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A loyal Delta elite status match to Alaska – The fury of a woman scorned!

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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.


delta vs alaska medallion to mvp

We are now well into Skymiles2015 and feeling it’s full and glorious effects. Some Delta flyers are just giddy due to all the bonus Skymiles they are earning due to full fare tickets, but reeling over all the devaluations coming week after week. Others of us are less than happy seeing their Skymiles balance grow at an anemic rate. Some have taken the step to jump ship as I talked about last month in the rookie post about “should you status match Alaska“. One such reader, Chris, did just that. Do you think you can “play” your Delta elite status and yet credit to Alaska when you fly? If so, you’d better pay close attention to Chris and his story of how our Delta feels about him now!

chris a delta platinum moving to alaska delta points blog

My partner and I have been loyal Delta flyers since Northwest went away. I started playing the frequent flyer game about five years ago after we moved to Seattle and I started to travel more for conferences and to visit family. Seattle is far enough out there that you can really rack up the miles.

I put up with jabs about routing all things through Atlanta and my partner, E, was a great sport in our mileage acquisition. I climbed the ranks over a period of years, topping out at Platinum for the past two years. E rocketed forward, jumping straight to Gold two years ago and Platinum this year. Finally, I could stop making jokes about how she was holding me back on upgrades!

We stayed loyal to Delta, even when other flights were cheaper and even though most of E’s travel was limited to the west coast and strong Alaska routes. E really likes Alaska’s product, but I fly more internationally and really love flying Delta. Our travel is largely her work (west coast), family (Midwest and Alaska), and my work (all over NA and Europe depending on conference locations).

The big news for us in the past year was that we had a kid. In her first year she flew 29 legs and visited 10 states. She’s flown first more than most adults and takes a mean nap up in the air. It means that we travel heavier luggage-wise (I couldn’t imagine how much crap she’d need before we did it) and we’ve generally been trying to scale back some of our travel.

We stayed Delta in 2014 because of the double mileage match in/out of Seattle and our ability to meet MQDs with our spend. However, to get spend for us both, we knew we were going to use up most of our spend on sub-par cards points-wise. My biggest priority with status is upgrade potential/ease of problem avoidance, so the MQDs were just a hassle. I also like my lounge and the Alaska Board Room rates are way lower than Delta’s. Plus, there are several places where Board Room membership gets you into Skyclubs. E’s priority is mileage redemption, for both our trips and being able to easily bring family out to visit, and the Skymiles earning change was the last straw.

The black Friday Alaska fare sales were when we actually decided to switch. We got a super cheap flight to Fairbanks and applied for a status match with Alaska. Just over 12 hours later we got an e-mail welcoming us to MVP Gold 75k and I felt more valued by an airline than I had in a long time.

The rub (there’s always a rub) was that we’d booked a flight to San Diego on Delta before we decided that we’d switch. So begins our year of trying to leverage our status on both airlines while building our Alaska status for next year. This is the story of that San Diego trip…

In advance of the trip our plan was to wait for our upgrade window to resolve and then switch to our Alaska frequent flier accounts. We thought that would be the best way to leverage access to both numbers. When upgrades cleared on both flights at the window, we were stoked. And…that was the first and last high point of our airline experience…

I called the Platinum line and inquired about switching the night before the outbound flight. The agent left me with the belief that it wouldn’t be much of an issue, but it seemed like it would be easiest to take care of at the airport during check-in rather than on the phone. We headed to SEATAC ready for our first-class seats. We’d even been able to move out of the bulkhead so we could put the diaper bag under the seat in front of us.

Check-in at Sky Priority was going well. We were putting our bags up to get checked and I asked about switching the FF accounts to Alaska. The agent seemed to get a little weird, but said she’d do it. It took a minute and then she told us we were going to lose our upgrade if we changed. I asked for us to have a second to talk about it and she responded that it was already too late to change.

That was disappointing. It was one thing to get bumped back down, but it was much worse that the agent didn’t think to even give us a heads up. It felt like as soon as we mentioned Alaska that she got icy and kinda rude. She put us in the back of the plane and moved to charge us for our bags. We showed our Delta Reserve cards and she didn’t know what they were. Eventually she relented and waived the fees, although we didn’t get the snazzy Sky Priority bag tags.

