A loyal Delta elite status match to Alaska – The fury of a woman scorned!

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delta vs alaska medallion to mvp

We are now well into Skymiles2015 and feeling it’s full and glorious effects. Some Delta flyers are just giddy due to all the bonus Skymiles they are earning due to full fare tickets, but reeling over all the devaluations coming week after week. Others of us are less than happy seeing their Skymiles balance grow at an anemic rate. Some have taken the step to jump ship as I talked about last month in the rookie post about “should you status match Alaska“. One such reader, Chris, did just that. Do you think you can “play” your Delta elite status and yet credit to Alaska when you fly? If so, you’d better pay close attention to Chris and his story of how our Delta feels about him now!

chris a delta platinum moving to alaska delta points blog

My partner and I have been loyal Delta flyers since Northwest went away. I started playing the frequent flyer game about five years ago after we moved to Seattle and I started to travel more for conferences and to visit family. Seattle is far enough out there that you can really rack up the miles.

I put up with jabs about routing all things through Atlanta and my partner, E, was a great sport in our mileage acquisition. I climbed the ranks over a period of years, topping out at Platinum for the past two years. E rocketed forward, jumping straight to Gold two years ago and Platinum this year. Finally, I could stop making jokes about how she was holding me back on upgrades!

We stayed loyal to Delta, even when other flights were cheaper and even though most of E’s travel was limited to the west coast and strong Alaska routes. E really likes Alaska’s product, but I fly more internationally and really love flying Delta. Our travel is largely her work (west coast), family (Midwest and Alaska), and my work (all over NA and Europe depending on conference locations).

The big news for us in the past year was that we had a kid. In her first year she flew 29 legs and visited 10 states. She’s flown first more than most adults and takes a mean nap up in the air. It means that we travel heavier luggage-wise (I couldn’t imagine how much crap she’d need before we did it) and we’ve generally been trying to scale back some of our travel.

We stayed Delta in 2014 because of the double mileage match in/out of Seattle and our ability to meet MQDs with our spend. However, to get spend for us both, we knew we were going to use up most of our spend on sub-par cards points-wise. My biggest priority with status is upgrade potential/ease of problem avoidance, so the MQDs were just a hassle. I also like my lounge and the Alaska Board Room rates are way lower than Delta’s. Plus, there are several places where Board Room membership gets you into Skyclubs. E’s priority is mileage redemption, for both our trips and being able to easily bring family out to visit, and the Skymiles earning change was the last straw.

The black Friday Alaska fare sales were when we actually decided to switch. We got a super cheap flight to Fairbanks and applied for a status match with Alaska. Just over 12 hours later we got an e-mail welcoming us to MVP Gold 75k and I felt more valued by an airline than I had in a long time.

The rub (there’s always a rub) was that we’d booked a flight to San Diego on Delta before we decided that we’d switch. So begins our year of trying to leverage our status on both airlines while building our Alaska status for next year. This is the story of that San Diego trip…

In advance of the trip our plan was to wait for our upgrade window to resolve and then switch to our Alaska frequent flier accounts. We thought that would be the best way to leverage access to both numbers. When upgrades cleared on both flights at the window, we were stoked. And…that was the first and last high point of our airline experience…

I called the Platinum line and inquired about switching the night before the outbound flight. The agent left me with the belief that it wouldn’t be much of an issue, but it seemed like it would be easiest to take care of at the airport during check-in rather than on the phone. We headed to SEATAC ready for our first-class seats. We’d even been able to move out of the bulkhead so we could put the diaper bag under the seat in front of us.

Check-in at Sky Priority was going well. We were putting our bags up to get checked and I asked about switching the FF accounts to Alaska. The agent seemed to get a little weird, but said she’d do it. It took a minute and then she told us we were going to lose our upgrade if we changed. I asked for us to have a second to talk about it and she responded that it was already too late to change.

That was disappointing. It was one thing to get bumped back down, but it was much worse that the agent didn’t think to even give us a heads up. It felt like as soon as we mentioned Alaska that she got icy and kinda rude. She put us in the back of the plane and moved to charge us for our bags. We showed our Delta Reserve cards and she didn’t know what they were. Eventually she relented and waived the fees, although we didn’t get the snazzy Sky Priority bag tags.

When that happened I looked at our boarding passes and realized that we’d not just been bumped down, we’d lost any status we had with Delta on the upcoming flight. We were in Zone One, not Sky. We were in the back of the plane. We got little choice in our seats because the back of the plane was largely full. Unhappy.

We proceeded to the Alaska Board Room with some of the free passes we got with our Gold 75K. It was fine, but we were still rattled from our experience at check-in. It was crowded, but it was also Monday morning. The staff was nice and it felt a lot like a SkyClub…but it’s a whole lot cheaper for us to get into. It has an additional benefit at SEATAC, since the Delta lounge is buried at the satellite S gates and more and more Delta flights are going out of A and B, which means that you need to ride the tram to and from the Skyclub if you want to visit.

