FCM Buy up - No longer worth it

Old Dec 23, 21, 8:28 am
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FCM Buy up - No longer worth it

So I've noticed a trend that is quite disappointing... I have multiple itineraries and on every one the FCM buy-up offer to first costs either the same or more than if I change or cancel the ticket and start over and outright buy first. What is the point of the FCM then? It comes with significant potentially negative impacts - you can loose the seat upgrade if you have to change or cancel later, and there is frequently difficulty in getting the proper earning credit for the segments especially if there is a flight change/rebooking etc.

So why even bother with FCM now if I can get a 'real' first class ticket by just changing/rebooking my ticket or even less than the FCM by starting over? Anyone else seeing this often now?
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Old Dec 23, 21, 8:36 am
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These days the F cabin is often full a week or more before departure, whereas that almost never was the case in pre-COVID days. With a full F cabin there is no incentive for them to have FCM at discounted rates.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 8:41 am
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Originally Posted by rylan View Post
So I've noticed a trend that is quite disappointing... I have multiple itineraries and on every one the FCM buy-up offer to first costs either the same or more than if I change or cancel the ticket and start over and outright buy first. What is the point of the FCM then? It comes with significant potentially negative impacts - you can loose the seat upgrade if you have to change or cancel later, and there is frequently difficulty in getting the proper earning credit for the segments especially if there is a flight change/rebooking etc.

So why even bother with FCM now if I can get a 'real' first class ticket by just changing/rebooking my ticket or even less than the FCM by starting over? Anyone else seeing this often now?
I’ve been seeing this for a while and it was even common pre-COVID. But DL probably figures even with waived/no-longer-existent change fees, perhaps many people aren’t doing dummy booking or checking if it’s cheaper to buy up to F via just refaring or by buying up via the FCM offer. And if someone buys up via the offer rather than refaring, DL “wins” and if someone buys up via refaring, DL still doesn’t lose.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 8:54 am
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The offer normally tracks very similar to the fare difference.

Psychologically, many people are more likely to by a $199 Y ticket and take a "cheap upgrade" for $199 to F than purchase a $399 ticket in F. Even if it's not that many people, DL doesn't lose anything by dangling the offer.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 9:56 am
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
The offer normally tracks very similar to the fare difference.

Psychologically, many people are more likely to by a $199 Y ticket and take a "cheap upgrade" for $199 to F than purchase a $399 ticket in F. Even if it's not that many people, DL doesn't lose anything by dangling the offer.
This is especially true when they price it on a per-person, per-segment basis.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
The offer normally tracks very similar to the fare difference.

Psychologically, many people are more likely to by a $199 Y ticket and take a "cheap upgrade" for $199 to F than purchase a $399 ticket in F. Even if it's not that many people, DL doesn't lose anything by dangling the offer.
Disagree. I don't see fare difference as factor. They look to have fixed priced points (Occam's Razor). For shorter haul routes, they generally start at $106.43 ($99.00 base + 7.5% US excise tax) and have seen these a number of routes and they do not vary with original booking class or price. Other popular price points for shorter haul -- $127.93 ($119.00 base + 7.5% US Excise tax), $149.43 ($139.00 base + 7.5% US Excise Tax). Of course, there can also be silly examples -- DTW-SEA on A339neo for $1009.43 ($939.00 base + 7.5% US excise tax). Fare difference can be all over the place depending on many variables. I've encountered cases when booking cheap 3-week advance fares where upgrade offer is substantially cheaper than upfaring close-in due to advance purchase requirements for cheaper F fares. Example -- SEA-FAI for $149.43 less than a week out on a cheap DTW-FAI award (F fares on SEA-FAI with less than 7-day advance purchase go for $400+).And you can't upgrade individual segments on a single fare component when paying fare difference (it's all or nothing) vs. FCM offers which allow it and can be an additional factor (maybe you only care about upgrading red-eye segment on multisegment itin).
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Last edited by xliioper; Dec 23, 21 at 1:02 pm
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Old Dec 23, 21, 1:08 pm
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My last three times seeing an offer has been within a few dollars of the route fare differential (the weirdness where DL seems to be including US in their upsell prices after taking a round dollar number is kind of bizarre so I can't be quite sure). The active reservation I can check has MSP-AUS for $181.68 which appears to be $169 + US. The route fare differential is $165.

Single-segment upgrades obviously can't directly follow this logic, but for example the fare differential on SEA-FAI is $130 (seems to be a $283.61 floor for lower fares) which is again quite close to your offer.

