows. No policing of overhead space or mention that C+ will be a PREMIUM travel experience and that service will be 1st class like. Let me warn you NOW – if you want more than one drink on a flight – get it when they come by as it will likely be the only time you see them before they look at you and say “trash” with a bag in hand (not really talking about you – well, we hope not anyway).

delta boarding pass hoou have one on us drink snack coupon for elite medallion flyers delta points blog
RIP dear HOOU – I will MISS YOU!

Then we have the HOOU-gate situation. That is, Delta has decided to dump GM+ access to a free drink coupon until 1MARCH when they will have a shot at a seat that includes it free. Thanks Delta we so much love these unannounced “enhancements” over the weekend (and from a personal note, to have media requests about it completely ignored – thankfully Delta Assist spilled the beans)! Delta tech support was so helpful in telling me to just ask for one at the airport. The Delta FA memo had language in it about how to nicely tell customers who want a drink to come back after 1MARCH. Nice! I like the idea better that we bug everyone at the airline for a free drink coupon until the change happens and I will be doing just that (most Delta folks have a stash of them someplace nearby – just keep asking).

So who wins and loses with this “name only” seat change from Delta. Silver medallions (FO) could come out ahead shockingly. You see they did not get a HOOU and now, if they happen to score C+ seats, get all the same perks a DM gets in this seat. Gold clearly are the new Silver to Delta. We have two classes of medallion now. FO-GM and PM-DM are it. A little tip, you want to be in the latter group from this point forward with Delta. Keep in mind, as a PM-DM, you can grab these coveted “new” seats for you and those with you in your reservation at no extra charge whenever you want.

Seattle gets less delta love
From WikiPedia

I can confirm to you all that SEA is, for once, getting less Delta love. As you saw with all the OFCMB marketing verbiage, Seattle was left out of the kool kids club, that is SFO and LAX. Those kids get the really nice DELTA ONE seats (yes we all agree this is the DUMBEST name EVER for a seat). SEA, you get 1st class that is 1st class in NAME only as it is a domestic 1st seat that is not to be confused with another airlines’ 1st that really is a 1st class seat not just a big coach seat called 1st. PHEW! So will unlimited upgrades from JFK-SEA come back for all medallions since this is NO LONGER a premium transcon route? It better as the way this was justified as a non-upgrade route. Time will tell but I expect it to revert back to a normal domestic upgradeable route soon.

game the system delta airlines for award seats delta points blog

Time to game the system. If you look at THIS post you will recall the importance of 6,5,3&1 for checking for better seats as DM & PM (& others) move up to 1st class on the automated upgrade system days before your flight. When these vacate the C+ seats it is a chance for you GMs at the 72 hour mark to jump in and inside the 24 hour mark for FO. Then, we have the next bit no matter what medallion rank you are. At about 30 minutes before departure the GA or gate agents will clear medallions to 1st class that is any seats remaining in the pointy bit of the jet. What you will need to do is bug the already overworked GA and tell them you want to be in a C+ seat when it opens up due to a medallion clearing to 1st class. They will NOT be happy about this but that is not your problem is it. You cannot get Skyclub folks to help here as the control of seats at this point is handed over to the gate so they are the ones who must help you.

I will add one of the biggest issues with this that is sure to come up is how Delta will game us and when this happens they will NOT care one bit for us. Delta, as we know, has barred Award Wallet from tracking our reservations. This was a HUGE perk as Delta will not tell us when an equipment swap happens. In the past, Award Wallet would simply email us that “you have had a seat change” and we could go back and fix it. Delta cares about more important IT issues than this and when these events happen we get tossed into a random coach seat not back into C+. The only way to game them back is to check your reservation on Delta.dumb OFTEN!

So there you are. With some time for reflection on this I am less impressed than ever with what we are about to get and continue to be more and more impressed with the marketing machine that our mothership is. Do you share my feelings?- René
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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.

22 Comments

  1. Rene,

    The devaluation for Golds could definitely point to the impact of MQD’s for the 2015 year. Delta has the data and can probably predict what is happening for medallion levels in 2015. My guess is that a lot of 2014 Platinums will drop to Golds due to MQD’s and maybe Delta is trying to create an incentive (whip) to try and get them to spend more.

  2. How much you wanna bet this will result in increased award redemptions for the “new” premium products.

    No way an international first class short haul seat costs the same an international “delta one” seat.

