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Delta Keeps Making Great Program Changes. I am “this close” to becoming a Delta fan boy again!

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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 keep climbing worthy events 2016
Keep Climbing so much better than Keep Descending

Well  maybe  that title is pushing it a little bit. Delta has, after all, done a bunch for years and years to all but crush the life out of any kind of loyalty most of us have to Delta. The SkyMiles program is a complete and utter shameful disgrace and disappointment to anyone who flies Delta. To me, and most who knows and understands SkyMiles, the loss of stopovers on awards is still to date the worst thing Delta has done and must be changed back one day (are you listening Delta?)!

I also have to be frank and tell you I was not a fan of Richard Anderson as most of the negative changes, from a paying customer perspective, have happened under his watch. But the man who was his second and who is now the CEO, Ed Bastian, interviewed above by my friends The AirlineGuys is just maybe growing on me if he is in fact the one pushing any of the latest (and recent-ish) positive changes and there really are a number of them.

What positive #KeepClimbing worthy changes you ask? Take a look in case you missed them:

  • Change in upgrade with your companion on same PNR (or itinerary). This, folks, is HUGE. Huge, huge huge! I cannot tell you want a great change this is. Most times I am flying alone but the few times a year I am flying with my wife we now have a Diamond shot at an upgrade. Now I get with Delta pushing 1st class sales to 70% those upgrades are harder and harder to get but I will be sure to buy a high-ish fare class and fly on a day to get top UG shots! I love this change.
  • Change in upgrade order with AMEX spend. Again, just massively great news. Not only are we rewarded as Delta Platinum and Reserve card holders for reaching spend thresholds with bonus MQMs or elite points but now we are going to get more upgrades for doing what we are doing already. Well done Delta – we like it!
  • Allowing PWM (Pay with Miles) to earn points in coach & 1st class. This one is not all so recent but it was a big positive change and there can be times spending miles, flying, and EARNING points is just a win-win-win all the way around. Delta clearly values status more and more and this is a way to spend SkyMiles and help you keep your status. Gotta love this one!
  • Discount SkyMiles award “Sales”. Yes, it is shameful Delta hides the award charts and it is hard to argue with those who say there cannot be a true award sale if you don’t know the price it should be, but I will cut Delta a break here. We know where we can find the old charts after all and offering discounted LEVEL 1 awards in the USA and to other places is just sweet. Thank you Delta for this and keep it going.
  • Improvements to Sky Clubs including Wifi speeds. Have you noticed how much better (many) Sky Clubs are? There is power everywhere (a must). The drinks are better. The snacks are (a bit) better. Oh, btw if you have not noticed, the wifi speeds are much better than they were before. As a Diamond I get free club membership (individual) and I really applaud Delta for all of these improvements.
  • (Soon) A way pre-select 1st class meals. This has really been a needed fix and I cannot wait for the change to happen. Other airlines let you, when you are in 1st class, pick your choice well before flight. Soon Delta will do the same. I hate having to play seat roulette and hope an FA does FEBO on this flight. This change is just great and will even let us plan ahead to buy something if we do not like the choices offered in advance!
  • Expanding Global Upgrade certs to work with Skyteam partner KLM. I know GU certs are not perfect and REV MGT. control of seats is frustrating but to have them start to expand to other Skyteam partners (at cheaper fare classes) is just so nice. GU certs, as far as value goes, is one of the top reasons to go for Diamond status with Delta. I cannot wait to use mine to fly KLM full flat seats on a 747 and even more so as Delta parks all their fleet of 747s!
  • Offering AMEX gift cards for bumps! I don’t know if this is pushing it as part of the loyalty / award etc.. program but I am including it anyway because I can. This program is not available at all airports yet but I wish it would be. It is amazing to be able to get something almost like CASH for a bumpertunity. I can spend these cards on things I would only get 1x points for anyway and then use other travel cards that offer 2x or 3x to by my Delta tickets with! #Winning and thank you Delta!
  • Clear Expedited Security. Now I know it is not at any Delta hubs (yet). It will only be free for Diamonds and we do not know the price for the rest of elites or SkyMiles members. And, they have given no timeline how long it will take to be in place. BUT, once this is in place we will be yelling how great a perk it is and Delta was so smart to put this in place. Just give this one time and you will be thrilled.

Now all these really are great Elite / SkyMiles program changes but, as so many have pointed out, there still is a long way to go and most of them have to do with the award program. I have a short list of things they really need to pay attention to if they want to continue this upward positive trend. Take a look and see if you agree:

