Delta making changes to systemwide upgrade instruments, complementary upgrades

Delta Air LinesToday Delta announced some huge changes to their frequent flyer program for 2014. The changes take effect on March 1, 2014. Full details are at Delta’s website, but here are the biggest points:

Changes to complementary upgrades

  • Medallion Complementary Upgrades will now be offered on flights between Hawaii and LAX, SEA, SFO, or SLC.
  • Medallion Complementary Upgrades will no longer be offered on flights between JFK and LAX, SEA,or SFO or on flights between Hawaii and ATL.

Changes to systemwide upgrades:

  • The current systemwide upgrade instruments will be discontinued.
  • Regional Upgrades will be offered as Medallion Choice Benefits to Diamond and Platinum members.
    • The Platinum benefit option will be four Regional Upgrades.
    • The Diamond benefit option will be eight Regional Upgrades.
  • Four Global Upgrades will be offered as a Medallion Choice Benefit to Diamond members.
  • The new Regional Upgrades and Global Upgrades will be usable on any paid fare class, other than E.

Whether you win or lose depends on whether you travel on transcontinental flights or to Hawaii…

This change is likely a huge win if you are a Diamond Medallion anywhere except for New York, San Francisco, Seattle, or Los Angeles. If you’re not based in these cities, you’re likely not taking trans-continental flights between them, so the loss of the complementary upgrades on these routes will likely have little effect.

And, of course, this is a huge win if you travel to Hawaii frequently. (I’ve never been to Hawaii… but suddenly the Delta Hawaii fares just became more tempting!)

…and how liberal your company’s international travel policy is

Delta’s old systemwide upgrades, which required bookings in Y, B, or M class for international flights were hugely beneficial if you worked for a company that had a travel policy allowing you to book any coach fare for international business travel. Under such a policy, one could book a full-fare or near-full-fare ticket and use the upgrades with moderate success. In my experience, the fare classes required by the old systemwide upgrades were always prohibitively expensive, so I was never able to use them.

When does this all start?

These changes come into effect on March 1, 2014. If you have earned Platinum or Diamond status for the 2014 year, you still have the ability to select either the old Systemwide Upgrades (by making your Choice Benefit elections prior to March 1st) or the new Regional/Global Upgrades (by making your elections after March 1st). Conceivably, if you requalify for Platinum or Diamond status early enough in 2014, you could select the old systemwide upgrades as well.

All-told, I think that this is a great upgrade to Delta’s program for its most frequent flyers.

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