August 7th, 2010

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When Delta acquired Northwest Airlines, they touted a frequent flyer program  program that would be a “best in class” mix of both programs. One of these enhancements to the Delta program would be the implementation of first class upgrades on award tickets, which was a unique aspect of the Northwest elite program.

Due to IT difficulties, this benefit has been delayed numerous times. However, on Flyertalk today, there were several unofficial and official announcements resulting in a lot of confusion (which still is not resolved 150 posts later).

What was stated:
1) Award tickets will be processed based on elite level. So for example, a Diamond Medallion (top tier) on an award ticket, would get an upgrade before a Platinum (second tier) on a paid ticket. This is a huge deal if so- generally a great announcement for those with top tier status and bad news for middle/low tier elites who will face yet another hurdle getting  upgrades. If this announcement (made by a Delta employee who has access to internal documents) is true, it directly contradicts what Delta has on their their website which states award upgrades come after all Medallions on paid tickets:

“Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallions traveling on Award Tickets will clear beginning 1 day before departure but not until all Silver Medallions booked on discounted fares are cleared. Clearance will be based on tier level starting with Diamond Medallions.”

2) The award ticket upgrade program will begin on August 11, 2010

After being presented with the information on the website, the unofficial Delta employee then announced that the website would be corrected to update the new policy. Still no update 8 hours later.

Then, the official Delta spokesman SkymilesInsider chimed in, failing to clarify the actual policy and implementation date. His post simply stated:

“Thanks all for the positive feedback! We are currently working through QA testing and will announce the exact date this Medallion program enhancement will be available once testing is complete. As soon as it is released, we will ensure detailed information is sent to you via direct email communications, and posted on delta.com as well as on the delta blog.”

Seriously? I’m all about companies interacting with their customers on social media and on bulletin boards, but you need to provide coherent, impactful information. Also, don’t assume your customers even know what QA is (quality assurance for those of you non-technical people).

I guess the only thing I can deduce from this thread is that at some point in the near future, Delta will be implementing award ticket upgrades. To me, this is an enhancement to the program- especially if as a Platinum Medallion, I’ll get upgraded before a Gold Medallion on a paid ticket.

I guess we will just have to take a wait and see approach. I hope the Delta folks can get their act together and get a good communication strategy going, because no other major airline provides award ticket upgrades, so this could be a great selling point for a program that needs some good PR.

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