Negative impact on medallion upgrades from Skymiles2015 & FCM. How bad will 2015 be?

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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.

your delta medallion upgrade has been confirmed delta points

My fellow BA blogger from “The Gate” Brian Cohen had a post yesterday, that entertainingly, talked about the fact that many FlyerTalkers did not see Skymiles2015 was “the bloodbath” they were expecting. Now this in itself is a HUGE comment about the new Delta program – members are happy it was NOT as bad as they expected. I ask you, when you buy a new car, TV or anything you value, do you always first say – “Gosh, this does not stink ½ as bad as I thought it would?” Oy!

For me, who is full “game-on” for 2015, in many ways I could not be more happy so far with Skymiles2015. I have worked my two Skymiles redemptions both down to 25k awards. One had horrid times but thanks to schedule change (see E8) got the perfect flights and the other due to space opening up on the days I wanted for my ski trip. I even have booked another mileage run at a great price that lets me visit two Centurion Lounges in a day (don’t see people booking trips to visit $kyPubs).

But what really got my full attention today, and the point of today’s piece, is what should be the most disturbing (to some) results from the FTer in Brian’s post. Did you see what I saw? No? Look again at the chart in Brian’s post. What you will see is, with the routes tested, a BIG jumps in award space for business class award spaces at LEVEL ONE awards. That is good news for those redeeming miles but bad news for paying customers who would like to score a complimentary medallion upgrade.

Now if you couple more low level award space, more elites using upgrade certs (that do work very well) and then as the final icing on the cake Delta’s full court press with FCM or First Class Monetization or selling of upgrades on the app, online sales, upgrade with points, and more and I fully expect that for most flyers 2015 will end up being MUCH lower in yield for complimentary upgrades from Delta.

What this means is every little bit, as I talked about in this rookie post, can mean the difference between scoring that coveted upgrade we all want and sitting in a C+ seat. If you are a Diamond and don’t hold the Delta Reserve card as you don’t think it is worth it – enjoy coach as I sit up front and enjoy the big seat. Oh, and while you are at it, please don’t do things on your own that could sabotage your upgrades! 😉

Don’t think any of this is not exactly how Delta has planned it and played this out beforehand. Tell me, why would Delta offer all these new “perks” of 1st class in C+ seats if they did not expect the bulk of medallions, even Diamonds, to end up in this “cabin” of the aircraft on a regular basis this year. The psychology of being able to say – you got a 1st class “lite” seat and service is a great fall back for the company and should placate most of the herd of medallions.

I look forward to seeing how my upgrade percentage plays out over the next few months of flying as I have some mid-fare class tickets, some low class and some awards – all of them hoping for good upgrade success – it will be interesting to see what happens! – René
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. 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 American Express.

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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. I am seeing the full court press for selling first class seats. On our flight yesterday from PHX to MSP a Diamond went to counter to inquire about his upgrade. The Redcoat told him that they were not issuing upgrades and only selling the open first class seats and he could buy one if he liked.

    Same situtaion from our MSP to MKE flight – and seats went empty in first!

    Delta is just gutting their loyalty program and it kills me since I do love the product but feel like as a customer they just dont care who I choose to fly anymore.

    The BF and I purchased the first class upgrade RT for $120 each about 2 weeks before we were to fly. No mediallions were upgraded on any of our flights.

  2. Rene,

    I have no idea who the red coats were. I just overheard the conversations and saw some real upset Medallions. My guess is that they were selling them before they offered them for free and then didnt have any more “available space” for free upgrades.

  3. In my experience GUs have not worked well if on the waiting list.

  4. I’m seeing evidence of the front filling up sooner. My Thursday SFO/ATL flight in February on a 757 with 28 seats up front only has 3 seats left at this point. This will be my first year as a Diamond and I was hoping to get more upgrades this year, but it looks like it could possibly be less.

  5. I’m sure this has been answered before, probably multiple times, but I can’t find it. Can I get the Delta Reserve card while already having Delta Platinum Personal and Delta Platinum Business cards?

    If the Delta Reserve is an upgraded card from Delta Platinum, how many MQMs do I get for upgrading from Platinum to Reserve?

  6. Rene I have been very disappointed with the Global Upgrade Certs. I booked DTW- PVG about 6 weeks ago. Scores the upgrade for the return immediately and yet have made no progress for the outbound which is in 2 days. I have sadly watched the 18 seats dwindle to only 5 left. I 100% get the revenue component here (I know other readers will yell at me) but as a DM it would seem crazy logic why one clears and one doesn’t. Sad….

  7. My upgrade percentage is already in the toilet at 30% as a PM, but I do see myself sitting up front more often this year due to FCM. I’m seeing F seats much cheaper than they used to be on my routes and have already bought up a couple times for upcoming flights.

  8. John DELTA Reply

    Well, We will soon find out. My 2015 plan is locked in, will make Platinum by May 6th amd see about Diamond after that.

    As you Rene, I have two MR’s with PWM just to “test the waters” on upgrades (those are the DFW-DTW-LAS runs). I take off on my first (of many) EAT-MSP runs in less than 5 days and am watching the FCM to see how it impacts my upgrades (I am a Diamond Medallion).

