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.
Next week I will be taking my last Delta Elite Mileage run of the year. I will be joined by a few other points enthusiasts who also like the idea of gaining a few more MQMs before the year is over. But all of us are Delta Diamonds so it will be “fun” to see how many of us will be flying in the pointy end of the jet(s). As I have said many times before, mileage running is much better in 1st class.
I very carefully use all the “tools” at my disposal to do all I can to make sure I am up front on every Delta flight I take and I have only missed 2 all year so far! This also includes the very judicious use of Delta Regional Upgrade (RU) certificates (see this PDF for the current rules as of NOV15) when I need them. The basics for these certs is:
You can use them each way, one RU cert. That is if you have 2 or 3 segments all one way / direction you can use just one RU for all these segments (or where the fare break is considered one way / direction). You will have to use another RU for the way back. Sometimes, again if the fare class / rules allow it, you can even overnight and use just one cert both days. It really all depends on the ticket you have so please just ask!
You can clear right away. That is, if space is open for instant RU space. If not you have a number of choices.
You could request to be wait-listed for ONLY the longest leg. If and when that clears you can then have it applied, either instantly, or be wait-listed for the shorter segment as well.
You can burn on short leg and request on longer legs. Using the same map above, you could, if space is open, clear instantly on the short leg and request upgrade on the longer one. There is a downside to this as your RU is burned right away and you may not clear on the long leg and be stuck in coach. Sad to use such a valuable cert for a short flight. Plus, you may have cleared on the short leg without the RU then it is doubly sad you burned it.
You can upgrade a friend with you. If you have someone either on the same PNR, or the exact same flights and link the PNRs, you can upgrade first you and then your friend to 1st assuming there is space otherwise you both are wait-listed.
If you don’t clear, you are WAY up the list. This is another perk if you do not clear before your flight. Sure the “normal” rules apply for upgrade order (see this post) but after that this will move you to the top of the list for everyone else using RU certs and above everyone who is not using one but just waiting for a medallion upgrade.
You can change your mind if not used. This one is a bit tricky. If you are upgraded on ANY of the segments, you have used the cert. However, if you see a ton of open seats in first, and have not cleared even hours before the flight, you can request to have the RU removed for requested upgrade and then maybe clear just as a medallion. Risky and a bit of a pain but it is possible to do.
Now here is where some of the testing and tinkering comes into play. Notice the flight I am on next week. There are, as of this post, 12 of 16 seats open in 1st class and there is still no open space for an RU upgrade. Frustrating? You bet (thanks a lot Delta REV MGT team, btw). This leg is leg number two and a long flight. My first flight is rather long too, and a lunch flight, so I went ahead and cleared instantly for myself and a friend and am now wait-listed for the longer next one.
Now here is what “should” happen and it will be interesting to see if Delta IT works or strikes out. RU certs request should trump complimentary medallion upgrades. So, as the “window” for free upgrades begins, we should be the first ones upgraded. If any Medallion, unless they are also waiting for the same RU upgrade, goes before me I will not be a happy puppy. But in reality I know this is often the case and I will not be shocked to see this happen. This is something Delta really needs to address and fix.
On our return trip it is unlikely any Medallion upgrades will clear until the gate as SFO redeye flights I have found to be some of the worst and hardest to upgrade (other than most ATL flights on a Monday morning)! But again, thanks to RU certs in the records we should have at least a slim shot at avoiding coach on our trip back.
Other important bits to keep in mind when it comes to RU certs. If you clear, and make any changes like a SDC then your upgrade does NOT join you. That is not to say you will not clear again, but it is not automatic. However, if a change is Delta’s fault, then YES your cleared upgrade will carry over even if the rep has to “oversell” the inventory for RU space (yes, they can do that).
The last bit I would consider when it comes to RU use is do consider your expiration date of your certs. While it is generally not smart to use them on short-ish flights it is even worse to have one go unused or expire. In that case, use it anywhere you can as some value is better than no value (and next year try to wait as long as you can before you redeem your certs to start your 12 month expiration clock).
I personally feel RU certs are one of the best uses for my Platinum Choice benefit (Diamonds get both PM & DM choices). I have chosen them each year and have used them all successfully and have only missed one long flight so far. If you are having a hard time clearing with yours I would suggest the following tips:
1) Check for RU space before you buy a ticket.
2) Consider a slightly higher fare class when you buy if no space is open
3) Monitor / check your flight often for open space
4) Be flexible on routing for open space
5) Book as far out as you can.
All of the above can really help you clear. Once you are cleared, as already talked about, you have a bunch more options that you can work with.
The final frustration for me with these is we are all fighting against FCM or First Class Monetization, that is, Delta doing everything they can to sell every single 1st class seat rather than give a Medallion an upgrade with a cert they have earned. It is not like we have an unlimited supply of these certs and Delta allowing us to successfully use them is a tiny way to reward us for our loyalty year after year as well as our MQD spending with the airline.
Do you have any questions on RU cert use? Any comments on what has worked really well for you or has been a real frustration for you? Be sure to share them in the comments below! – René
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