  • Stopovers & married segment logic. Anyone who is not such a fool to flush the value of their SkyMiles down the toilet on “SkyMiles Experiences” or hotels or cars etc. knows the real and true value of SkyMiles comes from stopovers. In the past you could stop up to 11 months (either way) and enjoy a number of cites as vacation spots on awards. This also worked to help you FIND awards at LEVEL 1 as partner awards  may need a few days at some city to make it all work right. Then again, with horrid married segment logic it can be hard to find anything nowadays so this too needs to go away.
  • Award charts. I know, I know this is just stupid and embarrassing. The other airlines have not followed Delta (like they always do) and dumped their award charts too. Delta needs to bring them back – period.
  • E Basic fares & elites. Delta I am not my fare Delta. I am a loyal elite who always chooses Delta when I buy a ticket. Reward me for this even when I buy an E fare. Give me a shot at an upgrade to 1st class and to C+. Fix this for medallions (all of them).
  • Allow +1 Sky Club for AMEX Reserve card. THIS of all the bits Delta could simply change for a card that has few perks and a $450 annual fee is so needed. There are not that many times I fly with my wife and would like this perk so just fix this Delta. Remember the massive amount of money you make each year from AMEX.
  • Set a minimum price for a FCM (not sub $10) & gaming upgrade sales. I hate it when folks on twitter post prices to upgrade from coach to 1st class for under $10. I don’t care how short the flight is or what your fare basis was, Delta should set an absolute bottom floor price for any FCM upgrade for at least $100. And, please stop showing a lower price day by day until someone bites. It is maddening to see. These changes would help to preserve some semblance of the elite upgrade perk and could even make Delta more money!

So there is my list of both Keep Climbing events as of late as well as the Keep Descending ones. Are there some you think Delta should be praised for that I just missed as well as ones they need to address that I skipped? Feel free to tell me in the comments below on the blog as you know Delta reads the blog each day. 😉

I have to say Delta had better be REAL careful. Because if they keep making positive changes, like the ones above, they may find themselves winning some Freddie Awards one day and they have said they sure don’t want that to happen! 😉 Well, I say just #KeepClimbing Delta – 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. Ex-FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    I’ve been a platinum for two years and a diamond for two years. If Delta would do the following I would begin flying them again–right now, I fly the cheapest first-class or business-class ticket available:

    1. Around-the-world award tickets.
    2. International stopovers.
    3. Award chart publication. (I don’t mind variable award pricing, but the minimum and maximum prices should be published. For example, London and Paris I expect to cost more than Stockholm and Singapore but I would like to know what the costs are.)
    4. Give me a fish option in special order meals.

    And if Delta really wanted to win me over, give me an additional global upgrade certificate for every 25,000 miles flown after 125,000.

    • @ExFNT – Oh, your point 5 if you will about miles flown is one I have never considered. HUmmm, interesting. I agree with the others as well!

  2. Delta stinks. None of these changes make up for their garbage elite program. Companion upgrades are just going to make upgrades WAY harder.

    • @Ryan – You should read Sundays post. It will make you feel better 😉

  3. So changing the blog title back to Delta Points anytime soon?

    Have you read Lucky’s take on “Delta Comfort+ Changes Coming To International Flights?” I’m a bit confused–does that mean DM/PMs can’t get free C+ SideGrade on those routes (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico…etc.)? Could you elaborate or look into this?

    Thank you! — a DL PM

    • @Ben – Give the INT changes some time to wash out. It seems it is only some routes for now and will be UG like domestic. Again, wait on that one.

  4. I’m actually glad that DL has gotten rid of +1s for SkyClub access. The lounges were way overcrowded. Now, as a result of less traffic, I can actually find a place to sit, and DL has been able to invest more in the experience. Hard to have complimentary premium options when the hordes strip everything clean.

    • @William – Do keep in mind how much AMEX pays Delta each year. The few times I would bring my wife in will not mean complimentary stuff will be picked clean 😉

  5. Rene, believe you meant the AMEX Platinum Card instead of AMEX Reserve re +1 Sky Club. I could never understand why Amex let Delta take this away.

    • @Sam – Neither one of them let’s you bring a guest. Both get you in to the Sky Club the day you are flying Delta. The Reserve card, in the past, let you bring a guest or even 2 I seem to recall.

  6. @ExFNT – one of the good benefits (combined with ability to earn MQMs easily with the Amex cards) is the rollover MQMs… so while it would be nice to get GUCs or RUCs for every threshold, the rollover MQMs in some ways makes up for it… Surprised UA/AA haven’t copied rollover MQMs yet to get rid of a competitive advantage.

  7. I don’t know the stats on this, but maybe you do. You always seem to write with the idea that most readers (and ff in general? ) are diamond or at least platinum elites. I suspect, given how incredibly long all the upgrade lists I see are, that most elites do NOT get upgrades, most of the time. From my perspective, I welcome the chance to buy my way up front for $50 or so, and I strongly suspect that’s true for a lot more people than not.

    So yes, the relatively small number of top level elites in non-hub cities that regularly get bumped up front for free will lose that chance. But a LOT of we lower level elites (and even more common types) and hub captives are thrilled to death to have a shot at that seat 1A (well, 2A– still need some overhead space).

    As a DL shareholder, I am pleased with any additional revenue my airline makes, and am (perhaps wrongly) not overly concerned about losing too many customers. I assume DL has done the research and that this is an extremely well thought out “gamble. ” But only time will tell.