    Currently my first flight has 9 of 24 FC seats open, I am travelling with a Gold Medallion companion…we will see tomorrow when we are inside the cleared for upgrades window.

    Will follow-up with my results after this run.

    • @John Delta – Nice. My EATs runs are not till April but have two. One with TexasYankee even 🙂

  9. Guys! the Global Upgrades often DO NOT WORK properly (DM Choice Benefits). I had this happen twice; where there was space but I was not clearing at all. Calling the Diamond desk got me NO where. BUT the good news, on both trips I EMAILED (using the complaint function in and believe it or not I got a personal PHONE call from someone at Diamond Desk, and they were able to CLEAR all of my upgrade seats. She confirmed there is a system problem with the Gloabl Up’s, but that’s all I know. If I had not EMAILED, I would have been stuck in Coach all the way from ATL-JFK-NRT-BKK… but i got EVERY legupgraded as a result of my email (about 36-48 hours before take-off time).

  10. John DELTA Reply

    @Jim A –

    Our upgrades are confirmed. Delta even emailed me a new itinerary and we were able to select our “preferred” flat-beds…

  11. John DELTA Reply

    @Jim A –

    When you say “where there was space but I was not clearing at all” are you referring to the SeatMaps or from information given to you by the Medallion desk?

    What exactly did you state in your email do get some action?

    Curious, since there are a lot of DM’s and PM’s that await complimentary upgrades “where there was space but I was not clearing at all” although a Complimentary Upgrade is different from a GUC, but still, the principle is the same.

    • @John, the DM Desk rep who phoned me after my email, CONFIRMED this. She said “I have confirmed all of your legs in Bus Elite, I don’t know why the system didn’t upgrade you, there is a problem where the system does not read the Global and Regional upgrades properly”. This was less than 24 hours before my flight. Prior to her call I had ONE of 6 legs upgraded; after her call i had SIX legs upgraded. You can do the math….. the Global Up “system” did not work. And this was my second experience, between Sept and Dec 2014. Fortunately, they must have a “triage” system for the emails; I was really shocked to get a personal phone call like that.

  12. Delta Segment Flyer Reply

    I agree less FC seats coming for upgrades. Funny that one of the reasons is because Delta promised more low level seats and it is coming true. yeah!!

    We shall see how I do. First flight coming up Monday cleared into first on Segment 1.

  13. John DELTA Reply

    My Upcoming EAT-MSP *UPDATE*
    This will be my second MR of this itinerary.
    So, now less than 66 hours out and the Gold Medallions should have cleared…(My Companion is a GM, I am a DM) and there are still 8 of 24 FC seats open. So between the DM window opening and the GM window opening for Comp Upgrades, only 1 seat has left inventory.

    Delta says “Revenue Department has no allocated seats for upgrades on this flight….[you will] have to wait until day of departure”

    Aaargh….Delta’s FCM program really grinds me…

  14. John DELTA Reply

    @Jim A –

    At least they had a system (or procedure) in place for your situation).


    • @John, I was susprised (pleasantly) at how fast the DM desk responded to my email complaint. But as far as your current Upgrade situation (8 open seats) it is even worse than that. On my recent JFK-ATL flight there were 24!!! of 26 seats open! Only 2 occupied seats. DL cleared NO one until the gate. When I checked in (as a DM) 24 hours ahead, DL politely offered to SELL me an upgrade for $199. Of course I declined. And I was placed as #1 on the Upgrade list; and of course I cleared at the gate. But no one would clear me prior to the gate; including the ticket counter and even at the Sky Club. So the DL promises of DM’s clearing 5 days ahead, seems to have it’s days numbered…. they are trying to sell all the seats before clearing anyone. VERY disppointing. A switch to AA i looking better and better all the time. I’ve already booked some of my LONG trips this year on AA (Europe and Asia), so i can earn “real” mileage. For the short trips I am still using DL for the moment (since those earnings don’t change much). Why would I earn only 11,000 DL miles to Bangkok, when I can earn 25,000 miles on AA?? DL’s “Math” is pretty dumb.

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  21. Frequent Flyer Reply

    The FCM on both Delta and United will eventually lead to very few Elite upgrades unless they are willing to pay. I would expect AA to join the party shortly as well.

    • “will eventually lead to very few Elite upgrades unless they are willing to pay.”

      If that’s the case, then what’s the point of being loyal to an airline and it’s frequent flier program? Can’t be for redemptions because they hardly give any redeemable miles for flying anymore. And it may actually happen. But then, eventually, the airlines will have to compete with each other again, and they will have to add back benefits for loyalty. So maybe it’ll come full circle and we will see new benefits come back someday.

  22. You know, I remember getting TRIPLE miles on Pan Am for many routes and redemptions to Europe/ME were only 30,000 miles! You could do a quick mileage run and earn enough in ONE round trip to get a free flight. In fact, since they didn’t check IDs at the time, you could have someone else do the mileage run for you (and enjoy that location while they were at it).

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