When that happened I looked at our boarding passes and realized that we’d not just been bumped down, we’d lost any status we had with Delta on the upcoming flight. We were in Zone One, not Sky. We were in the back of the plane. We got little choice in our seats because the back of the plane was largely full. Unhappy.

We proceeded to the Alaska Board Room with some of the free passes we got with our Gold 75K. It was fine, but we were still rattled from our experience at check-in. It was crowded, but it was also Monday morning. The staff was nice and it felt a lot like a SkyClub…but it’s a whole lot cheaper for us to get into. It has an additional benefit at SEATAC, since the Delta lounge is buried at the satellite S gates and more and more Delta flights are going out of A and B, which means that you need to ride the tram to and from the Skyclub if you want to visit.

I called the Platinum line from the Board Room to see if anything could be done. Again, once Alaska came up, it seemed like I was going to get no help and that, for the first time in my experience calling Delta, the agent desperately wanted to get off the phone.

I was able to chat with a gate agent who moved us into EC seats and told me that switching FF accounts would wipe out any benefits of the other account. In seeking to earn miles for Alaska, I wasn’t going to get any Platinum benefits. I was also told that the upgrade list (we were 5 and 6 with 4 seats open) was now based on value of ticket, which was news to me.

We got to San Diego, but on the flight we couldn’t help but glare a bit at the yahoos that had gotten upgraded into what had once been our seats. On the upside, we got e-mails from Alaska that offered us a pair of upgrades, board room passes, or free internet. They send them to a lot of their frequent fliers at the beginning of the year, but it was auspicious timing.

As we were getting ready for our return flight we realized that we didn’t even have a seat assignment, so I called and asked about what would happen if we used our Delta accounts on the way back.

The agent told me that there wasn’t any room to put us in and that we’d need to pay for EC or preferred seats. However, if we switched to our Delta account we could get the seats free and be eligible to change to the earlier outbound flight without a charge. I said thanks and that I needed to talk with E.

We decided the ~1000 miles for the trip likely wouldn’t end up making a difference for us at the end of the year, so we might as well switch back and enjoy the seat assignments, the chance to get home early, and the shot at an upgrade.

The next day I called and got the one awesome person at the call center I talked to during this whole ordeal. She found our accounts and tried to put in the information, only to find that she couldn’t switch the FF information partway through a trip. The news for both of us was that the flights were considered together and that the FF accounts couldn’t be changed She seemed frustrated that she couldn’t do anything for us and she ended up getting us seats in the first row behind EC. Because we were Alaska fliers, we’d be back to paying 50 bucks each for the earlier flight, even though she knew we were Platinum.

I decided to try a little call center roulette and called back later in the day to ask again. I was met with a less helpful person and similar answers. I expressed my disappointment at the lack of flexibility. I shared that I didn’t feel I was told at all about what was going to happen and that this was a chance to enforce a rule or have a happy customer. Delta decided to enforce a rule, which is a thoroughly defensible decision, but it really turned me off.

We took the later flight. The kid slept almost the whole way. We also decided we’re likely done with Delta.

Last year, on our one Alaska flight, we chatted up an employee at check-in who said that Delta was a nasty airline with nasty people. I never found that to be the case, until I crossed them. These flights were where I saw the nasty side of Delta. René has written a lot about how #Skymiles2015 is about Delta privileging money over customers, but this experience sealed it for me. Instead of bending some rules for well established customers in an attempt to win them back, Delta tried to wring another 100 dollars out of us.

We’re looking forward to flying Alaska. I figure we’ll probably end up on Delta metal again; we have a lot of miles to redeem, but I don’t plan on buying more Delta ticket stock. The one big upside of the whole thing is that we could regularly joke about how I was going to have a whole lot to write about!

-Delta really doesn’t like Alaska
-When you change FF accounts you lose all benefits of the other
-You can only get benefits from one FF account at a time
-You can’t switch FF accounts part way through a flight

I hope others have a better experience. The other approach I could see is flying the trip as all Delta and then try to credit it back to Alaska after it was done. Good luck and happy flying! – Chris

Amazing! Chris I cannot thank you enough for your thoughts. I am truly SHOCKED by this and how our mothership has dealt with you. One would think they want to do all they can to retain you, but maybe not. I am starting to think that Delta has adopted the old United feeling that the customers are the main problem (especially the ones who do not over pay for tickets). Gosh, 2015 is going to be an interesting flying year! – 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.

