For US Domestic travel Delta offers a Same-Day Travel Changes program that is particularly flexible for premium (first and business class) travel. This is because, those booked in a premium cabin can change their travel 24 hours prior to departure to any flight that has an available premium cabin seat. For premium travel the program is not dependent on the fare class purchased. Unfortunately, unless traveling in full fare (Y) economy in order to make (economy class) changes the fare class must be available on the flight you are looking to change to.
For example, I booked a trip from Boston to Las Vegas approximately one week in advance. The lowest priced economy class ticket was $214.60, while the lowest priced first class ticket was $375.10.
While $375.10 is too good to pass up (for a first class fare), the flight time was not optimal because of a 17:15 arrival in Las Vegas. I had scheduled some informal meetings for that afternoon and really needed to arrive prior to 13:00. Luckily, I had flexibility, so I booked the 13:15 departure with the intention of never flying on this original itinerary but instead departing on the 08:30 flight from Boston-Logan. As you can easily see, first class on that flight would have cost $1,068.60 (instead of $375.10).
I was also unwilling to book the economy class (K) fare for $279.60 and “hope” for an upgrade. Even as a Delta Diamond Medallion, it is next to impossible to upgrade on these routes. Especially considering that only one or two seats were available for sale in first class. While being a Delta Diamond includes the benefit of unlimited US Domestic upgrades as early as 6 days prior to departure, this is one feature that has become less and less valuable as more people have been purchasing first class (discounted) as well as Delta’s aggressive program of upgrade offers for miles and cash (which are also available to non-elite members of SkyMiles). Unfortunately, in today’s market of very full flights, if you really want to be sitting in first class you should just buy first class. (In some “circles” this is known as WFBF “want first buy first.”)
Considering that there are many flight possibilities from Boston to Las Vegas starting at around 05:30, I knew it was a decent gamble to book the least expensive first class flight with a less than stellar flight time and just change to a preferred flight 24 hours prior to departure. And, of course, how can you not “gamble” when traveling to Las Vegas.
Delta Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion members are allowed to do Same Day Travel Changes for free, while the fee for others is $50. Otherwise the program’s operation is identical for both elite and non-elite SkyMiles members.
Silver Medallion members, general SkyMiles members and non-members:
- $50 USD Same-Day Change Fee – If your requested flight is same-day confirmed eligible
Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members:
- $50 USD Same-Day Confirmed Fee Waived – If the requested flight is same-day confirmed eligible the $50 fee will be waived.
Basic Economy (E) fares are not eligible to make same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes, regardless of Medallion or other elite status, for flights flown on or after February 1, 2015.
Remember, if you are in economy class the changes are fare class dependent. You can only change to another flight that has your fare class (bucket) available when confirming the change 24 hours in advance. This same “fare class rule” also applies to SkyMiles Award Tickets. For premium cabin (first class) you can change any fare class as long as there is a seat available in first class on the flight you desire. In my example, I purchased a (G) first class ticket, and changed to a flight with (F) first class availability. Exactly 24 hours before my original departure (This is key, since you can only make changes 24 hours prior to your original departure NOT the departure time you prefer) I called the Delta Diamond Medallion Line to make my change. Even though I was changing to an 08:30 departure, I had to wait until 24 hours prior to my original 13:15 departure. I was all prepared with my first choice, and it was available (2 seats) so I did have to search any further. I was rebooked exactly on the perfect flight that would allow me to arrive in Las Vegas at 12:38.
Since the change is made 24 hours in advance, you can also order special meals (both flights had meal service, breakfast and lunch respectively) since Delta requires that most special requests be made 12 hours prior to flight departure. Of course, it is always best to do it as soon as possible. You can also choose your preferred first class seat from those available after rebooking. In my case there were only a few options, but that is hardly very much of an issue in my opinion. I actually prefer window seats and those tend to be the last taken.
Delta has made some improvements to their domestic first class meal service. MSP-LAS is a rather short flight and they offered two entree options. A hot shrimp and sausage dish and a cold steak salad. The cold steak salad was surprisingly good (for airline food) and included a very simple potato salad, roast vegetables and fresh berries for dessert. Bravo to Delta for offering berries instead of “junk” for dessert. You also received a simple green salad and crostini instead of bread. I enjoyed a Woodford Reserve to drink on the rocks with a splash of ginger ale and a sparkling water.
The complete rules for Same Day Changes from Delta’s website :
- You can use the same-day confirmed option for travel within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Delta and Delta Connection® flights.
- You may request a same-day flight change up to 24 hours prior to the departure time of your original flight; however changes are limited to flights departing on the same day of ticketed departure.
- If you have a flexible fare (usually a refundable ticket), you may be able to change your itinerary without a fee.
- If you have an Economy fare, you can only be rebooked in the same fare class as your original flight.
- If you have a premium cabin fare, — including Delta One™, First and Business Class — you may make a same-day confirmed change as long as a seat is available in the premium cabin
- Award Tickets are same-day confirmed eligible.
- Origin, destination or co-terminal (LGA to JFK) changes are not same-day confirmed eligible.
- Same-Day Confirmed changes from connection to non-stop flights are not permitted.
- Basic Economy fare (E) for flights flown on or after February 1, 2015 are not eligible for same-day confirmed travel changes.
Another exception one should be aware of is that Basic Economy fare (E) class is not applicable for Same Day Confirmed travel changes. These are the least expensive tickets that are offered in some markets to mostly compete with LCCs (Low Cost Carriers, such as Spirit) and do not allow any cancellations, changes, Medallion Upgrades, or seat assignments. These fares are often only $10 to $50 less expensive that the least expensive “normal” economy class fares and represent a lousy value to Medallion Members because of the inability to select seats (including Comfort+) in advance. In conclusion, the combination of Delta’s very reasonable first class (discounted) fares along with the ability to change to a more desirable flight 24 hours prior to departure is a REAL WINNER! (WINNER-WINNER-CHICKEN-DINNER!)
Have you used Delta’s Same Day Travel Changes program? We would love to hear your experiences with the program as well as Delta First Class.
BOS : airport code for Boston-Logan
CVG : airport code for Cincinnati
MSP : airport code for Minneapolis
LAS : airport code for Las Vegas
Medallion : The Delta Airlines (SkyMile) Elite program
SkyMiles Award Ticket : Tickets using SkyMiles earned by flying Delta
Diamond Medallion : The highest level in the Delta Airlines (SkyMile) Elite program
Diamond Medallion Line : Elite Priority phone line for Delta Diamond Medallion Customers