Delta (like many airlines) has long tried to up-sell coach passengers into buying first class seats. This practice — called “First Class Monetization” (or “FCM”) — usually features discounted rates to entice passengers to buy-up to the cushy seats up front.
As a result, the number of seats available for complimentary, elite member upgrades usually shrinks.
We previously saw first class upgrade buy-ups as low as $10. That’s the cost of one liquor drink in coach. You can make back your money with one pre-departure beverage (PDB) in your first class seat before the plane even leaves the gate.
But a Rene’s Points reader recently hit an FCM jackpot — while Delta seems to have sunk to a startling low.
Michael Ross sent us a picture of his FCM offer. Delta offered him a buy up for — get ready — two dollars. For two flights. Total.
— Michael Ross (@MWRoss) May 3, 2019
Yes. Just two dollars. United States currency.
Yep – A buck a flight!
For much cheaper than a fast food restaurant value meal, Michael received two first class airplane rides.
A De Facto Mileage Run
In addition to free adult beverages, better seats, and meal service (if applicable to a flight), there’s a great SkyMiles perk to paid first class fares: a 50% (at least) bonus Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs. (Full fare first or business class tickets earn 100% bonus MQMs.)
Michael’s $2 buy-up essentially turned his trip into an insanely cheap mileage run (click here for help with a custom run mileage run from your home town airport).
For reference, we at Rene’s Points strive to find mileage runs for about 4 cents per mile or less in coach (around 8cpm or lower for first class).
Michael has us all dead to rites. His two buck investment turned into a 3/10 of a cent CPM mileage run.
Delta Values First Class at a Dollar?
I understand Delta wanting to make money from a valuable product — and don’t fault them for FCM. Delta is a (very) profitable business — not a charity.
But are they saying first class is now worth a measly dollar? (Which, as an aside, is a huge insult to the fantastic flight attendants working forward cabins.)
Frankly, why should I ever pay more than a buck for another first class upgrade on Delta?
Let’s Be Fare
A technical glitch is a possibility we must honestly consider.
Delta IT isn’t the company’s crown jewel. So it wouldn’t surprise me if juuusssst maaaaybe a couple of zeros should’ve found their way to the left of the decimal point. Maybe this was some sort of an error or mistake fare?
But Complimentary Upgrades are Free!
“Delta gives away upgrades for free on almost every flight!” you may say. “Medallions don’t pay anything for upgrades!”
Make no mistake about it: Delta makes a lot of money from Medallion members. Even from flyers who obtain a chunk of their MQMs through Delta-branded American Express card spend, Delta rakes in the dough.
Where Cheap FCM Could Hurt Delta
Can you see “Two Buck Tuesday!” becoming a thing on Delta?
Complimentary upgrades are a fantastic — if not the best — perk of being an elite status holder with any airline. But when those go away because of cheap antics like $2 FCM, so will the valued frequent flyers. They might not completely abandon the mothership — especially one that’s the best airline option for West Coast travelers 😉 — but their eyes and wallets will wander.
Elite status holders’ business is far more valuable than that of leisure travelers who rarely fly an airline but can buy up to first class for a significant discount.
Give Your Two
Was this a glitch? Or a cheap move to make two more dollars? Share your thoughts in the comment section below! – Chris