My Experience With Delta Companion Upgrades

by on June 28, 2012 · 23 comments

in Delta

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One of the benefits as being a Medallion member with Delta is the Complimentary Companion Upgrades. You and a traveling companion may both enjoy First or Business Class cabins when traveling on Delta and Delta Connection carriers, if there are empty first class seats after all other Medallions are upgraded.

Your traveling companion must be a SkyMiles member and traveling on the same flight. Companions are cleared no sooner than 24 hours in advance of departure and both the Medallion member and companion must be booked in a revenue class of service. If the Medallion and companion are booked together and are on the same reservation, both upgrades can be requested online – otherwise you have to call to have it done manually.

Delta Upgrade Priority Chart

To Book Together or Not?
If you are on the same reservation as your companion, your upgrade priority will drop to the companion window (24 hours), pulling you down behind all other Medallions. In my situation, I am a Platinum Medallion, so I normally clear 5 days out – and on the route I was booked on (LaGuardia to Miami) upgrades are all but certain for Platinums.

However, my companion did not have status and had to check two bags (long story). If I booked the tickets together, she would get free checked bags since the Medallion free baggage benefit extends to up to 8 other people on the same reservation. However, if we booked together, I risked potentially losing out on my upgrade and both of us would be relegated to coach, though with free bags and SkyPriority.

If I made separate reservations, or split them, I’d almost certainly clear at my window, but my companion would be left up to the upgrade gods and would potentially have to wait until the gate to get the upgrade. In the latter case, she’d have to pay to check bags (unless a check-in agent was sympathetic and waived the fee since they technically should have bags waived if not for the negative upgrade effects). Two bags would cost $70, unless of course her upgrade cleared in advance and as a first-class passenger she’d get 3 bags for free.

So I decided to roll the dice and made separate reservations and called Delta to request the companion upgrade within 20 seconds. The upgrade gods were looking positively at me this time around, because my upgrade cleared at my Platinum Medallion window and my companion cleared at 35 hours before departure – and they automatically assigned us next to each other, which was nice, though I’m not 100% sure if it was done on purpose.

I thought this experience was nifty enough to share, since I used to think companion upgrades would drag down the Medallions’ upgrade priority no matter what. However, there are some limitations, such as, companion upgrades must be requested at least three hours before the scheduled departure of the flight. 

So sadly, if you see a hottie at the gate and want to impress them with your Medallion prowess, you’ll need to do it at least 3 hours before scheduled departure – and who really gets to the gate that early before a flight these days? However, if you are flying with colleagues or friends, you might as well list them for the upgrade – unless of course you don’t want them to be in first class!

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  • Nick

    It should also be noted that if your upgrade doesn’t clear ahead of time, you and your companion will be separated on the gate list based on your individual priority. This happened a number of times with me where my Gold Medallion wife dragged down my window priority and I missed the advance upgrade as a result. In one case, Delta held back 8 seats on a 757, and I was #2 on the list but asked to be removed (since my wife was #12 and we wanted to fly together). Another time we stayed #1 and #2 throughout the 24 hours leading up to departure and both missed the u/g LAX-MCO. That one hurt… :-)

    Of course, tomorrow we are flying PBI-LGA and we both cleared at the Gold Medallion Window, so it always depends on the flight!

  • Michael

    Does anyone have similar experiences with other airlines? In the past, US Airways has not allowed me to “identify” someone as a companion because we weren’t on the same reservation. Is this a Delta-only perk?

  • Theweeklyflyer

    Thanks for sharing and very timely for me. I’ve always just booked separately and then given the upgrade to Mrs Weekly Flyer when hers doesn’t clear. Good to know it does work sometimes the other way as companion.

  • Val

    My husband and I experienced something similiar on our trip back from Belmont, going from LGA to Cinci. I’m platinum, my husban’ds silver. I made both resos together, using my freq flyer miles to keep them on the same confirmation – thinking we’d be upgraded together. Wrongo. They were selling upgrades, which makes me think there were extras, but only I was cleared and the gate agent wasn’t able to override the system to clear us both. Could I have done something different?