28 Comments

  1. Delta is happy to lose low fare customers. Delta rewards high revenue customers. So does United. And AA is inching that way.

    Enjoy your time on AS.

  2. Delta did A LOT wrong in this case….

    BUT did he really think he would get his medallion upgrade and all the other benefits of being Plat with Delta and STILL get to credit the flight to Alaska?

    • @Atif – Why not. Delta and AS are partners ya know. 😉
      @Billy – AS and AA are rewarding ALL flyers. High spenders MORE and yet not telling mid-low spenders they are gatelice or worse! #JustSayin

  3. —-
    -Delta really doesn’t like Alaska
    -When you change FF accounts you lose all benefits of the other
    -You can only get benefits from one FF account at a time
    -You can’t switch FF accounts part way through a flight
    —–

    Yes this new Delta does suck but how is any of that surprising? Aside from the Delta being an Alaska hater, that’s all true across any airline.

    • @DT – I say again, AS & DL are partners. They should act like it or split up!

  4. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    Would think anyone who listens to @fakeDeltaRichard aka René knows and would expect all those final bullet points. You asked to be treated like a foreigner in your home country and you’ll have the naivety of how offensive a land it is to those wiped away expeditiously. Enough to turn your stomach and certainly your wallet. Being elite for so long we forget how harsh the industry is to most and their wallets. Still waiting on Sir Richard to come save us from this tyranny and oppression lol!

    What an aweful experience Chris.

  5. Both of them should have fully understood the consequences they face if this scheme of changing FF accounts right after they get the upgrade does not work.
    As the saying goes, “Hope for the best but expect for the worst.”

  6. This is the product, of airlines misleading you that your past loyalty means something going forward. Like “complimentary annual” status for MM, it means nothing at all and they will wipe you off the windshield any time they feel like it. So milk their system for what you reasonably can and walk away. Routing through a particular airline at higher cost thinking you can win “loyalty” is a mistake I made for years.

  7. I read through this entire post just chuckling that anyone would think it would turn out differently. How this played it is EXACTLY how I would have expected it to happen.
    .
    The perks you get are (and should be) tied to the FF# on the reservation. One cannot simply (insert LOTR meme graphic here) switch their FF# and expect to get the perks of both. Yes, they are partner airlines so some things are intermixed…but the perks you receive are and should be tied to the FF# on the reservation and how that airline reciprocates perks with the airline you are flying on.

  8. I didn’t think it was a big secret that you lost the benefits associated with a frequent flyer account if that frequent flyer account is no longer on your reservation. I’m having a hard time faulting Delta too much in this situation, although the customer service was far from perfect.

  9. John DELTA Reply

    I totally disagree with Delta’s treatment of Chris & E

    Here’s why:

    We have to look at gaining status as a curve, or a staircase. The airline (Delta in this scenario) does not give anyone status; it is earned slowly by accruing MQM’s (or MQS’s) and MQD’s (or spend waive). Delta is not giving anyone an upgrade while the flyer tries to achieve status, and certainly no perks (thanks, we know you’re trying to get there…here’s a free cookie.) It is only upon the achievement of attaining status that elite perks are initiated.

    Therefore, there is an amount of flying without status, without perks that is required and is a part of the price of achieving elite status.

    However, once status is achieved, ALL of the perks for that elite status should be freely (and happily) given by Delta. After all, these perks are a thank you and a tangible way of saying “Thank you” for going through the process and committing your resources (and sometimes discomfort) to get that status.

    Now, if a flyer having achieved status wishes to credit their flight to a partner airline, then let them do it, and Delta; be nice about it! After all, if the flyer chooses not to credit the flight to Delta then maybe they are on the backside of the stairs or the status “curve” and they are on their way to losing status (But they have NOT lost it yet!!)

    But the fact is they have EARNED EVERYTHING that accompanies their current status! Period. End of Story!

