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Delta’s Change in Upgrade Order Has Reaching Elite Implications. Time to Rethink & Plan for 2017!

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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.

two diamonds renespoints blog delta
Me and my Diamond-lite ready to upgrade Delta!

Boy has the news I broke this past week about the change to the Delta upgrade order had an impact on my plans for 2017 in a massive way. First off, the news is just nothing but outstanding. Those who are griping about this change need to get a grip. I can promise you this change has made so many elites, who were ready to depart for other airlines and status match, do a 180º turn and are now sticking with Delta again. This was a BRILLIANT move by Delta! Let me tell you why I say all this then get on to my changes in thinking.

Those who are most angry about this change tend to be those who fly solo. Think business flyers on peak times who are fighting for that last upgrade seat or two. Do you (if you fall into that category) really think on a regular basis you will have a Diamond flying with their spouse / +1 at those times and on those routes? Clearly not very often. Most of the competition this change will create will be on weekends or Fridays or holiday times that are already crazy to begin with and then you in fact may be competing against other elites doing the exact same thing as you.

Oh, boo hoo! 🙂

Considering the way Delta is selling so many first class seats for super cheap the real battleground for this change on peak days will be just that more elites (and possibly their +1’s) will be filling up the C+ “cabin” and that really is no big deal to most of us (who get C+ is a “SideGrade not an upgrade since the seat is the same).

So what really is a big deal and impact from these latest Delta elite changes? There is a bunch of rethinking and planning we all need to consider. Some of the changes truly are massive. So much so that I am not sure if Delta has really considered them all but who am I gripe when I have been given such a grand gift from our mothership. What gift?

Let’s start with the most obvious one, that is, what Diamonds and Platinums will do with their Choice Benefit’s choices. If you peek at the photo I chose for the open of this post you see a really big Diamond. Then you see a really tiny one representing the +1 that will at times be flying with me. The point is when my +1 is with me there is no need for them to hold any status at all. Thus, I really need to rethink just what I choose as a Choice Benefit. In the past I have most times picked Gold Medallion for my wife but now that is much less necessary as she will now be  Diamond-lite  when she is with me on the same PNR. JOY! Oh and not just my wife.

Wait – Say what?

Think elite mileage runs. Let’s say some friend of mine wants to join me on a mileage run to make it up to Diamond as well? Well, as long as we are both booking on the same PNR and we are very carefully choosing our days for travel it is very likely that we both will be riding up front as Diamond + Diamond-lite on our run. This way I get to work at keeping my Diamond status for another year and my +1 can climb up to be a Diamond as well. I LOVE this so much!

And we can take the Choice Benefit logic a step further. Let’s say you are a family of 3 or 4. Now you may want to still consider gifting your spouse Gold as a Diamond because next time you plan a family trip you book it on two reservations or PNRs. Then, you as a Diamond will pull one of the family up to Diamond-lite and the other one pulls the other family member up to Gold-lite. I think, if you are careful on planning, this means worst case situation you have all 3 or 4 in the family in C+ and very likely a number (or all) of them in 1st class. Again, I LOVE THIS and all the possibilities and choices this opens up!

I am on a roll so let’s keep this going.

Most of us will still want to choose a Regional upgrade as one of our perks. Well, we all should know there are ways to game these a bit and I cannot really talk about all the ways on the blog but the point is that with this latest change there are even more ways to tinker with these (again, don’t ask as I cannot comment on the blog but ask me when you see me say at the Chicago Seminars in October)! 😉

So we are talking perks but there is so much more that is impacted by this Delta change. Think about fare class. The past few days I have been talking about C+ fares but this time I am NOT talking about that. I am talking about clean fare class choice. Most of us do know that one of the biggest and most successful ways to improve our upgrade chances is to pay for a higher fare class than the direct cheapest ones that most folks buy (think LUTXV). So, if we happen to, when we are flying with a +1, search for fare classes just above these dirt cheap fare classes we are greatly improving the chance for not just us but for us and our +1 both to be riding up front in the nice seats. Good for Delta, as most times I will end up spending a few bucks more for each ticket!

This is just getting fun and my head is spinning! How much more is there?

We can take this even much longer term. Let’s say you happen to be in an outstanding situation like me who will soon have enough MQMs to rollover Diamond again in 2017, that is, as soon as I in January spend $25,000+ on my Delta AMEX card, I will have Diamond Status until 1FEB19. So, I may have to consider changing my earnings plays to help push my wife to Diamond as well. Thus, when I go to spend my Delta Reserve card BOGOF cert in 1st class, rather than putting me as primary to earn MQMs, I can put her in primary and I get nothing. And, I can start to gift my MQMs earned from AMEX Delta Reserve card spend bonus to her for a while. Bottom line if she is riding up front with me on a few mileage runs and I am driving my other MQMs earnings to her we can even more extend our perks to the next level. Heck, we may even have to consider getting her a Delta AMEX Reserve card as well to reach Diamond as well (why you ask, clearly for more Global Upgrade certs worth thousands of dollars each)!

Then we have PWM or Pay with Miles. There have been times I have not really considered using them with my wife as I have rather booked in 1st class on an award as the MQMs really did not mater for her as she was not chasing status like me. But, with this change, maybe I will risk it and do a PWM ticket and hope we both as Diamond and Diamond-lite upgrade and either way we both end up earning MQMs for a ticket I would have in the past just used as an award! Good times.