I called the Platinum line from the Board Room to see if anything could be done. Again, once Alaska came up, it seemed like I was going to get no help and that, for the first time in my experience calling Delta, the agent desperately wanted to get off the phone.

I was able to chat with a gate agent who moved us into EC seats and told me that switching FF accounts would wipe out any benefits of the other account. In seeking to earn miles for Alaska, I wasn’t going to get any Platinum benefits. I was also told that the upgrade list (we were 5 and 6 with 4 seats open) was now based on value of ticket, which was news to me.

We got to San Diego, but on the flight we couldn’t help but glare a bit at the yahoos that had gotten upgraded into what had once been our seats. On the upside, we got e-mails from Alaska that offered us a pair of upgrades, board room passes, or free internet. They send them to a lot of their frequent fliers at the beginning of the year, but it was auspicious timing.

As we were getting ready for our return flight we realized that we didn’t even have a seat assignment, so I called and asked about what would happen if we used our Delta accounts on the way back.

The agent told me that there wasn’t any room to put us in and that we’d need to pay for EC or preferred seats. However, if we switched to our Delta account we could get the seats free and be eligible to change to the earlier outbound flight without a charge. I said thanks and that I needed to talk with E.

We decided the ~1000 miles for the trip likely wouldn’t end up making a difference for us at the end of the year, so we might as well switch back and enjoy the seat assignments, the chance to get home early, and the shot at an upgrade.

The next day I called and got the one awesome person at the call center I talked to during this whole ordeal. She found our accounts and tried to put in the information, only to find that she couldn’t switch the FF information partway through a trip. The news for both of us was that the flights were considered together and that the FF accounts couldn’t be changed She seemed frustrated that she couldn’t do anything for us and she ended up getting us seats in the first row behind EC. Because we were Alaska fliers, we’d be back to paying 50 bucks each for the earlier flight, even though she knew we were Platinum.

I decided to try a little call center roulette and called back later in the day to ask again. I was met with a less helpful person and similar answers. I expressed my disappointment at the lack of flexibility. I shared that I didn’t feel I was told at all about what was going to happen and that this was a chance to enforce a rule or have a happy customer. Delta decided to enforce a rule, which is a thoroughly defensible decision, but it really turned me off.

We took the later flight. The kid slept almost the whole way. We also decided we’re likely done with Delta.

Last year, on our one Alaska flight, we chatted up an employee at check-in who said that Delta was a nasty airline with nasty people. I never found that to be the case, until I crossed them. These flights were where I saw the nasty side of Delta. René has written a lot about how #Skymiles2015 is about Delta privileging money over customers, but this experience sealed it for me. Instead of bending some rules for well established customers in an attempt to win them back, Delta tried to wring another 100 dollars out of us.

We’re looking forward to flying Alaska. I figure we’ll probably end up on Delta metal again; we have a lot of miles to redeem, but I don’t plan on buying more Delta ticket stock. The one big upside of the whole thing is that we could regularly joke about how I was going to have a whole lot to write about!

-Delta really doesn’t like Alaska
-When you change FF accounts you lose all benefits of the other
-You can only get benefits from one FF account at a time
-You can’t switch FF accounts part way through a flight

I hope others have a better experience. The other approach I could see is flying the trip as all Delta and then try to credit it back to Alaska after it was done. Good luck and happy flying! – Chris

Amazing! Chris I cannot thank you enough for your thoughts. I am truly SHOCKED by this and how our mothership has dealt with you. One would think they want to do all they can to retain you, but maybe not. I am starting to think that Delta has adopted the old United feeling that the customers are the main problem (especially the ones who do not over pay for tickets). Gosh, 2015 is going to be an interesting flying year! – René
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SWAG Saturday: 2 Delta Skyclub cards up for grabs ~ $100 value + more!

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I am really looking forward to next month. I will be ready for my next round of cards as I am approaching 91+ days since my last round of cards and windfall of points. Now it is time to start thinking about what cards I will go for. I have reduced my number of AMEX credit cards to under four as that is the max you can hold at once (i.e. personal plus business). Since … Continue reading

This week’s SWAG Saturday winner of a $50 Delta Skyclub 24hr pass is…

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I don’t know, maybe very few want to go to $kyClubs any more and enjoy $kyGrub. There were under 100 who took part in this week’s SWAG Saturday. Maybe for the next week I need to give away two passes tomorrow? Anyway, there were many questions asked. I covered most of them in the post HERE. But I did not get to today’s winner #96 that is Aaron who asks: “I am really enjoying your … Continue reading

Delta WEATHER ALERT: Northeast Winter Storm – New York city area FREE changes! for 24JAN15

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If you have not checked the Weather Channel lately you may want to as the Northeast for tomorrow is looking really “interesting” shall we say (ok just nasty is a better word maybe). Delta’s meteorologists are concerned and are offering FREE changes on Delta flights tomorrow 24JAN15 for: Hartford, CT (BDL) New York, NY – Kennedy (JFK) New York, NY – LaGuardia (LGA) Newark, NY (EWR) Newburgh, NY (SWF) Philadelphia, PA (PHL) White Plains, NY … Continue reading

Let’s knock out some reader Delta Q&A today.

