Welcome to a weekly feature on the Eye of the Flyer blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
About one year ago I put up a post on how to improve your upgrade chance with Delta. When you look at the seat choice photos I picked to use, you can see it is time for an update and this topic should be part of the “rookie” block of posts even though it only applies to medallions (can a medallion be a rookie?)!
Yesterday’s post spurred this on with some questions and feedback from readers (the post I had planned for today will now go next week). There really is a lot of work that goes into making sure you get the best shot at an upgrade, but even then things may not work out as planned. Either way, the logic is sound and can help you. So let’s get started.
First I will have a list to make it clear and clean to see the points then break them down more. What you need to look at is:
2) Day & Time
3) Aircraft type
4) Fare class
5) AMEX Reserve
6) Your status
7) When you buy
8 ) When you check-in
9 ) Bumps
So there is the block of data that will make a difference to your upgrade. Now let’s expand on them one by one.
Your Route. There are choice routes that almost always fly full and full of Diamond Medallion flyers. If you pick them, you will have a very low chance for an upgrade if you are a low or mid level medallion such as a Silver or Gold medallion. What are these routes? Ones like Atlanta to Los Angeles or New York to Los Angeles. There are so many others, but if you simply look at how full 1st class is before you even book the ticket, you will get some idea. If 1st class is empty, there is a chance you are looking at a less traveled route. Also think about maybe 2 shorter regional jets with 1st class. Sure it is a hassle to have two 2 hr flights over one 4 hr flight, but, it may be worth it to you if you can sit in 1st twice over coach once.
Day & Time. This is a HUGE one. If you fly almost any time on a Saturday or Tuesday – Thursday mid day, you have a better shot at not seeing a bunch of your fellow high end medallions (i.e. business travelers) on the flights. Some redeye flights can be good, but others just the opposite. You need to be careful. Sunday night, Monday morning or Friday night and you had better expect to do the walk of shame into coach!
Aircraft type. This is one very few think about. Most people just pick the best flight “times” for their trip. They are not thinking about the trip itself. So, in addition to Day & Time, look at what type of aircraft Delta has chosen for that route. If, you can get say, a 757 on a Saturday afternoon, with a bunch of 1st class seats, you are looking really good even at the lowest medallion level Silver medallion.
Fare class. I hope you are starting to “feel” a building “trend” going on here. Can you see each of these points builds from one to the next one? It is the total package, not just one item from the list. Fare class is HUGE. So many flyers just pick what Delta.com spits out for the lowest cost seat. This is almost always LUT & E class. But if you can, for any part of the trip, pay a bit more and go K class or higher, you are moving way up over other medallions (other than Diamonds). Keep in mind you can mix and match flights and fares and only pick K for the flights that matter and pay as little as possible to get the higher fare class one way or the other way of a trip. This can play a big role when it comes to aircraft type. It may well be worth it to you to pay for a higher fare class if the aircraft for the route has less 1st class seats. However, if the route has a TON of them, then risk it with the lower fare class.
AMEX Reserve card. If you are a Diamond, you REALLY REALLY REALLY should consider this card. As a Diamond, you are top of the “food chain” but so are all your other fellow Diamonds. The AMEX Reserve card is the tie breaker. If you and the flyer next to you both are on a T class fare, and you have the Reserve card, you get the upgrade. Same for lower medallions. If you are GOLD, same fare class, you get the upgrade. If you fly Delta a bunch, you just really should consider this card.
Your status. As has already been touched on, the higher up you are the better off you are. Diamond is the key if you want to trump everyone. Once MQD’s do really kick in after 01MARCH2015 you are going to see a massive difference. I would not be shocked for many Diamonds, at that point forward, to be almost 100% for upgrades for a full year (yeah I know many are 80%+ now but it will get even better as so many fall down to PM or less). After that, Platinum makes a MASSIVE difference over Gold on so many routes and days & times. Even Gold will impact your success percentage on off-days so if you tinker with all of the above, Gold can have a great upgrade rate. [TIP: see this post about boarding LAST for more elite upgrades]
When you buy. This is one that few know. Another one of the tie breakers, although somewhat tiny, is how long ago you purchased your ticket. If you buy 100 days out you will, all other things being the same, get the upgrade over a flyer who got the ticket 99 days out. Can you use this to help you? Sure, if you KNOW you are going on a vacation for a certain week, the price looks good, then buy as soon as you can to get one more chance at an upgrade. Why not!
When you Check-In. This is one of the final tie-breakers. You are allowed to check-in 24 hours before your first flight on Delta. If you have more than one flight, but less than 4 connections, you can check in for all of them at once. This can be a tiny plus if you “pounce” on check-in time ASAP as you could end up ahead of another flyer who can not check in for the same flight as you because there starting point is one of your connections.
Bumps. This last one is just sweet. If you can offer up your seat, and take a bump, even if the value of the voucher they offer is a joke, you can always ASK to be rebooked into 1st class. If not, when they rebook you, it will be in Y class and you literally SHOOT up the upgrade list for the next flight they put you on. You will not EARN more points or such, but since now your flight fare class is so much higher than most others, your chance, even as a Silver, goes way, way up! I have taken a bump before for FREE, no compensation, just to get rebooked in Y class. But be careful with this one as Delta has said they can reissue your ticket back in the original fare class without notice any time!
There you are. This is the updated list for you to always consider if you want to sit up in 1st class on a Delta jet as a medallion at any level. Are there any other “tricks” you use to improve your chance to sit up front? Please share them with your fellow Delta Points readers! – René
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