I have had a bunch of questions, on the blog, in e-mail and on twitter, about why I thought Texas Yankee and I got so few upgrades as Diamonds over this past Delta Mileage Run. Well, we all know from the investors day information this year that Delta wants to sell all the 1st class seats they can (shocking right – the company wants to make money – duh)! How they do this will have an impact on how they respect frequent flyer loyalty, but I will get to that in a bit.
First off, the answer is really simple and when you look at all that is going on, in totality, I can promise you, personally, will see many less upgrades moving forward. Here are “most” of the reasons why:
Price of tickets. As I have talked about before, the most important factors for upgrades is your fare class and your medallion rank. There are many tiebreakers like the time of purchase, having the Delta AMEX Reserve card personal or business and more. But fare class is HUGE.
Time of the year. This is the time of the year we have a boatload of NEW medallions coming “online” if you will as they have just earned their status. Plus, so many who will drop down next year, have not done so yet. By 1MARCH15 the upgrade numbers should improve a bit even with all the rest that is going on around us.
RU & GU Certificates. Many have picked regional and global upgrade certificates as their medallion choice benefit. These MUST be flown within 12 months of the choice date. I see many just burning them now to avoid losing them (and why not).
Up Sells. We know about FCM by now and all should even know what those letters stand for. Delta will sell-sell-sell all those seats you would like to get.
Redemptions of awards tickets in 1st class. Delta has promised to make more low level seats open to us and to even offer more low level seats plus some cash. I think we are seeing a little more availability already and will see even more next year especially the low+cash ones (gosh I hate that – paying more for a “free” ticket – Delta should be ashamed)!
Flight changes. More are tinkering and changing to other flights with open seats. Sure, it is a bit harder with SDC rules in effect, but there are ways to make it happen and it is happening.
Capacity. Fights are just REALLY full nowadays. That is one of the reasons with gas prices going down that ticket prices have NOT gone down. Why drop the price when the economy is doing great and folks are just buying all the tickets Delta sells including 1st class ones at published prices!
When you take all of this into consideration it really is not hard to see just what is happening especially right now. Moving forward, there will be some things that could have a slightly better impact for those who want more complimentary medallion upgrades. First the bad.
If Delta begins (and I would argue but don’t have the numbers to prove it) to sell more 1st class seat upgrades at discounted prices vs just the cost of the ticket + the current price to buy a 1st class ticket, more and more non- medallion or medallions too will just pay the nominal fee to upgrade. This, to me, is frustrating. If you are out to make money, then charge full price not a discounted up-sell. This is a real stab at loyalty!
Now what could make things better? I think MANY will depart Delta next year for other airlines as they have had it with Skymiles2015 and all the program cuts (a.k.a. death by 1000 cuts). Also, unlike those of us who are smart and can meet the AMEX exempt spend number simply each year, the new higher MQD requirements next year will help thin the herd and may, for a short time, counteract some of the up-sell impacts.
Either way, and this is just my opinion, the day is slowly approaching when getting a complementary upgrade, one of the biggest, if not the biggest perk of the medallion program, will be all but impossible for most Delta frequent flyers – René
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