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Will Delta require W+ fares for Medallion upgrade in 2016? Sunday guest post by John “Laptop Travel”

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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 767-300 new business class seats - Delta Points blog review (5)
Delta One seats from 767-300

SkyMiles really is the program you love to hate. Delta has the distinction of leading the charge to the bottom of destroying frequent flyer programs. As René calls it #KeepDescending and has written numerous posts over the fall of the program.

As we have seen the move to a revenue-based reward system, award charts removed, First Class Monetization (FCM) of potential upgrade seats and now all the changes coming over Comfort+ seats, fares and selection…Delta has even more negative changes planned for its loyal members of the SkyMiles program.

Before I get into those upcoming changes, let me thank René for allowing me the opportunity to write this Sunday’s post. My name is John and I am better known as Laptop Travel (my blog) and recently I have become a contributor at RenésPoints, specializing in Mileage Runs for the EliteMileageRun part of the blog.

Today’s article is one that is very dear to my heart; Delta Air Lines’ new Comfort+ Fare Class and what you can expect going forward with this latest “enhancement.” By the way, I feel that Webster’s dictionary may have to include a new alternative definition for the word enhancement based on Delta’s use of the adjective; “a purported benefit, when analyzed with close scrutiny actually reveals a significant detriment.”

Since 1963 the wings of Delta Air Lines have carried me and my family to all corners of the world so I feel a bit entitled to comment of the newest developments in a third class of service; Comfort+ (or ComfortPlus) and how I believe it will destroy the SkyMiles program and your chances of Complimentary First Class upgrades in the future.

Delta Air Lines 777 business seats 1
Delta One on a 777

Over the past year and a half we have experienced significant degradation of the Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles frequent flyer program. They notified members with ample time that they were going to revenue-based miles earnings (based on the fare price of a ticket). However, significant program ‘enhancements’ have recently come with less lead time and certainly a reduction in explanation. The removal of award charts, the loss of Silver and Gold Medallions to get Comfort+ seats at booking, the removal of the ceiling for award travel and now W-Fare Class.

Okay, what is a W-Fare Class? This is the classification given to Delta’s Comfort+ when it is either purchased at booking, purchased sometime after booking (you know those screens prompting you to buy an upgrade) or you are ‘upgraded’ into those seats.

Delta 767-300 domestic comfort plus seat 1 Delta points blog
Comfort Plus seats on 767-300

Why does a new fare class matter? Let me tell you it matters since it affects you in several ways.

First, during booking and searching for flights, the Comfort+ (W-fare) is broken out in a new pricing column reflecting a significant increase in price (sometimes as much as 30%, maybe 40% premium to the base coach fare.)

new w fare on delta - com
New W fare on Delta.com

Secondly, unless you actually buy the W-fare, you will not have access to seat yourself in a Comfort+ (W-fare class) seat at the time of booking (before you make a purchase.) Not even a Platinum or Diamond can just get a seat in Comfort+ before buying the ticket, even though anyone can view the seatmap ahead of time.

delta request upgrade to comfort plus seat for medallions renes points blog
Yep, C+ is a Medallion upgrade

Thirdly, if you purchase a coach fare, you must select a “request for upgrade” to Comfort+ and await an email from Delta allowing you to go back into your “Manage Upgrades” and then select a Comfort+ seat, but only for Diamond and Platinum Medallions if you are outside of 72 hours before the flight’s departure! If you are Silver or Gold Medallion, you must still wait until your “upgrade window” opens (24 hours and 72 hours, respectively) for that opportunity.

Next, if you are a Diamond or Platinum traveling with a companion who is Gold, Silver or no elite status…well all of you in your traveling group will have to wait until the lowest traveler’s “upgrade window” opens for any of you to even have the opportunity for the email from Delta to tell you of an opportunity to select to a Comfort+ and from there you can select from the “leftovers.” Ugh!

what john thinks you will see for comfort plus space
Is a middle seat an upgrade?

Lastly, and perhaps the most worrisome; Delta processes Complimentary Upgrades based on a set of criteria, the first two being elite status and fare class purchased! Wait a minute, did I say “fare class”? Do you see where this is going?

After all, unfortunately I think we already know how this will end. Perhaps taking a cue from American Airlines policy they have now. Per American’s webpage for system-wide upgrades:

“If you’re traveling on most Business and Economy Class fares and an upgrade is available at the time of booking, you or anyone you choose will enjoy a confirmed upgrade to the next class of service.”

A lot of folks had been hoping that American Airlines’ delay in announcing any move to revenue-based miles earning programs was holding Delta back from pushing harder with their SkyMiles program destruction.