  3. Correct me if I am wrong. I am a GM and as best as I can tell, I will now be eligible to upgrade to economy comfort with perks at 72 hours and no longer have a chance at true 1st class.

    I flew VA to London last year in premium economy and felt it was as good or better than DL domestic 1st class. Since I doubt that DL is putting these seats in the economy plus spot, what am I really getting?

    • @Gregg G – You can still UG to 1st domestic if open and you are on the list and can clear.

  4. John DELTA Reply

    On flights yesterday from HKG-SEA and then into JFK. The crowd in Economy Comfort were all abuzz obviously unhappy with the Delta announcement.

    So many stating “what’s good with anymore” and “it’s too late for me to get a higher medallion status” and if course “thanks for giving me advance notice so I could plan….I spent all this money,flew all these flights and was loyal to DELTA based on what I believed they would offer me as a [fill in the blank] and I feel like it really is bait & switch!

    I do a lot of the SEA-JFK runs, and yes…many feel DELTA is quietly requesting from their previous commitment to put flat beds in all flights by mid-2015.

    Diamonds and Platinums were expecting an even better BE product which now pales in comparison to what American just announced for their First Class& Business Elite products going forward.

    There is a lot of talk in the Seattle market of DELTA FF’s abandoning the mother ship going forward…

    There must be some change with the SEA-JFK upgrades…as for the first time I can see the upgrade list two days out and I appeared on it without asking?

    I really think it’s a slap in the face to all Elites who are seated in the Main Cabin not to even have a chance at a complimentary alcoholic beverage during flight. Loyalty is a one-way street here..

  5. Hi Rene,

    I’m a DL hub-based PM dropping to GM for ’15 and I think the question I am weighing is the value of the status. If I directed my credit card spend into more lucrative products instead of the DL Amex I would accumulate many more flexible miles. The TSA pre-check can be had elsewhere. Upgrades will be few and far between and C+ seating sounds like a long shot now as well. Early boarding is almost the only consistent benefit.

    I really wonder if I plow the miles I saved from mileage running, flying DL when other carriers are cheaper, etc, could be plowed into just buying the perks I wanted, when I wanted them, on whichever carrier I wanted them on.

    As you point out, the value proposition on under 75K MQM status has become very iffy.

    • John DELTA Reply

      Kurt,
      Consider Alaska Airlines

      Beginning next year Alaska Mileage Plan will offer its top-tier MVP Gold 75K members a lofty 125 percent bonus on miles flown (butts in the seat) for travel on Alaska and ALL ITS PARTNERS, up from the current 100 percent bonus.

      MVP Gold 75K members will continue to earn an additional 50,000 miles added to their accounts for each year they re-qualify. Factoring both of these bonuses, an MVP Gold 75K member who flies 75,000 miles on Alaska Airlines will earn at least 218,750 award miles!

  6. FNT Diamond Reply

    The handwriting is on the wall. Platinum is next for de-evaluation. Delta has flooded its ranks of gold and platinum–maybe diamond, too–in recent months with all those highly targeted offers to certain fliers in certain markets or key corporate customers. The lounges are also still way too packed, as well. I suspect Delta will realize this problem by (1) even further raising the Medallion qualification dollar threshold spending requirements and (2) changing the Medallion qualification mileage tiers.

    By the way, folks need to also complain to Marriott. Marriott is giving free internet to all Rewards members very soon — a benefit previously only given to top-level elite guests. They have yet to announce a replacement benefit.

    Whether it’s Marriott or Delta, for every benefit expanded to all, there needs to be an uproar for something new.

  7. FNT Diamond Reply

    Also, a couple other points:

    1) I’ve flown premium economy several times on Air France. It is way overrated. OK, the food is marginally better along with the wine. But that’s it. The seat is actually not that comfortable for sleeping because the foot rest doesn’t extend that far out and the recline is minimum.

    2) Why not just take domestic first-class seats and put them on international flights as a premium economy or comfort-plus — whatever you want to call it?

    3) What’s the value of Delta One? There are still several international flights without it; such as the JFK to Stockholm flights. I presume Copenhagen, Ireland and so forth also don’t have it.