  • mikes

    Brian, if the worst happened, any reason you wouldn’t just check your companions bags to save that cost? I wouldn’t think the airlines would check the name tag, and they don’t even ask the silly “did you pack you bags” question any longer…

  • Haloastro

    Were you on award tickets? Silvers aren’t eligible for complimentary upgrades on award tickets.

  • SomeGuy

    TPG: Does this same thing apply to US Air. If I’m a Chairman and the wife has no status and we book together, does my upgrade window drop from first in line to after silvers?

  • Dave

    TPG – can you explain the “called Delta to request the companion upgrade within 20 seconds” portion? Did you call them right after making the reservation – or after your upgrade cleared?

  • thepointsguy

    Right after making the rez

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    For U.S. Airways,

    One non-Preferred traveling companion can upgrade when traveling on the same reservation as a Preferred member with a qualifying paid ticket. The companion will be upgraded at the same time as the Preferred member.

  • Sean

    I didn’t know that your upgrade priority will be pulled down to the 24-hour window if you and your companion have the same confirmation number. It is great to know! Thanks for sharing.

  • Icurme

    Is a companion upgrade in this example a the same level? For example, in this case, would the Chairman and his/her companion be upgraded before a Platinum?

  • TPG Fanboy

    But why wouldn’t the companion be upgraded as a Platinum’s companion?

  • B-Love

    Baggage benefit doesn’t have to be for same Res. Multiple calls to DL have confirmed that they will manually waive the baggage fee at the airport for linked PNRs. Experience has been 100% true to that

  • kt

    Thanks for the tips TPG!! I love all of the Delta info. Can you share more details about “called Delta to request the companion upgrade within 20 seconds”? I know Dave asked about this already, but I’m curious about what you actually asked for- what words did you use? I am Platinum, and I have called to inquire about doing something like this before (linking reservations), but I’ve never been successful. Also- do both itineraries need to match EXACTLY? Or if I only connect with someone for our return trip flight, is it possible to link us for only that portion of the trip?

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    When you call Delta, just say you are traveling with a companion on a separate reservation and you want to request a companion upgrade for them. There is no way to link two reservations, and if you are traveling with someone for only the return then you absolutely request an upgrade for them for that portion of the trip.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    Both the companion and the medallion must be on revenue tickets and it sounds like this was an award ticket which would not be eligible for a companion upgrade nor for a Medallion Upgrade since Silvers aren’t eligible for upgrades while on award tickets.

  • daviez

    If I’m paying for all the tickets, I usually just book everything together regardless of who has status. This enables me to lock up preferred seating on the plane for the companions who may not have status. You can contact delta right away to split the reservation, but I periodically run into problems with them moving my non-medallion companions to the back of plane. A follow-up call will correct this IF there are still preferred seats available, but I like to avoid that. I wait till a couple days before the person with status would clear upgrade and contact Delta to please split reservation & link companions. I then sit back and wait for one of my favorite emails.

  • Pingback: Airline Companion Upgrade Policy Overview | The Points Guy()

  • Delta Dan

    Sorry, what does the acronym PNR stand for?

  • Jenfrost07

    Trying to wrap my head around this. I’m Gold and my husband is Silver. I understand if I put us both on the same reservation and want to be upgraded together I am pulled down to his status. But, are you saying that if we book the same itinerary separately and I call and ask for a companion upgrade he will be bumped up on the upgrade list (within 24hrs of flight time) due to my status?

  • thepointsguy

    There’s no reason for you to list your husband for an upgrade if he is already medallion. It really just helps non-Medallions to get upgrades

  • newtofrequenttravel

    So I have medallion status, but my partner doesn’t. i booked us on the same reservation. What’s the best way to get us in the best position for an upgrade?

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