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The C+ mess, problem & issue for Medallion elites that is sure to come for Delta. Time for a real rethink!

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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.

from FT about AA and UA

I had a totally different post ready for today, but just had to pop this one up. As someone who flies literally a hundred plus segments a year with Delta, I observe things and can provide a perspective that the folks who run Delta will never see or know about.

You see AA, apparently, when you are a top elite and stuck back behind the curtain, that is, not in 1st class or business class, you get a free meal / snack choice from the beverage cart (and a drink included). Well it seems, according to the FlyerTalk link above, United is following the same course. Now United needs to do whatever it can to keep elites from revolting onboard so this seems like a good move. But if AA is offering this kind of service to top elites, and UA is as well, what about Delta?


After all, Delta is shooting for all elites (well 7 out of 10 that is) to NOT enjoy a “loyalty earned” upgrade to 1st class. No, you are to be sitting in C+, that is if you are if alone, or in the WAY BACK in coach if with your spouse / +1 or your family. So, even as a top spending elite, we need to begin to understand that  coach is where we belong  unlike the public promise, from a few years ago, by Delta CORP as well as the deep, impressive, voice of the original Hawkeye Pierce, star of the movie MASH, Donald Sutherland!

the snack basket 1st class delta points blog

But that means, now and then, all we get is an “enhanced” snack basket. Here is the thing. It is only for flights over 900+ miles and even then, I have found, 1st class gets to pick over that basket at least as much as C+ (yeah Delta, that is what the FAs are doing – I can attest to that). Unless you have experienced this glorious basket it is nothing like a real meal choice from the “Eats Menu” that Delta offers for sale back in coach. That is a problem. Well that, and the 1st class pilfering is a problem. Yeah, both are a real problem when you look at what the competition is doing.

So Diamonds, including million milers, are going to, in 2016, (and especially even more so after 1JUNE16 when Delta is selling most fare classes for upgrade with $kyRubles option) be flying around back in coach (yeah C+ is coach as well no matter how Delta tries to spin it). They will enjoy middle c+ seats as “upgrades” and have to fight 1st class for crummy snack basket treats when and if they come around on 900+ mile flights. Really? Do you see a problem brewing here? I do!

seen in DTW Detroit airport by RenesPoints blog

Delta it seems, according to focus groups, is moving to put “all” the upgrades in one simple place for flyers on to “enjoy”. If you think it is hard, right now, to score an upgrade to 1st class (i.e. business class) just you wait for what is next. By the end of 2016 if you are not using some kind of “instrument” to upgrade, that is a cert or money, or “bat crazy” numbers of $kyRubles you will be stuck back behind the curtain. That is what your years of loyalty to Delta have earned you! Do you feel appreciated for all those miles?

But I am veering off topic. I am talking about coach and feeding all the loyal Medallions who will be spending the rest of their lives stuck back in coach on Delta. I do not think what Delta is extending to them, especially the top elites, is enough. It is time for Delta to offer the same perks as the other majors to at least Diamonds if not Diamonds and Platinums stuck back in C+ or coach, that is, a choice off the snack cart and free drinks. If not, they are going to seriously look at the competition and start thinking:  “if I am not scoring an upgrade as a Delta elite, where can I get the best deal in coach“? That will not be Delta Air Lines.

Delta needs to remember that “most” elites have continued, year after year, to put up with all the crushing changes and “enhancements” to SkyMiles because they got their upgrades. When that goes away this year, there will be no reason to be loyal to Delta any longer. That is, unless, when stuck back in coach, they are still tossed a bone or two (and maybe a meal choice) to reward YOU for your loyalty dollars given to Delta this year! – René

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. Great post Rene. Boiling the frog has worked for delta so far. Most frogs haven’t noticed or don’t understand the significance of the rising water temperature or have accepted their fate.

  2. John nailed it. The slow rise in tempature caught us off guard. I booked my first coach seat of the year for a quick trip to GSO with a couple of clients. 10 days out so let’s see if this DM gets upgrades or if I am stuck in C+.

  3. What happens if you purchase a ticket a day or two before abs no C+ is avaliable? Which upgrade must are you on? C+ or FC? And if you get a c+ upgrade are you off the FC list? Or are you only on the FC list of you are in C+? This is a giant cluster.

  4. I have been a Diamond Medallion for 3 years going on four. Fly about 30 segments per year and have never received a medallion upgrade. Zero.

  5. Unlike many others, I am not a Delta hub captive. I live near hubs for UA and AA, plus a WN focus city. I almost always have to connect with Delta, but choose to stay loyal due to the superior inflight experience and great customer service.

    As Delta contines to hack away, UA and AA are showing signs of improvement. My motivation for staying loyal goes down a little bit each day now. I chose to stay on for another year because I thought that things couldn’t get any worse. Wow was I wrong.

    I’ve said previously that as long as AA was flying CRJs DCA-CVG, I wouldn’t consider switching. Now half of the flights on that route are operated by 2-cabin aircraft. I’m am *this* close to taking a match with AA, and jumping ship.

    Sorry Delta, but it’s just not worth it anymore. It’s not me, it’s you.

  6. Wow Rene! You really outdid yourself. Jane you will be lists and F+ does NOT affect your FC UG.

  7. @Adam do you mean two lists? C+ and FC? And you would be on both? And if one clears the other does not in the case of getting the C+ upgrade? Not clear to me sorry.

