I remember when frequent flyer programs were invented. And while I embraced them immediately, lots of travelers ignored them, likening them to a fad like CB radio or bell-bottom trousers. Programs were simple then—you flew, you got miles. Now airlines micromanage and study them with the intensity of a jeweler.
When the programs started, there were no elite levels. All flyers were created equally. Those days are long gone. And even basic rules are constantly shape shifting.
Take Delta. Beginning March first, even Delta’s most elite flyers won’t get automatic upgrades even if space is available on trans-continental flights between JFK and LA, San Francisco, and Seattle. Even a Diamond Medallion flyer (that’s someone who flies Delta at least 125,000 miles a year) will have to use miles or an upgrade certificate to enjoy those trans-con, lie-flat seats.
But if you’re flying Delta to Hawaii from the West Coast, medallion upgrades are offered. Maybe that’s because United does the same. However, if you board a Delta flight from the East or Midwest and it stops in, say, Los Angeles before continuing to Hawaii, you’re not eligible for an upgrade.
Some days it takes a student of mileage programs to puzzle it all out.