    4) The Seattle changes are interesting, if only because (1) Delta is a war with Alaska and (2) Delta is moving all of its Asia flights it seems to Seattle. I bet a lot of travelers will be missing ex-business elite now called one with its flat beds when they fly onto JFK after a long flight from Asia or beyond. Plus, Alaska’s service may be great but its hard product in first-class stinks. Delta’s one class of service (ex-business elite) was a competitive advantage. You also have to wonder if Delta’s move away from Boeing hurts it in Seattle.

  8. LonK in the ATL Reply

    Rene:
    I did not see the all those on my reservation anywhere…
    “as a PM-DM, you can grab these coveted “new” seats for you and those with you in your reservation at no extra charge whenever you want”
    hope it stays the same…am I missing it in the fine print?

  9. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    So I mentioned to you how I felt about the 72 hr GM C- window. But since C- is supposedly a new cabin class (but not a different fare class?), and at GM/FO reservations c- are not refundable, why not make it a higher fare class that has a higher upgradability shot. That would seem to bring more revenue on comp upgrades. Also there is the opportunity to sell EC twice. Not saying that this is any different from FO experience in the past. But maybe that looks like a “GM_C-” medallion rank/level/status for tiebreaker purposes or something. Toss in DL AMEX Reserve and their customers could have the chance to bet on red, green, and “bet on black” (in my Cutter voice) and still not win an upgrade. House always win!

    I need Richy B to come to ATL right now and save me from this hell!

  10. DL-Loyal no longer. Dropped to GM. Cutup the DL-Amex cards. It’s all about flex points now.

  11. I flew DL on Thursday as PLAT with HOOU coupon and then back on Sunday without. On Sunday I was in EC row behind BC and I asked FA why I did not get a HOOU. She shook her head and nicely said she would give me a free drink. Not sure if she had the memo yet. I will be FO next year and trying to decide what to do with Amex Plat card?????

  12. Don in ATL Reply

    I think the biggest sin is implementing these changes beginning in 2015. People strive for a certain status thinking they know what they will be getting. But NO. Delta changes the rules with two minutes on the clock. Patently unfair, and downright disrespectful of the customer.

  13. Done with Delta. The annual decrementing and devaluing is depressing.

  14. This is why as a diamond I now only buy the deeply discounted first class seats. For clients it only costs a couple hundred dollars more that they make up with my booking the cheapest first seat and then changing the flight 24 hours in advance. Thanks to delta holding those 1st class seats to sell I am 100% this year in making changes and avoiding the stress of upgrades and the silly drink coupons! Overall the discount first class fares is the hidden gem in the delta system that keeps me coming back!

  15. Don in ATL Reply

    @Chris, I don’t follow you. Can you give an example. Thanks. Or Rene, can you explain Chris’s play? Thanks.

  16. @Don:
    Looks to me like:
    1: Buy cheap 1st Class for day of interest
    2: 24 hours ahead of time, do a Same Day Change to a flight actually desired, where FC was more expensive. With Delta holding out multiple FC seats on flights for upgrade sales, Chris can apparently change to just about any flight he wants.
    3: If you SDC in Coach, “same fare class” has to be available. That rule, however, doesn’t apply to FC

  17. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    I just had my first meaningful experience with OFCMB. It was shocking but also illustrative. My flight was ATL-MCO aboard a shiny 737-900. When I booked my ticket just outside the 21-day window, I snagged seat 19A, in the first exit row. It has more legroom than any of the first-class seats.

    I checked in for the flight exactly 24 hours before the start of my itinerary and was first on the upgrade list with 4 seats remaining. When I arrived at the gate to board, I had dropped to position 5 on the upgrade list. Since my ticket class was X, I only was somewhat surprised, even though I’m a Diamond, because of the holidays and big football games in the immediate future.

    However, things became interesting from there. When the gate agent processed the upgrades, I was moved from the upgrade list to the cleared list WITH THE SAME EXIT SEAT OF 19A NOW SHOWING AS AN “UPGRADE”!

  18. In South America now and flying local airlines as I do on most of my trips once I’m at the destination. My question is, why is it airlines from so many countries can server a meal and drink service but “American” carriers (including Delta) can barely get a drink service out. South African airlines gave us 2 drink and a meal on a 1.5 hour flight. The US airlines need to be better.
    This comment comes becomes of the GM (luckily I’m PM) might now just get C+ and maybe 1 drink?

    • @Claire – Because they all have the same bad domestic short hall service so no one has to step up to match the others.

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