Who knows any more whether I’ll get upgraded on paid tickets (that is, not award tickets)? Lifetime Platinum guarantees nada, and I understand that. I am not a Diamond flyer these days despite forty-plus years of fierce loyalty to Delta, as evidenced by having flown more than five million miles since the frequent flyer program started tracking mileage, and many more miles previous to that. While I am not happy about the current revenue-based priority over loyalty-based upgrade policy, I acknowledge Delta’s prerogative to make the rules. It’s just that these days I can’t be sure what those rules are or how they work.
This morning, for instance, I started the check-in process for my wife and me to fly Raleigh to Vancouver tomorrow. Both are steep Main Cabin fares. Because Delta changed the outbound itinerary a few weeks ago to keep me on mainline Delta flights and not on WestJet, it’s three legs now: RDU/ATL, ATL/SEA, and SEA/YVR. When Delta made that change, there were no Comfort+ seats remaining on any of the three flights, so my wife and I grabbed seats in Main Cabin.
Another wrinkle is that my wife is flying on a different Delta record locator because she goes home three days earlier than I do, leaving me to attend a big annual transit conference in Vancouver. However, my wife’s record locator and mine are cross-linked in the Delta system.
Checking in, I was surprised, therefore, to find that I had been upgraded to First Class on two of the three legs, Raleigh to Atlanta and Seattle to Vancouver, but that my wife had not been, despite the cross-linked record locators and her being my traveling companion on the outbound flights. I was surprised, too, that I had been upgraded without notice. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I expected an email or text notification of the better class of service.
Of course only one of us being upgraded meant we were not seated together on two of the three flights. Call me crazy or just plain romantic, but I enjoy being by my wife on trips, and tomorrow is going to be a long travel day. Reverting to old school booking methods, I called the Delta Elite line to see what could be done to get my wife and me side by side again, even if it meant downgrading me back to crummy old Main Cabin.
Naturally, the Delta system had already assigned another passenger to my Main Cabin seat next to my wife on those two upgraded flight legs, so getting my original seat wasn’t going to work. Perhaps this is a flaw in the Delta system, or maybe not. After all, who in their right mind asks for a downgrade from First to Coach?
The helpful Delta agent, though, pointed out another option: I could pay to upgrade myself on the longest leg, Atlanta to Seattle (five and a half hours), for $282, thereby making my wife eligible for a complimentary companion upgrade. Thus it would cost an extra $141 each to upgrade across the country. Thanks to a relatively low load on the flight out of Seattle, she could also get upgraded to Vancouver to sit with me. The only snag was the heavily booked short flight Raleigh to Atlanta, not available in First for either a paid or companion upgrade.
For one hour I decided we could sit apart, and the agent confirmed the rest of the upgrades, some free, some not. So we are set for tomorrow, with five of our six seats in First Class for the long ride to the Canadian West Coast.
Pleased with the outcome, I nonetheless wonder why there was no predictability or guarantee of the final plan until less than 24 hours before departure. I was not notified that I had been upgraded on two of the three legs; I didn’t know my wife had not been moved up front with me on those flights until I looked; and I didn’t know I could upgrade both of us (one paid, one free) for the longest flight plus the last one for an amount that didn’t make me wince. Seems like every Delta itinerary I fly has elusive, asymmetrical upgrade opportunities that I must adapt to in the dark. It’s hard to manage my itineraries without exercising a consistent strategy based on known, predictable variables.
That said, I acknowledge the reason may lie merely in my inability to grasp the rules of the game.