Lastly exit row seats, as a direct result of this change, is less of a battleground for elites than under the old rules. This is good on so many levels as there are times I still will want to choose an exit row and I think most elites will opt-in for C+ seats and upgrades now so when I do want those seats instead there will be less competition. Worst case as the 6/5/3&1 day window opens up I can scan the seat map and jump over to an exit as others move up to C+ (and I bet still many times middle seat at that). Hey, their middle seat upgrade (with their +1) can mean now two seats for me in exit row when I want it. I am just giddy over all of this!

Well just maybe we should consider if there are any downsides to all of this!

There were times in the past that splitting the reservation was good. For example when having a bunch of tiny vouchers and wanting to burn a number of them. You could book separate (and yet the same) reservations and then cross link or cross reference them and hope all worked out well. All indications (so far) are that will not work with this new benefit as both need to be on the same reservation or PNR. Again, not a major loss but one to consider. Are there more? Not really that I can think of. This really is just such smashing good news that even racking my brain I can only come up with even more good things to say about this elite change. So I think I will just stop here for today.

Needless to say I am more and more thrilled by this day by day and look forward to tinkering and playing with my wife’s new Diamond-lite status when flying with me and these changes once they are in full effect. That day can just not come fast enough for me! – 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

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. Bad Luck Chuck Reply

    Wonder what the odds are that this will change before it is implemented? “So much so that I am not sure if Delta has really considered them all” …

  2. René,

    If you don’t think companies will book matching trips for employees to game the system, you’re not thinking straight. My wife travels with me for work and is a PM. Now, why even try to get her status? She just passed by all the other DMs on a lower ticket class.

    But, my question is this. One seat and for a party of two. Will they split them up?

  3. Deltaflyer Reply

    Hi Rene,

    I love your blog and most of the time I agree with you, but not on this one.

    Whichever way you package it, I still think a DM solo should receive the upgrade before the +1 with lower or no status.

    With first class upgrades becoming so much harder to get this is another downgrade.

    According to your logic of “How often do you think a DM will fly with a companion”, why would you think this change is soooo great??

  4. Who this stinks for is all of us who fly solo (at least half my fellow biz class passengers on today’s flight from ATL to Paris) and all of the lower level elites who had a prayer of an upgrade when all the freeloading “+1s” were in their place. DL giveth and DL taketh away. I should be used to this by now, it happens so often.

  5. Roamin' Around Reply

    This really stinks for me. My wife and I are both Platinum. Now, a Diamond flying with their +1 with no status will get 2 bumps before either my wife or myself would get a single seat upfront.
    But if the rules of the game change, then my strategy will change. Now, we’ll be better off if one of us is Diamond and the other has no status. And just like you, I will be changing the BOGOF certs and my Reserve Card MQM gifting.

  6. I have spent the last two years transitioning from Delta (still a Diamond) to American (where I am an Executive Platinum). I was transitioning solely because like Delta’s ongoing “enhancements” felt as if they were designed to drive Diamonds to leave. The recent decisions by Delta seem more affirming of frequent flyers. I have already re-qualified for Executive Platinum with American so I am going to spend the remainder of the year flying Delta. I find the Delta hard product and service much superior to American. For me, I would be happy to use Skymiles or Regional Certs or Globals to move to the front of the plane when no discounted Business Class is available.

  7. Rene – I really think this change is positive. The fact I couldn’t sit in comfort+ with my girlfriend on an itinerary without paying the extra cost was one of the factors for me looking for status on another carrier. This change is SO positive, it is entirely out of charterer with Delta’s actions during the last 4 years or so. So much so, I wonder what the motivation was. I mean I really don’t think Delta is looking to the loyal FF flyer for repeat business. They’re a big corporation, smart and I’m sure they have the data to back up their strategy for the past few years.

    Having said all this I’m still planning to look for status with another carrier after 2017. The nice thing about this change I that I will be to still enjoy Delta on an occasional trip just buying the seating and perks I want (mostly trough FCM). There would have to be a number of other reversals including the award chart and availability on expert flyer to even consider these guys for long term loyalty. I enjoy your blog!

  8. As a newly minted(finally) platinum I see this a nothing but a minor downgrade. I obviously have no problem with a diamond trumping me with status. But a passenger with no status should jump no one. As a oft solo traveler this suits you fine. Given the usual scarcity of available F seats this new policy is bad.

  9. I really think all this is going to do is take care of that middle C+ upgrade seat that a solo business traveler wouldn’t want anyway. Thus, delta kills two birds with one stone – makes those of us of travel with our +1 happy and fill the C+ middle seat.

  10. Another downgrade to Platinum’s. Diamond’s getting companions upgraded before me makes me want to look back at American again, maybe even Alaska if their merger goes through well. I’ve been a platinum the past few years, I’ll likely never make Diamond, nor do I want to fly that much, ever. Platinum just lost about 50% value than it had before with this, gold and silver even that much more worthless with this change..

  11. HITconsultant Reply

    Regarding “Diamond Status until 1FEB19” — I thought Delta hasn’t confirmed whether MQMs in 2017 Medallion year will rollover to 2018?

    • @HITconsultant – They can not do anything for this years rollover into 2017. I will rollover 125k into next year so as soon as I am MQD exempt I will have earned my 2018 Diamond status and it ends 1FEB19. Clear?

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