Delta Air Lines took a step forward in respecting loyalty today. (HT: Rapid Travel Chai since I saw this there first.) No, I’m not kidding. This morning, Delta implemented an update to its complimentary Medallion upgrade priority. According to Delta,

“Beginning April 30, 2016, Delta will simplify the clearance priority for Medallion Complimentary Upgrades as it continues to build the best elite travel experience for SkyMiles Medallion members.”

What happened?

Delta is slightly reordering its upgrade priority, and I think it’s a good thing. Key change? Y fares will no longer trump your status. In other words, Silver Medallions on Y fares will no longer upgrade ahead of Diamond Medallions on other fares. While I can’t deny that I have benefited from the “Y fare trumps everything” rule with Delta SkyMiles, I have to say this is a refreshing move away from being exclusively transaction focused and actually showing a tiny bit of respect for elite status.

Here’s a look at the changes in greater detail from (emphasis mine):

  • Medallion level is the most important factor in upgrade clearance priority, starting with Diamond Medallion members, then Platinum, Gold and Silver.
  • Members at the same Medallion level will be cleared in order of fare class families for revenue tickets, Award Tickets and Pay with Miles1 tickets, with higher fare classes among all ticket types holding higher priority.
  • Partner airline elite members and SPG® Platinum Preferred members will be eligible for day-of-departure upgrades only.
  • Y class fares will no longer be upgraded at booking.
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card Members will still have a higher prioritization within their Medallion peer set for upgrades.
  • Delta Corporate Travelers will now have a higher prioritization within their Medallion peer set for upgrades.
  • If all else is equal, Card Members who earned the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) Waiver by spending at least $25,000 in the current calendar year on their Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express will enjoy higher priority.
  • Date and time of upgrade request will be used as a tie-breaker.
delta medallion upgrades, Delta Air Lines, SkyMiles,

Logo image courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Why This Matters

As I said, I’ve benefited from the Y fare trumps all thing before. I’ve also been penalized by it. Back in my fondly remembered Platinum Medallion days, my Silver Medallion colleague once sat in First Class while I was in 32E thanks to the fact that he booked the trip just days before and purchased a Y class fare. My overall spend for the year was several thousand dollars more than him, but that didn’t matter because of one single purchase decision. I still do not love that having the audacity to travel with a companion glues you to the bottom of the list, but overall I’d call this latest development a good change. According to Delta’s press release,

“We are committed to providing a better experience for our elite members,” said Karen Zachary, Managing Director – SkyMiles Program, “and updating the Medallion Complimentary Upgrade process ensures that our best customers are recognized for their loyalty to Delta.” 

I couldn’t agree more.

-MJ, April 30, 2016