    • @mbh – I own no airline stock nor do I buy them ever. Now tell me what you think of $DAL in a few months once more and more get C+ middle seat upgrades. There is only one reason Delta did the +1 1st class/C+ upgrade change and that is mass departure of elite. I have been told (off the record) the numbers were massive and this may just stop the departures.

  8. Rene, I think the problem with the +1 on Skyclub access probably was more related to overcrowding from the random meetup folks were doing to get others into Skyclubs. Delta/Amex could certainly revive the benefit in limited, yet useful, ways — e.g. allowing 1 access per DL reserve card or DM+Reserve etc; or allowing +1 on the same/linked PNRs, etc. Somehow I got grandfathered executive Skyclub membership from either DM or Reserve until 6/22/16 — bummer after that 🙁

  9. Thanks, Rene! I read from you and other bloggers that domestic first class upgrade for a companion will now be based on the highest tier of the medallion member. Do you think that’s going to be the case for C+? From DL site:

    Medallion members traveling with one companion: You will both be eligible for a Delta Comfort+ upgrade as long as the companion is a SkyMiles member. The upgrade window for both members is based on the member with the lowest tier. For general SkyMiles members in a reservation with a Medallion member, upgrades will be available no sooner than 24 hours prior to departure.

    • @Ben – Keep in mind much of the wording is a mix of old and new news on the site. I have confirmed from a Delta CORP Rep that only one needs to be an elite. The +1 just has to be a SkyMiles member on the same PRN to become a “Whatever-Lite” medallion with you for the day of travel.

  10. Even if you have two Amex Reserve cards, Business and Personal, you still cannot bring another into the Skyclub. That really stinks.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree with the +1 allowed in the sky clubs. My wife flies with me no more than three times a year and yet I spent the $85 for pre-check so she could go through security with me. I pay the fee for both the Amex reserve and platinum and that costs me a whole lot more than pre-check did. I’m surprised that delta frequent flyers haven’t complained to Amex about this and Amex didn’t have a beef with delta about the change.

    • @Roger – Would you believe Delta did not even tell AX about the change until after is was in place. Yep, scary right!

  12. Is PWM the same as award travel? I just flew from the US to Prague in business class and received no mileage credit whatsoever

    • @RAY – See link(s) above for PWM (not to be confused with cash+miles btw). If you pay in full with PWM you will earn no RDMs but should earn full MQMs. RDMs are only earned on part of ticket payed with cash (net MQD price not on tax, fees etc).

  13. Dotti cahill Reply

    This new rule of ???? upgrading to comfort stinks ESP in the middle seat!! C+is a SAD
    Upgrade getting to pick a C+ seat before may 15 th as a DM or PM was a decent benefit–the NEW rule NOT

    • @Dotti – C+ is no upgrade. I will opt-out still most times. However, to allow my wife to be Diamond-Lite is amazing when with me to upgrade to 1st class (at least the shot to).

  14. @Rene: I paid entirely with miles. I received no MQMs or MQSs or obviously bonus miles. I don’t know what an RDM is…

    • @Ray – Contact Delta. You need MQMs. RDM= Redeemable Miles or SkyMiles. You only get those based on cash price paid. MQMs, however, you earn in full as shown on

  15. Thanks for all you do Rene! I, too, am excited about the changes because of the simple fact that DL is actually listening to its FFs. The powers that be in the C suite wouldn’t be swinging the pendulum back the other direction if it didn’t want to keep people happy. Good equipment that flies on time only buys so much loyalty.

    Although I’m only tinfoil status, er….Silver, I am still getting upgrades from time to time. I live in Sacramento and DL has added a lot of lift from here to SEA and LAX. Not only that, getting rid of the smaller RJs has increased FC seat availability and I haven’t missed an upgrade to one of these two cities yet. Over this past weekend I cleared the upgrade list two days out going from SMF to LAX. On the return, I was #1 of 3 on the list at the gate with two seats open. A SILVER MEMBER! Why? Mostly because DL is regularly putting 717s on the route.

    Even if I only clear the upgrade list on my first segment, I’m still getting Priority Baggage service throughout my itinerary and 3 bags. But without the upgrade, getting access to exit rows immediately on booking is HUGE for me. An exit row is just as good as C+. I can buy my own drink or bring my own KitKat bar on the plane and still get the legroom and save money. I keep expecting DL to take access to the exit rows away from Silver, like UA did, but it hasn’t happened yet. I also get TWO bags for free – one for Silver, one for my DL Gold AMEX. UA also took that away from me – no double dipping it said!

    The FF miles tix I have “purchased” lately hit dates that were “on sale” – I got 4 tickets for 11K each r/t SMF to LAS in August and 4 more for 11K each r/t SMF to LAX in Nov. That’s a total savings of 112K miles based on a chart showing 25K r/t in between domestic airports. Wow!!!

    The other reason I love DL? The majority of its employees are actually friendly and seem to genuinely care about their job and my experience. On that last flight the gate agent started boarding FC without clearing the upgrade list. I was afraid to say anything but made eye contact with her as I was loitering around the desk. When I mentioned it, she apologized profusely and then thanked me for reminding her. Next came my new boarding pass. #keepClimbing

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