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Delta Modifies its First Class Companion Upgrade Policy

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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 Air Lines made an interesting tweak on its upgrade policies for elite status members traveling with companions.

You may recall that, four years ago, Delta changed its upgrade rules for Medallions traveling with those holding lower or no elite status. The airline decided that the higher status level of two travelers on the same PNR/confirmation number determined upgrade priority.

So a Platinum and Silver on the same PNR would clear at the Platinum window — not the Silver. There was much rejoicing in the land. (Well, in some lands.) It used to be the other way around. For example, Diamonds traveling with non-status holders previously didn’t clear at the 5-day window; in those situations, they were knocked down to upgrades within 24 hours of their flight.

Randee and Chris Carley seated in Delta One from LAX to Tokyo HND on an Airbus 330.

You’ll notice I emphasized “same PNR” a couple of times in the above paragraphs. That’s where things changed.

Non-Status Holders on Separate PNRs Can Be Upgraded with You!

Traveling with a non-Medallion companion who booked their reservation separately — but want to share the first class experience with them?

You can link the two reservations — and now your companion will clear (inventory permitting, of course) at your Medallion level. It doesn’t matter if he or she doesn’t has Delta status.

For example, if you’re a Diamond Medallion traveling with a non-status, general SkyMiles member, you and your companion may be upgraded starting 120 hours before your flight.

Delta One seat in an Airbus A330 aircraft.

This makes things a little easier for groups of employees, contractors, etc., who must book travel through their employers’ or client’s travel services. One of my clients books all of my travel whenever I work for them. All of us on a given trip are booked on separate PNRs. This change will allow me the possibility of bringing a coworker or client up front with me.

So if you want to impress a client, boss, or that cute coworker down the hallway, link their reservation with yours (provided they don’t have status, of course).

The change is effective only for travel the US 50 domestic states and in the Delta One and First Class cabins.

Sorry, Comfort+.

But Lower Status Medallions Lose Out?

Here’s the “Huh?” section of the change.

(If) Platinum and Silver Medallion Members are traveling together [on separate but linked reservations], the Platinum Medallion Member will clear at the Platinum window and the Silver Medallion Member will clear at the Silver window.

Like, thanks for your loyalty, right?

If non-status holders are allowed to get upgraded to first class, then Medallion members should be higher (or at least on par!) with the Tin Medallion folks.

I won’t surprised if some Medallions defect — and take their Delta Amex spend somewhere else, too.

How This Might Be Abused

This scenario may make you laugh, shake your head, or both. But I promise you it’ll happen:

A Medallion is on a trip — and has someone he wants to impress. Maybe it’s a potential business connection he just met. Or maybe it’s a good looking person he’d love to date. Through small talk, he can find out if the person has status. If his target doesn’t, then guess what? A possible first class upgrade is on him!

Couple flirting
“Hey, baby. Don’t have Delta status? No worries! I do! Want to sit with me in first class?” (©iStock.com/LDProd)

That’s just one example.

And if you think, I’m a Gold traveling with my friend, the Diamond Medallion! I’ll leave my SkyMiles number off my reservation and get upgraded with her and apply to get my miles after the trip!, then you might want to think again.

Delta phrases the change as “If your companion is a General Member who does not have Medallion Status, their upgrade will clear at the clearing time of the Medallion Member’s Tier.”

General Member means you have a SkyMiles number. And I wouldn’t recommend getting cute by creating all sorts of different SkyMiles accounts. Delta tends to (rightfully) frown on that.

What Do You Think?

I think people will have strong feelings about this. Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!

— Chris

H/T: TPG via FT. Featured image courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

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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.


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12 Comments

  1. John Hayes Reply

    I think Delta will realize the folly of this change. It makes no sense to me.

  2. In the days of NWA and maybe even early post merger Delta, I heard stories (not me of course ) that top elites with a cleared upgrade could pick out anyone at the gate, tell the gate agent you were travelling together, and get the person to be impressed upgraded. Just present her, I mean their, boarding pass. There was almost always room for one more upgrade. So what you suggest has happened before, or so they say.

    • Yes I remember doing that on NW back in the day at the gate.

      Couldn’t do it if the companion was on an award ticket though.

  3. I have to admit that I don’t like the companion upgrade. For someone who is Diamond maybe and has traveled 5 million miles with Delta (not me!)–to have someone who has no, or even lower status clear an upgrade as a companion and the Diamond sits in the back missing the upgrade by 1, just doesn’t seem fair!

    • Michael Margelefsky Reply

      Definitely an incentive to make sure my wife stays a general member. The days of gifting her status are over.

  4. Upgrading passengers from a different PNR (passenger name record) should be reserved only for a top tier elite with million mile status. They’ve proven their past loyalty with their wallets. It shouldn’t be about quick ways to generate revenue through non-brand loyalists. The million mile passengers are brand ambassadors and thus should be granted this priviledge.

  5. I’m not clear what the rule is if two medallions of different levels are traveling on the SAME PNR. If a silver and platinum are on same PNR then are they still cleared at the platinum priority?

  6. Pingback: Delta Companion Upgrade Policy Makes No Sense | One Mile at a Time

  7. Pingback: Delta’s New Companion Upgrade Policy Makes No Sense – My Blog

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