My Delta Companion Upgrade Was Denied — Reader Mistake Story

Aug 12, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Mary, who forgot to add a friend’s frequent flyer number to their reservation:

A few months ago, I received my first Delta companion ticket as a Platinum Delta SkyMiles from American Express cardholder. Not long after, I booked a short birthday trip to Disney World for myself and a friend. At the time of booking, I asked my friend for her SkyMiles number, mostly as a shortcut to entering all of her information, but she said she didn’t have it handy. I never asked her for it again so I could update the reservation, because I knew my Gold Medallion status would allow her a free checked bag and priority boarding.

One day before we left, our flight showed a large amount of upgrade availability and nothing had cleared, and I didn’t appear on the upgrade list. I reached out to Delta, and it turns out that a companion needs to at least be a general SkyMiles member for the reservation to be eligible for an upgrade. I scrambled to get my friend to find her number so we could get upgraded at least into Comfort+, but given the timing, I’m pretty sure some Silver Medallion members got upgraded ahead of us and we may have missed out on first-class seats. 

Lesson learned: Always use your frequent flyer number, even if you aren’t a frequent flyer, and don’t assume that benefits always apply.

A strict reading of Delta’s Medallion upgrade rules reveals some ambiguity about when traveling companions are eligible for complimentary upgrades. The terms state that the companion must at least be a general SkyMiles member, but don’t specify that the companion’s frequent flyer number must be added to the reservation. That omission is conspicuous because Delta does make the requirement explicit in the following section, which pertains only to flights on SkyTeam partner Aeromexico. I’m not a contract lawyer, but it appears to me that Mary has a legitimate gripe here, and that her friend should have been eligible. Delta doesn’t seem to share my interpretation, however, so be sure to add both SkyMiles numbers when you’re hoping for a complimentary upgrade.

Mary is right that you should add your frequent flyer number to your reservation — even on award tickets — but there are some limited circumstances in which leaving it out may be advantageous. One is if you’re booking a hidden-city ticket: Airlines are cracking down on passengers who abandon portions of an itinerary, and could retaliate by clawing back miles or closing your account, so the less identifying information you provide, the better. Another example is if you’re booking a surprise trip and don’t want to tip off your travel companion(s); by leaving out their frequent flyer numbers, you’ll keep the flights from showing up in their accounts online.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Upgraded on Delta

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Mary a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Darren Murph. Edit by TPG.

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