Delta Loses a Gold Medallion Member

On my way back from the conference in Puerto Rico.  As I mentioned before I flew Delta the whole way hoping my medallion status would get me something.   So far I’ve been stuck in coach on every leg.  Attempting to be proactive I called yesterday to use miles to upgrade to 1st class on the L.A. to HNL leg.  On the phone they said I had seat 3A.  When I got to the airport however they checked me into seat 32B.


They said something about the ticket actually being a Northwest ticket (I booked thru Orbitz) and that they couldn’t upgrade it.  But it’s a Delta plane and there were a dozen empty seats in 1st class when I got to the counter.  If I had coughed up another $200 I could apparently upgrade.  But I shouldn’t have to.  I’ve flown 65000 miles on their airline in the last 18 months and I’m willing to spend the miles.


If I wanted to get stuck in coach on every leg I could have done this trip a lot cheaper on another airline.  I picked Delta because I thought my Medallion status would get me something.  Apparently it doesn’t.  I guess I could understand (though I’m still irritated that the lady on the phone led me to believe I had gotten the upgrade) if First Class was already full.  But they had seats available — they simply chose not to give me one.


I have 4 trips in the next 6 months and it looks like I’ll just go back to flying whomever is cheapest.  For $200 Delta just lost a frequent flyer.  They’d apparently rather fly with empty seats in first than upgrade a Gold Medallion member who was willing to spend the 15000 miles.



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2 Responses to Delta Loses a Gold Medallion Member

  1. Chris says:

    I stumbled across this while looking up a SkyMiles question & had to comment. It appears that you have subscribed to the sense of entitlement, the "I AM ME, DAMMIT, & YOU MUST CATER TO MY WHIMS!" syndrome, that is running rampant in this country. Think about it from their perspective & see what you would do as a business owner.You booked a ticket through a discount website, which was most likely a discount fare that airlines sell off to try to fill seats (much like hotels do to fill rooms), & the discount site keeps the change. This discount ticket from a discount site was for another airline (even though NW is a partner & merging, the merger’s still not fully complete & sure wasn’t when you wrote this), so Delta gets only a small share of the money from the sale of that ticket. Then you want them to upgrade you to a first class ticket via airline miles, which would be fine, but you expect them to honor the "upgrade price" even though you never bought a ticket that was upgradeable. What you did was akin to buying a computer w/MS Works on it from a garage sale & then calling Microsoft to purchase MS Office, but petulantly demanding the upgrade price instead of the full price. I bet you book hotels through Hotwire & then expect the hotel to give you points for staying there too. You need to wake up & get real. If you owned a business you would do the same thing. & if you say otherwise, you’re either lying or you wouldn’t be in business for long. You’re in the wrong on this one…but from your diatribe it doesn’t seem like you’d ever admit that.

    • bschorr says:

      Well, actually Chris, Microsoft doesn’t care where or for how much you buy a license of their software. If you have a legal license that is eligible for upgrade pricing then you get upgrade pricing. The idea of upgrade pricing on software is to entice people to the latest version of your software. One thing that people who own technology businesses – like me for example – know, is that it is imperative for software companies to continually entice people to upgrade. What would kill Microsoft Office faster than anything would be if everybody decided that Office 2003 was perfectly fine and that they were never going to upgrade to another version of Office again. That’s why upgrade pricing exists. To induce people who might not otherwise upgrade to go ahead and give the new version a shot (and give Microsoft $79 or so of their money).

      Of course software licenses and airline seats are not really very analogous. The latter being extremely finite and the former, having an extremely low variable cost, is effectively infinite (though that’s a bit of a simplification).

      The point of my “diatribe”, which you seem to have missed, was not to suggest that I was entitled but rather to point out a rather short-sighted approach by Delta Airlines. I didn’t suggest they should have given me the seat for free or that they should have given me the seat instead of selling it. I said that when they had unsold seats in First Class that it would be a good business practice, assuming they want to attract and keep frequent fliers (which they do; and I know this because I went to business school) to allow those frequent fliers to upgrade to those seats. Rather than fly with those seats empty.

      In fact, Delta has a pretty common practice of upgrading Medallion status members (like me) to First Class FOR FREE on quite a lot of their flights. Happens to me from time to time. On my last set of flights I got upgraded (for free) on at least 2 of the 4 legs. I’m sort of surprised you don’t know about that practice; perhaps you never got the answer to that SkyMiles question you say you were looking up. So we know they’re not adverse to upgrading frequent fliers and that they, on some level, recognize the value of treating frequent fliers in a special manner.

      They also recognize, because they have the numbers right in front of them, that the actual cost of having somebody in that seat (as opposed to it going empty) is relatively low. They may have to provide a meal, perhaps a couple of free drinks. At worst it costs them $25 or so perhaps. In exchange they score points with a frequent traveler and, as any business owner knows, repeat business from loyal customers is the holy grail.

      Now then, to loop this back to the original point. Given that the airline has an interest in attracting and keeping frequent fliers (like me) and given that on the flight that was about to depart they had at least one (in fact several) empty seats in First Class, and even given that it makes sense for the airline to seize an opportunity to reclaim some frequent flier miles (which are a liability for them on the balance sheet) don’t you suppose it would be good practice for that airline, in those instances where the seat would otherwise go empty, to sell that seat to a frequent flier in exchange for some quantity of airline miles?

      So do I.

      Thanks for writing in.

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