If Not a Bug, Delta Premium Select Could Be the Biggest Threat to Medallion Upgrades so Far!

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“Free” domestic 1st class on PS awards

Yesterday, while in the middle of geeking out over the A350 1st flight and the new Premium Select (PS) seats, something interesting came up and I quickly tweeted about it. But at the moment it did not sink in the bigger picture and implications of this new change (if it is not just a fare code bug that is).

“Free” domestic 1st on paid PS tickets too

If you have not seen just what I am talking about yet it is in regards to the “free” domestic 1st class upgrade you get if you purchase, with money or a SkyMiles award, a Delta Premium Select seat.

Now initially this will not have a mega impact because there are just not that many A350s flying around but over time as Delta takes delivery of 25 of them meaning you will have 1200 PS seats (48 per jet) that could in theory all result in a domestic 1st class seat gone as a traveler connects domestically before their international flight.

Before the comments start flying that I am WAY over blowing this I get that there are a number of factors that will impact this. The first obvious one being that Delta is delaying 10 of the 25 air frames for a while thus reducing the total PS seats to just 720. Still that is a LOT of seats.

From Delta.com the A350 routes to start

Next, I get the argument that possibly as many as half of these seats would be travelers starting at a hub airport thus the real impact could be as little as 360 per day. But think about even that number is 360 medallion upgrades gone into thin air each day – yikes!

I maybe understand why Delta is doing this (again, if it is not a bug). From the airlines income standpoint it may work out. If Delta is still flying around with “empty” 1st class seats and are simply “giving” them away to loyal medallions then why not simply give them away free to those who buy a premium income seat from the airline. After all why reward a loyal flyer who, over the year, pays tons of money to the airline in hope of a few upgrades each year. 😉

Honestly the later bit is the part that bothers me the most and why I think the free domestic 1st class with PS is a really stupid idea. I already get tons of reader feedback that they now simply book whatever is the cheapest 1st class ticket they can find on any airline nowadays due to the dwindling amount of Delta Medallion upgrades this year. With the PS free upgrades expanding there will be even less than before.

One last little interesting bit of info if you look at the screen shot above for paid ticket. While you get “free” domestic 1st class notice that on a connecting international flight without PS seats you apparently do not get Comfort+ seats at booking (but you can upgrade later based on status or additional payment).

What do you think. Do you think this domestic free 1st class when you purchase PS will be a good enhancement for Delta flyers or yet another nail in the coffin for the elite program? – René





  1. What if they go one further and announce VS/KLM/AF (and any others with premium economy cabins they are in a partnership with) to connect to a first class seat rather than C+?

    If they do then that will be the death knell. As it stands, DL’s A350 is only going to be used on pacific routes (so i will not see it, or premium select, out of LHR) so the issue is contained to routes in that direction.

  2. @Phil – AF PE already does just that fyi. Not sure on VS if they also do it. KLM does not have a PE seat just C+ like Delta.

  3. I am a PM and so far this year have flown 21 segments with Delta and was upgraded only once on a very expensive economy fare. Being based at MSP I am not surprised to see my name on the upgrade list around #40 in several flights. I just do not expect to be upgraded anymore and if it happens it will be a surprise.

  4. I do not think it is a bug. It is a smart more on Delta’s part since it costs them very little and provides a nice level of service on Delta metal from the point of departure to the destination. Once the PS product is launched, I could see Delta offering PS customers a cheap FCM-esque upgrade for the domestic legs.

    I have mixed feeling since there are fewer upgrades, but I have an easier time convincing my employer to pay for premium economy than business class.

  5. I know everyone keeps calling it Premium Economy (and compared to other international business class products it probably is more like premium economy). However it appears that Delta is coding these as business class. Every search I’ve done shows the fare class for these seats as fare class G. You’re even getting 1.5x MQMs for Premium Select.

    So Delta may just be giving you a matching coded seat for any domestic leg you have. Just a thought.

  6. @Dave – You could be right on both fronts. I will let you know what about 24hrs straight in the PS seats is like in October 😉

  7. I am looking forward to your review of the new PS seats and how they compare to PE seats on AF.

    IMO, the difference between a standard coach seat and a PE seat is at least the differential between a PE seat and a BC seat.

  8. So, I get domestic first-class to Detroit, premium-economy to Tokyo-Narita and then steerage, aka economy, to Manila/Singapore/Palau/Guam/Saipan out of Tokyo-Narita. That’s pretty crappy.

    Worse yet, I don’t even get a complimentary upgrade out of Narita because the intra-Asia flights aren’t upgrade eligible, which means they can fly out with empty seats even if there’s a diamond sitting in economy.

    It will be interesting to see what happens if, as many expect, Delta drops Manila and Singapore through its renewed and expanded relationship with Korean. I know Delta’s diamond desk tried getting me to book an upcoming Singapore trip with the Singapore segment operated by Korean. As of now, Korean doesn’t honor Delta’s global upgrade certificates.

  9. @Rene,

    I don’t think this is anything new. Well, let me rephrase that…. The fact that Delta now has a Premium Economy cabin on their own metal is new. I flew Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic 4 years ago and the Delta metal legs were first class seats. So I dont really see this as an additional threat. Unless I missed something here.

  10. @Rene,

    That is true, but I would hope that they would just remove some more coach seats to add the new PE cabin. If I remember the video you linked to a while back explaining how much revenue the different cabins make the airlines based on selling price I think it would make sense for them to do this. (but I am by no means an expert on Airline Economics).

  11. Premium Select is the biggest rip-off and Delta falsely advertises what you actually get. Do not water your money or points on this.

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