American Airlines, who was holding the “wolves” at the door, has now joined the party with their announcement of an eerily similar frequent flyer program mirroring Delta’.

Comfort+ was a ruse…a dangled carrot…a promised treat only to lead poor Medallions into the trap…

Similarly, other carriers are getting into the swing of things. Air Canada has recently announced the introduction of AQD = Altitude Qualifying Dollars.

So these changes within the industry are giving Delta the green light to push forward their agenda.

Yes, you can expect the next step in Delta’s never-never-never ending story of ‘enhancements’ to at some point announce complimentary upgrades will only be for a one class upgrade! Uh oh! That has not happened, yet, but you can be sure the folks on Virginia Ave at Delta’s “revenue management” department are about to make the call on this one once you get used to standing in line waiting for your Comfort+ upgrade available email to arrive in your inbox.

will this be the new delta fare structure
Could this be the future?

Delta is about training you to expect less. Their slogan right now is Keep Climbing, but that is for them and their shareholders; that is not for you as a flyer. Unless you consider keep climbing for a higher fare, then yep, I guess they got that right.

I am telling you right now, I think in the not too distant future you are going to lose your Complimentary First Class Upgrade if you do not buy a Comfort+ seat. Some day a gate agent is going to look you square in your disbelieving eyes and say with all sincerity; “Valued Medallion, you got your Complimentary Upgrade, into the next fare up from your main cabin coach fare class…right into a Comfort+ seat. It’s our newest fare class and travel experiance and you’re welcome. Thank you for being a loyal Medallion.”

From this recent tweet conversation Delta clearly is aware that they are upsetting Medallions and it’s an “Oh Well” sort of thing.

tweet from randy waskul
A tweet worth reading!

So, be aware of this. Know what is coming. I cannot tell you what to do. Certainly the options for Elite status with another major US carrier are very limited. How many airline choices have we lost in the last decade? Way too many to count. And with them the remaining powerhouses led by Delta, American and United have all adopted the same blueprint for their frequent flyer programs? Coincidence? Hmmm… you be the judge. Record profits and full aircraft have bolstered the arrogance and seeming belief of impunity by the Big 3.

I also see major changes coming to Skymiles 2016/17

So what else should loyal Medallions expect in 2016? Well, although Delta seems to be fond of dropping changes throughout the program year… they still have to announce if there are going to be significant changes with the 2016 qualification year for 2017 Medallion status very soon.

Here is a quick rundown of what I think we have to look forward to:

  • Medallion Qualification Dollars – Expect a significant increase in the spending requirement to get (or keep) that valued Medallion status with the next round of ‘enhancements.’
  • Upgrades with SkyMiles – Expect Delta to actually offer even more opportunities to cash in your SkyPesos for upgrades to Comfort+, Business and DeltaONE seats. After all, that works hand in hand with their goal; to wipe the SkyMiles currency from the landscape! Might as well just start throwing them away at everything, right?
  • Rollover MQM’s – Well, SkyMiles don’t expire, unless you do, but Delta is the one program that allows a surplus of MQM’s to rollover once you’ve met a Medallion level.

Expect that last one to end sooner rather than later. After all, the Big 3 are now running their frequent flyer programs from the same (Delta) playbook. Why differentiate at all? – John Laptop Travel

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.

9 Comments

  1. Well looks like you nailed it John. Actually looks like Delta nailed us all with the Comfort + and W fare class. As with everything good it’s bound not to last. If (when) then muck up MQMs it’s time for a serious reconsideration in my travel. Me? I’m getting mad about the whole mess. Where I go from here gets complicated.

    I have a last minute project requiring travel to New York. We (me +1 employee) are flying paid FC as I have it in my budget (sort of). That’s not always the case and that’s when I rely on upgrades or certs to get a better seat. LGA is the most convenient for my final destination so I just looked at 2x TPA-LGA on DL. Direct routing arriving and departing at decent times are $359/$380/$679 for basic/main/first. If I arrive a bit late I can get the FC down to $541. I can even use an expiring companion certificate from Amex and get BOTH of us on the FC fare for $679 all in (thanks Amex for something that mostly works). As a DM and with paid FC I can haul my tools as excess baggage – for free. Saves me a ton in UPS shipping.

    But I’m pissed at DL so I’m going to shop around. AA same route is mind more expensive. $535/$637/$897 for choice essential/choice plus/first and unless I pick FC I’m going to pay thru the nose for my excess bags as I have no status with AA. It’s also not direct. I can depart from MCO, get direct flights and save some money with AA but I despise MCO especially when I am traveling (12/26 and 12/31). If I can deal with the drive to MCO and the masses I can get FC for $572 each – so I save roughly $200 over DL.

