It seems, at least according to all the buzz on social media sites, that a large number of Delta elites are giving up the chase for status and will be so called “free agents” that is, flying any airline that can get them from A-B at a decent price.
That being the case, is simply buying a first class ticket with Delta going to yield the same results as having say Platinum or Diamond status?
As a disclaimer on this post I am not talking about the obvious things you will not get like choice benefits and the like – what I am talking about is the flight experience holding status vs. just being a paid first class passenger. Also it is important to know that a top elite in coach gets nothing special vs. any other passenger (elites get limited drink coupons if they want free adult drinks and no special snacks or food is provided due to status like some airlines).
- Boarding. Officially Delta has Delta One and first class boarding before Diamonds (Platinum and lower are way down the list btw). Here booking first wins but we know in practice often gate agents are quick to call a number of zones all at once.
- Bumps. Delta does at times oversell even first class. If they can not get volunteers they are less likely to force at top elite out of their seat vs. someone who has no status. In this case you are better off with status but it really is rare this happens and Delta does tend to offer vouchers at high numbers to get someone to volunteer.
- Bags. First class passengers get to check 2 bags free. What you are missing out on are some of the perks of waived over weight fees and extra bag fees but for most trips checking 2 plus one carryon works. Both paid first and elite plus members get priority tags thus your bags should come out first. Call this, depending on your bag needs, a win for status.
- IRROPS. Delta used to brag about how long it had been since they canceled a flight (often months in a row). Nowadays irregular operations is happening more frequently. While Delta will work to get you to your destination you are more likely to have a better, and faster, resolution calling the elite line vs. just being a paid first class passenger (For immediate impacted travelers Delta has a help line number 1-855-548-2505). Overall this is another win for status.
- Lounges. Neither status (on it’s own) nor domestic first class tickets get you into the clubs (there are a few exceptions like Delta One from say LAX to JFK). This was is a a slight win for paid first if flying out of the markets that offer the exceptions.
- Earning SkyPennies. As a Diamond you are earning 11 bonus cents back per dollar spent (vs. the lower rate for just being a SkyMiles member) so this one again is clearly a win for status.
Bottom line is the “Delta Experience” if you will should be the same for you if you have paid for first class vs. holding top elite status if things don’t go sideways. Clearly you are earning more and have more perks as an elite but for most the benefits simply no longer are enough to move the needle to always book Delta to both fly paid first and drive for top status as well. – René
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