Here are some updates in the loyalty program world from Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Be sure to check out the links in the summaries below to get excellent, comprehensive coverage.
Miles and Points Sprint
Delta Airlines Enhancements
To read a great overview of this, check out Gary’s post at View from the Wing
For once, “enhancements” from Delta corporate do not equal turning their backs on their loyal flyers. This time, there is some good news to be had, mainly for Platinum and Diamond Medallions. Of course, they could not let it be all good news either!
Expanding Upgrade Certificates for Choice Benefits
When Delta flyers reach the Platinum and then Diamond level, they receive perks called “Choice Benefits”. These allow the flyer to select certain gifts from Delta in recognition of reaching their higher elite levels. The choices are:
Platinum members get to choose one option from their column while Diamond members get to choose two from their column (in addition to the one they get to choose when reaching Platinum). I have chosen gifting Gold and Silver status as well as the bonus miles, and (one-time) a Tiffany gift card. The worst value on the list for flyers on discounted tickets had been the Systemwide Upgrades. That was due to the fact that they required you to fly on the most expensive coach tickets to be able to apply the upgrade. Those coach tickets are so expensive that there is often not much of a price difference between them and the discounted business class tickets.
That all changes come March 1st! Delta will be changing them to Regional Upgrades (of which Platinums can choose 4 and Diamonds 8) and Global Upgrades (which are only available to Diamonds as 4 certificates). The Regional Upgrades can be applied to any upgrade that is a complimentary upgrade route (the continental US, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Caribbean, and some Central/South American routes). These upgrades will be processed before the medallion upgrades. The only routes they cannot be used on (as these will no longer be complimentary after March 1st) are the JFK-LAX/SFO/SEA and ATL-Hawaii routes (these are equipped with the BusinessElite cabins which are excluded from regional upgrades). If a flyer wants to upgrade on those routes, they must use a Global Upgrade certificate. The Global Upgrades can be applied on any Delta flight in the world.
The best part about these new upgrade instruments is that they now apply to any fare class (except E, which is not even available to purchase all the time). This is a huge improvement and one that is long overdue! The only bad part about this improvement is that you are only allowed to use it for yourself and one companion. This makes it impossible to use as a gift for a family member or friend as well as being difficult to use when you are traveling with more than one companion. Guess we can’t have it all!
Complimentary Upgrades Now Expand to Hawaii from West Coast
Hawaii routes used to not be included for complimentary upgrades but that will change as of March 1st. Flights from the west coast to Hawaii will now be eligible for complimentary upgrades (and the new regional upgrades).
Of course, Delta will not just dish out good news! The bad news is that the JFK-SFO/LAX/SEA routes will no longer allow for complimentary upgrades. Granted, they have only been available as upgrades at the gate for a while anyway, but it was always a nice upgrade to get! The business class cabins were equipped with their BusinessElite service and cabins which made for a comfortable 5+ hour flight. However, because I only flew on the cheapest of fare classes, I was only able to score those upgrades a couple of times (more often than not, I was in the back).
Another stroke of bad news is the shifting of the elite year. Up until now, Delta’s program year stretched until February 28/29 of the year following your earned status. For example, if a flyer earned elite status this year, it would be valid until February 28, 2015. For status earned next year, it will begin to be valid only until January 31, 2016. This chops one whole month off of the elite status year. There were several times that I took advantage of elite status in February that was going to drop to a different level in March. For flyers who maintain the same level all the time, this will not be a big deal.
Alaska Airlines Enhancements
I admit – I have never flown Alaska Airlines and only credited one flight to it ever. However, because they have so many partners for award travel (such as Emirates) that are not easily bookable by other means, they are a favorite of many flyers, including those who have also never flown on their aircraft.
After their announcement yesterday that they are expanding their elite mile qualifying to all international partner airlines, they will definitely be picking up more elite members. This includes those that may never fly them (like myself) because the bonus miles and wide-use make them very valuable. For a great overview and write-up on this, read Scott’s post at Hack My Trip and Ben’s post at One Mile at a Time.