  8. As one who has moved most of his business to American, I am often happy enough. Then a snow storm comes. American cancelled all of its flights from SFO to JFK. I was on hold for 3 full hours with the Exp Platinum line before negotiating a booking that takes me from SFO-CLT-BOS today and then into JFK Monday morning. I am in the SFO SkyClub and can see that many of Delta’s nonstop to JFK are flying. And, I never waited for 3 hours on the Diamond line.

  9. It’s fascinating to read this as an “outsider”–that is, as one who has never had status with any airline. (Well, I made silver with DL this year, but in ATL that’s almost the same as no status–I get more perks with my DL amex.) Two things are really clear. First, it’s not really about the silly chips, apple, and drink. “Elites” have been promised they will be treated as special. DL promised that, and apparently used to deliver reasonably well. Now, they are pulling back, and elites are feeling like DL doesn’t care about them. (This makes WAY more sense than the idea that we’ll off grown people are really upset about $5 worth of food they could easily purchase in advance if they really cared that much about it.)
    The other incredibly obvious thing is that, rather than give their most loyal customers a measly $5 worth of stuff, DL is willing to offend them and risk them leaving for another airline. Penny-wise and pound foolish, Delta. I don’t know what your profit margin is per elite flyer, but I’m pretty sure losing even 5% of them will really hurt you, and you’re going to wish you’d given them the snacks.

  10. Right on the money. I’m a DM and since I’m losing C+ when my non-medallion significant other travels with me, I’m looking at other options. I’m especially keen on a better coach experience for all the reasons you list. If I’m going to end up in coach with my lovely girlfriend, it may as well be on VX or B6.

    C+ isn’t a great product as it is anyway. The snack basket is nice, but in no way replaces a meal. Often drinks are offered once and it’s not clear that alcohol is free, so many passengers don’t order it–I can tell because once I do, others change their orders. To make C+ feel premium, they need to include an offering from their Eats menu and come back through with drink orders more than once.

    Luckily, I’m out of LAX and I have a ton of choices. I hope Delta is keeping an eye on LAX based medallions as we are likely to be the canary in the coalmine.

    It’s too bad because I’ve found their front line employees to be generally very good.

  11. I’ve already jumped ship to AA. I’ve had two first class trips to Europe without even buying a single ticket so far. Never going back to Delta unless something drastic changes.

  12. Several thoughts: Someone commented that they had never been upgraded, while it is becoming fewer and far between, it does still happen. Recent trip with wife and two kids, she’s PM and I’m DM MM, all four of us were upgraded. Never, ever happened before, usually just me. Nice surprise. However, This slow progression (aka regression in this case?) is sneaking up on all of us. The selling of C+, BC and FC is becoming the norm. That said, being stranded with associates using AA and myself on DL, all of us top tier status, I was sorted out, rebooked and on my way far ahead of them…so at least they service needs.

  13. Looking over the financials and SEC reports for Delta I notice a few big names (as expected). It seems that many are drinking the KoolAid that RA and the “Atlanta boys” are serving. At some point, their analysts will be concerned with the voice of the Delta Elites if that equates to a crack in Delta’s PRASM. I thought they were on the edge at last weeks’ earnings call (which I registered for and attended). They started out pretty negative but the “Atlanta boys” somehow convinced them that their strategy of FCM and selling branded C+ fares (and continued oil prices…over and over and over that was mentioned) will keep Delta’s nose pointed upward.

    Perhaps, but as soon as there is an sustained uptick in oil prices (and therefore jet fuel) then I think all bets are off. RA is trying to sell Delta as ‘Prima donna’ investment to Wall Street.

    The more posts put out there like this, and the larger voice the Elites can create…then eventually some analysts will see the fall coming ahead of the crash. At that point Atlanta will look at themselves and say “what happened?”


  14. I’m getting out of my stake in Delta very soon. I have a feeling that things are going to start going wrong sooner rather than later.

  15. Rick Christman Reply

    Great post, Rene’, spot on!

    I have been a DM since the start. Last year my wife (DM, also) and I moved from SAN to DFW. I am torn between matching status on AA and staying on DL.

    The DL product is reliable but old aircraft for the most part. Their fares, to where we fly, are generally the lowest, the FAs/GAs are the best in the biz.

    The question is, how much longer can I take ‘death by a thousand cuts’? There is no way DL appreciates me. I tune out RA’s “speech” at the beginning of the safety video. How can he look into the camera and say the things he says about Honesty, Integrity, etc.?

    I am on a trip now that will make me a MM. That is probably my limit.

  16. Rick Christman Reply

    One more thing.

    The current “old guard” at DL will be retiring in the next few years. They have improved DL’s stock a lot. Their replacements will feel the need (pressure?) to improve the balance sheet. When oil prices rise will there be more benefits or less for the Medallions. More than likely it it will be the latter.

  17. I left Delta years ago when L U T fares were not allowed to upgrade. It took awhile, but DL lost a lot of business and reversed its policy. When DL absorbed NW, I found myself back with Delta again.

    If Delta does it again, sayonara Delta. I’ll fly Southwest or whichever airline flies nonstop.

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