    Why should an person fly for a year to gain status, let’s say for our example 2014 and have that status all of 2015 and choose to credit those flights to an airline partner and then realize ZERO elite benefits in their status year (2015) and of course not have that status in 2016? Even Sisyphus would quickly realize the absurdity of such a system.

    Delta owes Chris and E an apology and a wonderful elite experience for the entirety of their status life within the Delta system.

    • @John Delta – Could not have said one word better than you. Txs very much for comment.

  10. I had a new experience with delta just this weekend. We booked tickets to visit friends in Florida, trying to use the “sale” fare for my “free”ticket. Of course, we couldn’t make it work (more due to husbands’ unwillingness to leave at 6:00 a.m.) and wound up using 42500 miles for an economy ticket instead of the 20000 I was expecting. Booked my ticket and then husband booked his ticket because he pays for his ticket. He’s a platinum and called to put our seats together, two of four which were economy comfort that I didn’t have to pay for. He specifically asked for them not to be linked so that he would have a chance at an upgrade which is fine by me because I’m small enough not to need extra space. No problem. Within 24 hours, we had to change our return date and did so easily. This time he called and asked for seats sitting together and was told the only way she could do it was to link our tickets. Bye, bye upgrade possibility. She told us that I would be kicked out of the economy comfort seat if he got upgraded. That is the first time we have ever been told that and it has never happened before when he has been upgraded. Question: should we call back and ask to be unlinked or not take the chance and just live with it. Husband doesn’t care about being upgraded because they are only hour and a half flights but I sure don’t want to be bumped back because we only have a 45 minute layover in Atlanta and I don’t like having to wait for others to de-plane.

  11. John DELTA Reply

    @Christine

    We were told the same thing. NEVER happened. I got the upgrade, my wife and I switched boarding passes…she sat in First Class and I had her seat in EC. Gate agent said it was fine, no one was going to get removed from their seat.

  12. So the rule is well established and fairly well known. If you want to take advantage of medallion benefits that are associated with a certain SkyMiles number, that number has to be the used in the reservation.

    The customer wanted an exception. The exception wasn’t granted.

    Seems like that’s where the story should have ended.

    The rules are in place so that everyone has a common set of expectations. Everyone would love to be an exception. But not everyone can be an exception.

    Making exceptions creates more headaches (once one person gets an exception, everyone wants an exception), creates false expectations (I got an exception once — now I’m entitled to an exception every single time) and creates more work for phone agents, gate agents, check-in agents, etc. (‘Can I please have an exception,’ begs the customer to everyone in a Delta uniform he or she encounters).

    Bottom line, the customer wanted an exception. Consistent with the rules of the program (which were available to the customer for review when he and she started accruing SkyMiles), the exception wasn’t granted.

    Further, there is the issue that the loyalty program is in place to incent future behavior and reward loyal customers. A customer that is trying to use Delta medallion benefits while accruing Alaska miles has all the red flags of a non-loyal customer. I’d rather reward someone else with the first class seat.

    • @Jim – I have a feeling a bunch of readers are going stongly disagree with you. I sure do. 🙂

  13. Here’s how I’m looking at this with a similar but different scenario – You book a rental car with credit card A that provides extra insurance for the rental at no additional cost. When you bring back the car, you change the payment type to credit card B which you want to use to meet your minimum spend requirement.
    .
    Essentially Chris did exactly this. He wanted the free coverage provided by Card A (i.e. upgrades/special treatment with Delta), while not really wanting to use that card and instead charging it on Card B to meet his minimum spend (i.e. get more miles with Alaska).
    .
    No way is Card A ever going to give you the additional coverage when you didn’t actually use their card for the purchase (even if you reserved with that card), so why on earth should Delta give anyone special treatment if they don’t want to use their Delta FF# for their flight. Like Jim said, we get these perks because we’re loyal to Delta….and by trying to double dip by using another airlines FF# you are no longer loyal and should most certainly not get any perks.

  14. @Jacob and @Jim couldn’t have said it better!! If you want the benefits use the FF # you want. Its similar to how people use aegean airlines for easy star gold status for lounge access while flying in the usa on UA. Those FF had to credit the miles to Aegean to get ua lounge access and forgo the upgrade.