Yes, there are absolutely inconsistencies in the upsell mechanic versus actual fares, and if you know what you're doing you can exploit them in your favor. But to first order, I would absolutely say that FCM offers track with the fare differential.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 1:19 pm
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I am flying tonight DTW-PHX.
I passed on FCM offers, thinking we'd get comp upgrade at the gate,.
At T-24 after checking in, we were already down to 7&8 or so for 3 seats, so I immediately messaged Delta and asked to upfare. First agent said it was not possible, but I showed screenshot of seats available to purchase. Was transferred to a new agent who processed the upfare for $50 less than the last FCM offer I saw 4-5 days ago.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 1:27 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
My last three times seeing an offer has been within a few dollars of the route fare differential (the weirdness where DL seems to be including US in their upsell prices after taking a round dollar number is kind of bizarre so I can't be quite sure). The active reservation I can check has MSP-AUS for $181.68 which appears to be $169 + US. The route fare differential is $165.

Single-segment upgrades obviously can't directly follow this logic, but for example the fare differential on SEA-FAI is $130 (seems to be a $283.61 floor for lower fares) which is again quite close to your offer.

Yes, there are absolutely inconsistencies in the upsell mechanic versus actual fares, and if you know what you're doing you can exploit them in your favor. But to first order, I would absolutely say that FCM offers track with the fare differential.
If you are comparing SEA-FAI 3-week advance coach with 3-week advance FC, then yes, the fare differential is close to fare difference. But that's not what I'm talking about. The difference between a 3-week advance purchase fare in coach vs. less than 1-week advance purchase FC (which is what you would be charged when upfaring) is substantially greater than $149. If your MSP-AUS flight is relatively far out and you still qualify for 3-week advance FC fares and there is still Z bucket open, then yes, it stands to reason that FCM and fare differential will be close. Try checking closer in when those 2 or 3 week advance FC fares are no longer available. In the end, without a large variety of actual data, these individual anecdotal observations won't tell you very much. I'm still going with Occam's Razor and that the FCM offers are far less complex than people make them out to be. The fundamental flaw is the assumption that it SHOULD be about giving one a better offer than what one would get with an upfare, when the reality it is really about revenue generation through convenience as there are cases where it's not easy to upfare (when buying your fare on a corporate card or it's purchased for you) or upgrading individual segments or people simply don't check the upfare option.

As another example, DTW-MIA main cabin V fares (with a 3 week advance purchase requirement) are $64.19 base and allow ATL, RDU, JFK, LGA, and MSP routings. Connecting options will be somewhat higher than non-stop flight due to additional taxes (PFC + US segment tax), but they all have they same $64.19 base fare when booked in V. And yet, when I looked at the FCM offers with DTW-MIA-MSP-DTW trips, the DTW-MIA and MIA-MSP legs have typically been around $270, while the MSP-DTW leg is typically the $106.43 offer. Despite the fact that MIA-MSP-DTW is booking on a single $64.19 fare component just like the DTW-MIA segment. This strongly suggests per segment price points irregardless of fare construction and fare differences.

Last edited by xliioper; Dec 23, 21 at 2:16 pm
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Old Dec 23, 21, 1:28 pm
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I am fairly certain that across most all industries "up sales" are not worth the price.

Maybe a few edge cases slip in. But that is the exception, not the rule.
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Old Dec 23, 21, 1:39 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
The offer normally tracks very similar to the fare difference.

Psychologically, many people are more likely to by a $199 Y ticket and take a "cheap upgrade" for $199 to F than purchase a $399 ticket in F. Even if it's not that many people, DL doesn't lose anything by dangling the offer.
Some employers only reimburse the $199 main cabin and then passenger pays the upgrade out of pocket.
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Old Dec 27, 21, 12:53 pm
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Unless policies have changed, recall that "upsales" (e.g., purchasing the upgrade off of the seat assignment page) carry a risk.

If something happens that prevents you from occupying a FC seat on the original flight, you will likely lose the supplemental UG fee that you paid. Fees for paid UGs are not refunded.

So, if the original flight is cancelled, you are out of luck..

It is better to have the ticket reissued as an actual FC ticket, rather than risk having a ticket that is a coach ticket with a paid UG.

If I want to fly FC, and the incremental fare is not outrageous, I'll purchase the coach ticket (so that I have a record of what to invoice my client), then call DL and ask them to cancel the coach ticket and sell me the FC ticket.

That process was easier before DL told us all to go pound sand when they changed the customer support call system.
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Old Dec 27, 21, 1:06 pm
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Originally Posted by StayingHomeIsBetter View Post
Unless policies have changed, recall that "upsales" (e.g., purchasing the upgrade off of the seat assignment page) carry a risk.

