A few weeks ago, we flew from Bali to Singapore on KLM’s 5th freedom route. A 5th freedom route is a route an airline flies between two cities that are not located in that airline’s home country. I booked a cheap economy ticket through Expedia for the flight. Without even thinking about it, I gave them Brittany’s Delta Skymiles numbers. As much as I hate Skymiles, they are still our primary Skyteam airline currency because we are based in the States. I want to give a quick reminder: if an airline is part of an alliance or has a partnership with one of your preferred airlines, you should always give them your membership number. If you don’t, you are missing out on free miles.
The day before our flight, I decided to check-in online and what I saw got me excited. It looked like Brittany’s Delta status (Platinum Medallion) somehow allowed us to select Economy Comfort seats for free! I didn’t think too much about it, but was pretty excited knowing we would be enjoying some extra leg room for two and a half hours.
The next day, we got to the airport and went to check our bags. The agent marked our bags as priority, which I thought was a little strange, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. Afterwards, she handed us our boarding passes along with 2 lounge passes. I thought this was super weird. I had never heard of anyone getting lounge access flying in economy before. I had no idea why she gave us lounge passes. We were already planning on going to the same lounge with my Priority Pass Select membership, so it didn’t benefit us as much as it may have others, but it was still very puzzling.
Once it was boarding time, we left the lounge and headed to the gate. It was a zoo. I couldn’t believe the amount of people about to get on the plane. We ended up being delayed 45 minutes. Finally, it came time to board and we breezed passed everyone in the priority lane. Brittany handed her boarding pass over and once it scanned, a loud error signal sounded. The gate agent took both Brittany and my boarding passes and proceeded to cross out our beloved economy comfort seats I had selected online and scribbled something that didn’t register right away. Brittany worryingly asked, “Are we still next to each other?” He responded with “Yeah, it’s your lucky day.” I looked down at the boarding passes and noticed we were in row 5 and then it hit me. We had been upgraded to business class!
Turns out there was another reason that made this day even more special. It was KLM’s 97th anniversary. To celebrate the event, they handed out special cupcakes to every passenger on board. I thought that was a nice touch. This was also the day they introduced a new KLM house. A unique tradition of KLM is that they always hand out little ceramic Danish houses to all of their business class passengers. However, it seemed as if our flight wasn’t yet stocked with the new house. You can see the houses Brit and I selected in the image at the top of this post!
Why did this all happen?
After doing some research, it looks like Delta elites get quite a few benefits when flying on KLM. If you have any Delta status at all, you get some nice benefits like priority boarding, extra baggage allowance, and even economy comfort seats for free. If you have Delta Platinum or Diamond Medallion status, you also get priority baggage handling and lounge access on international flights. This explains most of what happened at the airport. It still doesn’t explain why we got upgraded to business class for free. My guess is that the flight was overbooked in economy and Brittany’s cross Delta status was a higher status than anyone else on the plane. The funniest part is when I checked-in online, I got an offer to upgrade to business class. I forget the exact amount, but it was small enough that I actually considered it for a second. I’m sure glad I decided against that!
Delta has some neat cross benefits on select partner airlines for their elite members. You should check out the list of benefits here. In particular, the benefits when flying on KLM are pretty nice. I hope I was able to teach you something new today! This was completely new to me.
Do you know of any other airlines that have unique cross elite benefits like this? I’d love to know!