As a Delta Medallion, when it comes to upgrades, we have to “trust” the Delta IT is working the way it is published on Delta.com. That is, we have to hope that when the 5 day window opens up for complimentary upgrades the below will be followed:
Priority Complimentary Upgrade Hierarchy1
1 Medallion Status
2 Fare Class Groupings: higher-priced fares are ranked above lower-priced fares
3 Delta Reserve Credit Card (learn more) Members.
4 Delta Corporate Travelers*
5 Card Members who earned the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) Waiver in the current calendar year1
6 Date and time of upgrade request
1 – “Upgrade clearance priority for all Medallion Tiers will continue to be based on spending at least $25,000 in the current calendar year on all Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards from American Express that count toward the MQD Waiver regardless of the increase in the Diamond MQD Waiver requirement.” – From Delta.com
“Members at the same Medallion Tier will be cleared in order of fare class groupings for paid tickets, Award Tickets and Pay with Miles tickets, with higher fare classes among all ticket types holding higher priority.” – From Delta.com
This is very cut and dried. You can plug all of the above into any ticket and it should work as posted (or even use this useful non-Delta tool). But we just trust that it does as there are few times we can “test” and see if this all works just as it is published as we can not see behind the scenes. Also, well at least 62% of those in my twitter poll above, also understand that Delta gives priority when you have revenue ticket vs. a SkyMiles award ticket (more on this soon).
Recently I did have just such a chance to test the above. You see another Diamond Medallion and I were on the same flight but our tickets were a bit different. Take a look:
- My ticket: I am a Diamond. Paid cash “U” class ticket. Delta Reserve card. Not a corp traveler. Spend over 25k on Delta Reserve card 2019. Purchased before my friend.
- My friend: Also a Diamond. Cheap SkyMiles coach award ticket. Delta Reserve card. Not a corp traveler. Spend under 25k on Delta Reserve card 2019. Purchased award ticket after me.
Under the above conditions who do you think should have cleared the upgrade at the 5 day window? Under the rules – clearly me! But that is not what happened. My friend cleared and I had to wait to attempt to clear at the gate (full disclosure I did clear at the gate just before the flight).
I reached out to Delta about this and what went wrong with the Delta IT and was told the following:
“It appears this is an anomaly that we’re looking into.” – Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Corporate Communications Representative
An anomaly. Sigh. If you are like me this is opening up about 1 billion questions and all of them are bad. Like, is this a systemic anomaly that happens all the time (and we just do not know it) or was this just a one-off situation I happened to get caught in. How can I trust you, Delta that this does not happen all the time? But there is also a larger issue that frightens and frustrates me.
Delta often makes massive changes and never tells us, that is, we have to sleuth them out. Could it be that Delta has changed award tickets to upgrade above paid revenue tickets if the underlying fare class is higher? If so, how in the world do we find the fare class of an award (it is not always clear). Look at the above example. It is a paid ticket from Detroit to New York. Simple. On the search for Delta.com it shows the fare class direct or connect. But what if we look for an award ticket?
Notice in all the same searches all we see is an “N” fare class for the award ticket either direct or connecting. You may say, “all you have to do is click on the ‘Changeable / Nonrefundable” to see the real award fare code”. Oh really?
Well yes if you look at the letter just in front of the mileage total in the fare code you do see a “K” fare but on the connection flight it shows “Q” not “K” like in the revenue ticket. Bottom line is sometimes this works to see the real true fare code – but not always.
Also keep in mind that that Delta has not officially told me (I asked – many, many times) if Delta has made a change and award tickets could now be above revenue tickets. I don’t believe anything has changed but “anomalies” like mine could be a warning to us something has in fact changed. If it has, it will be much harder for us to compare the real fare code and where we should be on the medallion upgrade ladder. – René