Delta’s New Companion Upgrade Policy Makes No Sense

Filed Under: Delta

Delta Air Lines has this week quietly updated its companion upgrade policy, and it’s either good or bad news, depending on whether you usually travel with a companion. No matter how you feel about the policy, one thing is for sure — the implementation of it makes no sense.

Delta’s companion upgrade policy

As noted by Rene’s Points, Delta has updated its companion upgrade policy. SkyMiles Medallion members receive complimentary domestic upgrades, and even companions of Medallion members are eligible for upgrades, subject to availability.

The policy differs depending on whether you’re traveling on the same reservation, or on separate reservations that are simply linked. Note that of the “big three” US airlines, Delta is the only one that allows those on “linked” reservations to be upgraded on account of elite status.

If you and your companion are traveling on the same reservation:

  • The upgrades of both travelers will clear based on the status of the highest tiered SkyMiles member
  • In other words, if a Diamond Medallion member and Silver Medallion member are traveling on the same reservation, both could clear at the Diamond Medallion’s upgrade window (as early as 120 hours out)

If you and your companion are traveling on separate reservations:

  • If the companion is a SkyMiles non-elite member, the upgrades for both travelers will clear based on the status of the highest tiered SkyMiles member
  • If the companion is a SkyMiles elite member, each member will clear based on their individual status

What has actually changed here? The change is that non-elite companions on linked reservations used to clear at most 24 hours out, while they now clear at the window of the higher status member.

In other words, up until this change, if a Diamond Medallion had a linked reservation with a non-elite member, then the Diamond Medallion member could clear 120 hours out, while the non-elite member would clear at most 24 hours out. Now that non-elite member could clear 120 hours out as well.

Delta has adjusted its companion upgrade policy

Why Delta’s new upgrade policy makes no sense

Here’s the main reason I’m covering this — the policy is bizarre and makes no sense. People will disagree as to whether a Diamond Medallion member’s non-elite companion should clear an upgrade before a Platinum Medallion member.

But the actual way this is implemented doesn’t make sense. Delta provides the following specific examples for upgrades on linked reservations:

For domestic Delta One and First Class, your upgrades will clear based on your individual Member Status and confirmation windows, if available. For example, if Platinum and Silver Medallion Members are traveling together, the Platinum Medallion Member will clear at the Platinum window and the Silver Medallion Member will clear at the Silver window. 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. For example, if a Platinum Medallion Member and a General Member are traveling together, both will clear at the Platinum window.

In other words, Delta is penalizing companions with status:

  • If a Diamond Medallion and non-elite member are traveling together, both clear at the Diamond Medallion member’s upgrade window
  • If a Diamond Medallion and Platinum Medallion are traveling together, the Diamond Medallion clears at his/her window, and the Platinum Medallion clears at his/her (later) window

A couple of final things to note:

  • Some may say “well you should just leave your SkyMiles number off a reservation if you have status,” but note that you have to have a frequent flyer number attached to a reservation as a companion to get the upgrade
  • The only plausible explanation I can come up with here is that this is some sort of an IT limitation, though oddly this problem doesn’t exist if two people are booked on the same reservation

Delta is penalizing Medallion companions with this new policy

Bottom line

Of the major US airlines, Delta arguably has the most generous companion upgrade policy, as you can even upgrade companions who aren’t on the same reservation. That’s good for those frequently traveling with companions, and bad for those who typically travel alone.

No matter how you slice it, the implementation of Delta’s new companion upgrade policy for linked reservations makes no sense. Non-elite members would clear upgrades with a Diamond Medallion member, while anyone with elite status wouldn’t. Yep, Delta is penalizing companion members for having status.

Does anyone have a different take on this upgrade policy?

  1. I am a DM and my wife a GM. My kids don’t have status. Thus, with this stupid rule I will definitely have one of my kids as my companion and let my wife alone on her own ticket. That will increase the chances we get at least 2 upgrades.