    You cant have your cake and eat it too. i guarantee if an AA EXP was upgraded and then changed their FF and put In their BA avios # or AS # they would loose their upgrade.

    Its time to be realistic. Airlines all have partners but only certain benefits cross over and the FF’s of the operating airline are always going to have beter benefits. Choose which status/airline you want to credit it to and live by the rules. In this case the ites credititing it to their DL FF accounts were rewarded with the 1st class seat, as upgrade priority says its DL diamond, plat, gold, silver followed by AS elites.

  15. I’m excited to finally see more enforcement of no double dipping. Now If only AS would stop giving away 75K like candy. It’s one of the toughest levels to considering it takes 90k with partners. It would almost be like DL giving away diamond to a 1K

  16. Greedy much? haha

    How else besides the FF# on the reservation do you think airlines determine who is eligible for free upgrades? How about I put my non-elite AF # on a reservation, but then call in and tell them: I’m really a diamond so please upgrade me – trust me it’s legit. Oh don’t worry that I didn’t put my correct # on the reservation, just process the upgrade anyway.

    There was really nothing complicated here, as demonstrated by the fact that an upgrade was already booked. Elite FF# on the reservation = upgrade. Non elite FF# on reservation = no upgrade. Delta did exactly what they should have done.

    Ed #8 was correct – this was a retention issue that they should have worked to find out why you were trying to leave Delta and work to fix it, and in the process get your correct FF# back on the reservation.

  17. I don’t believe this to be an issue – if you aren’t using your Delta FF # then you lose the related benefits – makes sense to me. I’m shocked someone thought they could “double up”.

  18. delta is a frenemies with Alaska. Their soul purpose in life is to mess over alaska’s ff’S even if they are top tier with both. The best thing to do is 86 Delta permanently.

  19. I’m glad it stirred up some chat and not surprised there are multiple perspectives.

    For me, this was like one of those times my parents told me they were disappointed in me. I’m not sure anything that happened was shocking and it was clearly in line with the rules, but it clarifies the spirit of the program and how Delta is seeking to engage with fliers.

    The two real points where things broke down (imo) were: first, that the initial check-in person could have run through the likely implications of the change before making it. It surely would have been a helpful move. Second, I think the change fee on the way back could have been waived readily. That flight wasn’t full and it would have been a nice solid.

    The best part of all this is I feel like our decision to switch was very nicely validated. We’ve got a couple of upcoming flights on Alaska and we’re excited to see how it goes! We also had a great trip to San Diego, so that didn’t stink either!

  20. @Jim – you nailed it. all the benefits are tied to the number – take it out of the reservation and you are just a regular passenger. Not a thing wrong with that, other people trying to game the system. I’m sorry if folks disagree, but sometimes the truth hurts. I’m all for working the system but this isn’t an example of working the system. Could Delta have done a Better job explaining it? Yes. Would it have been nice for the initial agent to inform them they wihave kid lose the upgrade? Yes – assuming the agent even looked beyond it was first class and didn’t see it was an uograde. Should this flyer have expected to lose the upgrade tied to their number? Yes, they should have had a clue that this would occur.

  21. Trust me, I’m no fan of Delta- I think their 2015 Skymiles program has alienated my work colleagues and me from travelling with them unless absolutely necessary. I hate to agree with Delta on this one, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect your Platinum benefits to still be in effect if you pull your DL FF# out of the reservation. I don’t think it was “clearly in line with the rules” as Chris states.
    What really stumps me is that you couldn’t change your FF# after your outbound trip. I’d be curious to know what type of error message the system gave. I wonder if the agents at San Diego could have overridden the system?. Anyway Chris, happy trails with Alaska. They are sure to treat you better-unless you put your Delta number in their reservation.:)

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  23. I did a match with Alaska and became 50k but I had a negative experience with AS I don’t know what they did but I cannot access my account or even use the app. I still had the number but I can’t access that account. Also I don’t like that Alaska customer service is not 24/7. Anyhow I had to go to South America and because of budget constraints I have to get a flight with American Airlines I used Alaska status match to get preferred seating with American and when I’m checking in I switched back to American since to me I have a bunch of AA miles, I did the change without any problems or ugly faces from the AA agents (yes I kept the exit row international seat).

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