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I have to say I am thrilled about the new Ask René tab and it is a good addition to the blog. Most of the questions below are from the SWAG Saturday drawing that you still have time to enter as I will pick the winner later today! Let’s jump right in. David asks: Can you do a topic on best tips for using miles to upgrade from a paid flight? I can knock that … Continue reading

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Being Platinum sure is not what it once was. There are a BUNCH of Diamonds out there (and why not). I am sure if you are a Platinum you are going to see a bunch less upgrades this year over last year. As I blogged about the other day, Delta is now allowing all medallions to upgrade on the JFK-SEA route but it is no longer a “Delta ONE” type route. On the plus side … Continue reading

A day of Delta reminders. A bunch of little bits you should check on.

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Time to check on a bunch of little things that can have big implications for you and your Delta travel experience. Hang on, here we go. Hopefully you signed up for the improved Hertz perks as a medallions. Now it does not seem that anyone actually HAS the perks yet, but they should soon be loading. But also a word of caution. For this promo to work you must have your Hertz number in your … Continue reading

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It is so funny on a day we learn that Delta has downgraded award space for medallions and AMEX card holders they have now come up with a FLASH sale for trips to Florida. I even checked to see if I could fly down and visit my Dad in Florida and, shockingly, found one flight from SBN, or South Bend Indiana. Now I would have to do a triple connect but still I found space! … Continue reading

#KeepDescending! Delta downgrades Medallion & AMEX enhanced award space perks!

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  Boy, those who are overspending with Delta sure are happy, those high level elites that Delta just loves. And they are telling Delta they are happy. Just look what Delta’s president said recently about Skymiles2015: “Finally, we’ve changed SkyMiles from a distance based program to a spend based program. This change should drive higher revenues from a stronger customer loyalty as we put rewards into our most valuable customers and we are already receiving … Continue reading

Rookie Wednesday: Planning for 2015 Delta Mileage Runs – Less is more / All-in when good!

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Welcome to a weekly feature on the Delta Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature. Not much shocks me in the frequent flyer world anymore. Rookie questions do not bother me one bit and I love helping … Continue reading

A new TAB on the blog – Ask René

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I have no idea why I have never had this on the blog before. I had a reader ask why and I said there is the search bar plus e-mail so what else can be needed (think René). The simple, quick and clear answer is a TAB to “Ask René“. There are times when we all have those “duh” moments and this is one of those for me. Now it is your turn, check out … Continue reading

You know what’s really STUPID to do – sell your Delta Choice Benefits!

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eBay user “dimadasha” is choosing to sell their Delta Platinum Medallion Choice Benefit on eBay. What a really STUPID idea. Oh and it gets worse as the user tells potential buyers: Oh, humm, “bid with confidence”. I am not so sure about that. Well are they the only one selling Delta status on eBay? Oh look here is yet another one. User “airportrat75” also wants to sell you Silver Medallion status but at a fixed … Continue reading

New York to Seattle is again open for ALL medallions to upgrade. Even Gold & Silver Medallions.

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The hand writing seems to have been on the wall with the announcement of the OFCMB seat refresh that came out last month that the UBER elite service that was once planned for SEA is being shelved (or at least the full-flat “DELTA ONE” seats that is). Delta.com still says: 2014 Medallion Complimentary Upgrade Routes Medallion Complimentary Upgrades are now available on flights between Hawaii and Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Seattle. … Continue reading

Delta “sorta” fixes Pay With Miles (PWM) pricing bug – still a work in progress

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I posted the news that Pay With Miles (PWM), a perk of the Delta AMEX cards, as of the 24th of December was open to not just 1st class tickets but also to coach tickets. I also posted that it really shakes up the math of just when you should just take an award ticket and when you should at least think about buying the ticket instead. I also posted about an update from Delta … Continue reading

ALERT! Many Delta schedule changes loaded this weekend. Please check all your trips NOW!

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If you have not had the chance to log in to your “My Trips” and take a look at your Delta flights over the next few months I would REALLY suggest you do so ASAP. Why? This weekend Delta has rolled out another big round of schedule changes. Just what does this mean for you? First off PLEASE take the time to read the post about the MIGHTILY schedule change and the rule. It will … Continue reading