  2. @ Ben — Thank you for criticizing this stupid policy. Hopefully, Delta will take notice and modify the policy again. It is difficult to comprehend why this new policy is good for Delta.

  3. So don’t put your companion’s skymiles number in? Or if they have to be a member to be eligible (my recollection), use their old/non-elite account?

  4. Unless something has changed recently, you can upgrade with a companion on a separate reservation on AA. I’ve done it before, but it does require a phone call or two to have someone set it up for you.

  5. Prevents coworkers from gaming the system and linking each other’s reservations to help jump the queue.

    After all, the scenario contemplated here is very 1950s e.g. Dad is the travelling businessman and when he brings his fam (SAHM + kids) along, they get to ride upfront with him.

  6. Is there a reason you can’t just book in the same reservation. I’d argue that 90%+ of companion upgrades are on the same reservation so this change isn’t as big as everyone is making it out to be.

  7. @Ryan I would book my travel separately if my partner who has platinum status has to book it via their work portal. His company does allow for personal travel and it can be me, so it can be cheaper than the public available ticket.

    So I used to have to wait 24 hours but now since I don’t have status it benefits me, but I feel that it should be for the highest status regardless of if they are together or linked. I do enjoy being linked in the event that we do not book together. Of course if we book together we both clear Comfort Plus if available after booking.

    @Ben If I am linked to a Platinum Medallion and we didn’t book together, it is still only for First Class right, so I wouldn’t get Comfort Plus unless booked together?

  8. Enter FF number only for highest tier member on reservation, get better shot at upgrades for whole group.
    The rest can claim miles retroactively.

  9. AA has allowed linked PNRs to be upgraded for many years, and is a lot simpler processing-wise than this mess DL has created… It just requires a call to AA reservations and a competent AAgent to do it.

  10. Yep, AA has done it for years.

    But there can be issues of getting separated – you have a choice of split or no-split. If you choose split, and you are upgraded but your companion isn’t, then the companion is no longer upgrded based on your status (or at least that was my expience as late as 2018).

  11. Is this an issue? Seems as though if one member has diamond status and their companion has platinum status, they’ll both likely get an upgrade. If the diamond member has a companion with no status, they’ll both get an upgrade. Those of us actually paying for first class will still be subject to ridiculous people opening cans of tuna in first class wearing sweat pants and flip flops because of the good ol upgrade system (actually happened). Or you can just fly in different seats.. if this means so much to you, your companion may gladly wish to socially distance from you for the duration of the flight.. Meanwhile, at least on domestic flights, Delta is currently offering snack bags to all classes and no particular meal service all the while blocking middle seats even in basic economy. If you’re so worried, fly on Boutique or get a private jet.

  12. If you guys would actually read the Delta site instead of accepting things at face value, you’d see its been changed.

  13. The statement “Delta is the only one that allows those on “linked” reservations to be upgraded on account of elite status.” is incorrect. AA allows this as well. You just need to call Reservations to link the two reservations. Then, your companion will be upgraded at the same time as you, assuming there are two seats available.

  14. OK so if you’re companion has status, could they get around it by establishing a skyteam account with a different airline that didn’t have status to enter into that field? They wouldn’t need to forfeit so many miles then either. Still not great if they’re trying to get status of their own but it would certainly maximize the chance of getting upgraded.

  15. It should not have changed. If you can’t book in 1 reservation you shouldn’t be allowed the higher upgrade status.

  16. This is obviously granted towards leisure travelers, which makes sense given the travel climate right now. From a business perspective, not a bad move.

  17. As others have said this is completely inaccurate as not only AA allows it but so does UA. United will upgrade up to 1 companion on the same pnr ahead of time. At t-24 they will be split and you have to re-add them at checkin to the upgrade list

  18. This is why we always just book first class or delta one to begin with, Don’t have to worry about all the upgrade rules.

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