If something happens that prevents you from occupying a FC seat on the original flight, you will likely lose the supplemental UG fee that you paid. Fees for paid UGs are not refunded.

So, if the original flight is cancelled, you are out of luck..

It is better to have the ticket reissued as an actual FC ticket, rather than risk having a ticket that is a coach ticket with a paid UG.

If I want to fly FC, and the incremental fare is not outrageous, I'll purchase the coach ticket (so that I have a record of what to invoice my client), then call DL and ask them to cancel the coach ticket and sell me the FC ticket.

That process was easier before DL told us all to go pound sand when they changed the customer support call system.
This depends on the airline and has not been an issue on DL recently though I believe it may have been at one point.

Two examples from this year for me, one with DL and one with AA:

DL: I booked GSO-DTW-DAY in Main Cabin. Sometime after booking, I upgraded the GSO-DTW leg via a buy-up offer in the App which I used miles to pay with. Fast forward to the day of the flight, I receive a notice in the morning my GSO-DTW leg is delayed significantly. Options out of GSO were full or got in way too late. App allowed me to rebook out of RDU and I was able to rebook into F on both RDU-ATL and ATL-DAY, even though I was technically only in F on one-leg (GSO-DTW). For DTW-DAY, I was in Main Cabin. But the App let me rebook to an option that gave me F on both legs. Some options only had F available on RDU-ATL or ATL-DAY if F was full on one of those legs but I found an option with seats open on both legs that was also the best option for timing anyway).
Also, when I've rebooked a new flight on DL, even after buying up with the App, the full amount I've paid (original Y fare plus the fare for the buy-up) was applied in the e-credit towards the new flight.

AA: It did not work the same way as DL. I booked DAY-DFW one-way in Main Cabin. A few days later I bought up to FC via an Instant Upgrade buy-up offer in the Manage Trips section. A few days after that, I realized my schedule would permit me to leave earlier than I initially thought and the FC fare on the earlier DAY-DFW flight was within a few bucks of my AA Main Cabin Fare plus the buy-up offer on the flight I booked. I called AA to try to move to the earlier DAY-DFW flight, hoping to book into FC with the main cabin fare I paid plus the upgrade fee I paid. The agent told me that the only portion of the fare that would apply towards the new flight if I wanted to switch was the Main Cabin portion of the fare, and that the money I paid for the instant upgrade would just be lost if I switched my flight. I ended up not switching.

ETA: Not sure how it works on UA, though one issue on UA others should be aware of is although change fees are waived, if you change flights within the trip and the new flight is cheaper, you do not get the difference back as an e-credit (you do on DL). It's just simply treated as an even exchange. I do not know with UA if you cancel the ticket completely and get an e-credit if the e-credit retains any residual value that way or not or if you use a $500 e-credit for a $400 flight, you're just still out on that $100.
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Last edited by ATOBTTR; Dec 27, 21 at 1:21 pm
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Old Dec 27, 21, 1:17 pm
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I agree that First Class upgrade costs are often seemingly outrageous and disconnected from reality. Also, I can't tell you how many times a few weeks before the flight, the upgrade option disappears completely with F half empty or more. The First Class upgrade option definitely seems like an area for improvement.
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Old Jan 5, 22, 2:00 pm
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Originally Posted by StayingHomeIsBetter View Post
Unless policies have changed, recall that "upsales" (e.g., purchasing the upgrade off of the seat assignment page) carry a risk.

If something happens that prevents you from occupying a FC seat on the original flight, you will likely lose the supplemental UG fee that you paid. Fees for paid UGs are not refunded.

So, if the original flight is cancelled, you are out of luck...
Originally Posted by ATOBTTR View Post
This depends on the airline and has not been an issue on DL recently though I believe it may have been at one point....
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Your DL experience is interesting.

I was just speaking to a DL agent, making a coach reservation, then turning it into FC reservation. We discussed the problem with the risk of losing the the paid UG fee if your flight gets cancelled, and she agreed that this was a real risk.

Perhaps policies have changed and she was not aware of the change but, based upon my experience with her on the call, she sounded quite capable and knowledgeable.

Hopefully, DL has changed to a more common-sense policy. There was no justice in the original policy.

I did find, in this instance, another reason for going the real FC ticket route (as opposed to just buying an UG from coach) -- the cost for the paid UG from coach was $400. The incremental cost of replacing the coach ticket with an actual FC ticket was only $180.

The agent stated that she often sees this.
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