    But my travel budget on this gig allows me to pay for the DL FC seats so I guess I will use my very soon expiring companion certificate and pocket the saved cash.

    As the changes come down I guess I will have to look deep and see how this effects me as a medallion going forward in the future. If MQMs change then I doubt I will continue to be a DM as I am one who takes advantage of heavy business CC spend and earns the MQMs that essentially make me a DM. I fly a bunch of Delta paid FC flights because I have it in my budget (or I could keep the extra cash as profit and fly coach and hope for an upgrade). I don’t fly nearly enough to made DM on segments or in spend on airfare so wholesale changes will kick me out of the DM spot.

    My solution for now? Shop less expensive FC seat on all airlines. Want first? Pay for first. So no loyalty, no perks of medallions just cheapest seat wins. But buy on a card that earns MR, UR or Thanks You points because in the future those points will truly become more valuable for my pleasure travel.

    Thanks for the post! Look forward to seeing you again soon. Oh – I never got that GU cert that you didn’t get upgraded on back. Check your account to see if DL redeposited it to you. I hope they did as you can use it more than me. If not let me know and I will call and complain. Lord knows I love to call DL to complain.

  2. Unless the other carriers do exactly the same thing, this could be a very risky move on Delta’s part. History shows that AA and UA copy whatever they do, however, so I guess DL figures that it won’t have a mass exodus.

  3. Brian Graf Reply

    At what point can we, the travelers, petition and try to force for change at a government level by trying to push for international carriers to compete domestically with our craptastic options we currently have. If Turkish or Emirates or any for that matter, airlines were to open up here it would demolish the domestic carriers or force them to be better. “Change or die”

  4. I have said it before-unless Delta keeps roll-over MQM’s I will switch to another cheaper airline as soon as I have reached my usual Platinum status with Delta. At a certain point during the year I will know if I can’t make Diamond.
    Right now I keep flying Delta as the MQM roll over to the next year and I get a head start on Platinum for 2017.
    Why spend money on a more expensive airline (Delta) when the miles don’t add up to much after your reachable Medallion status? My airport is LAX so I have plenty of choices.

  5. @Graydon – No GUC’s in my wallet 🙁

    As for your strategy…ALL the airlines are going to toss loyalty out on the tarmac. It’s going to be a shopper’s market. Find the cheapest FC (or whatever class you want to fly) and enjoy. Businesses will most likely pay to put their employees in Comfort+ seats and therefore (by default) get the most upgrades. Accumulate as many miles/points outside of their programs and then use that currency to buy the best seats you want/can afford.

    I will have to share that I was truly blessed on my last Mileage Run. Somehow, the Lord sat two airline (not DELTA) VP’s next to me (on two separate flights). Separate conversations but they both delivered the same message: and this is a direct quote that both men spoke to me:

    “There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Delta has crossed that line.”

  6. This is why I gave up on MR earlier this year. There are simply no benefits to it. Now, I search across all airlines, and find the best route, best plane – it’s that simple. 2 weeks ago I bought a one way ORD to DFW 1 week out in the Dreamliner (1st class tic) for $300. Perfect. I have no loyalty. Headed to Mexico in a month-going there on delta, home on AA. Once people realize that they too can control the landscape with their dollars the airlines will wise up. That and in the next recession – just wait until demand drops 50% AND no one has any loyalty. The loss of perks will ultimately cause their own downfall.

  7. @William –

    I expect American Airlines to adopt the very same strategy in coming the days…it goes hand in hand with their new “Premium Economy” roll-out as well as Delta’s. As soon as United can keep a stable CEO in the chair they’ll be quick to join!

  8. Delta has also taken away the Comfort + option from Medallions: I just looked at a flight for the summer that I had booked 2 months ago with full Comfort + seats. Now I’m in the “kettle” class & when I attempt to get back into Comfort + a little pop-up says I can only sit in the class I booked.

  9. @Thomas –

    That is the point made above:

    “Thirdly, if you purchase a coach fare, you must select a “request for upgrade” to Comfort+ and await an email from Delta allowing you to go back into your “Manage Upgrades” and then select a Comfort+ seat, but only for Diamond and Platinum Medallions if you are outside of 72 hours before the flight’s departure! If you are Silver or Gold Medallion, you must still wait until your “upgrade window” opens (24 hours and 72 hours, respectively) for that opportunity.”

    Delta has taken the access to these seats for flights departing AFTER May 15, 2016

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