Delta upgrade certificate rules appear just in time


Just a few days ago Delta announced new more flexible rules for using upgrade certificates:

  • Upgrade certificate owners can now upgrade companions without upgrading themselves
  • Upgrade certificates can now be applied to Companion Certificate flights
  • Upgrade certificates can now be applied to Pay with Miles tickets

These changes might not sound revolutionary, but I’m excited.  Two out of three help me out immediately…

As background, Delta offers two forms of upgrade certificates.  Regional upgrade certificates are an optional Choice Benefit for Platinum and Diamond elites.  They can be used to upgrade paid flights within North America and select nearby destinations.  Global upgrade certificates are optional Choice Benefits only for Diamond members.  They can be used for paid Delta and select partner flights worldwide.

Upgrade companion only

Until yesterday, I had one regional upgrade certificate still available in my account.  I wanted to use it for an upcoming flight with my son but was told that I could only apply it to my own ticket, not to his (if I had two certificates I could have upgraded both of us). I could have upgraded myself, but to do so would have required splitting the PNR (separating us into two reservations).  Since he doesn’t have elite status, that would have meant that we’d forfeit the chance of an upgrade on that second ticket altogether.

Then, in swooped Delta with the new rule that allows upgrading companions on their own.  Cool!  I called Delta and asked to apply the upgrade to my son’s ticket.  The agent wasn’t aware of the change and initially told me that it wasn’t possible.  I told her about the new rule and within a few minutes she confirmed that it should work.  After about 5 minutes on hold, she said that a woman on the upgrade desk further confirmed that it should work.  Then, after about 5 more minutes on hold it was done.  They had to split the PNR to make it happen, but my son was confirmed into first class.  Cool!  One nice side benefit to this is that it increases the chance of my complementary upgrade at the gate since I’ll need only one upgrade seat to be available instead of two.

Upgrade Companion Certificate flight

My wife and I have a flight booked for a couple of weeks from now.  We used a companion certificate that comes with the Delta Reserve card to book the flight.  Even though we could have used that certificate to book first class, we used it to book economy.  The economy price was dramatically lower.  The flight is just long enough (about 3.5 hours) to benefit from flying up-front, plus both the outbound and return would include in-flight meals in first.  Previously, we couldn’t apply upgrade certificates to tickets bought with companion certificates, but thanks to an enhancement from last year we’d at least be on the complementary Medallion upgrade list.

Now, however, we can apply upgrade certificates to our flight.  We’re both out of regional upgrade certificates, but thanks to rollover miles and credit card spend, we should both qualify for 2019 Delta Platinum status on February 1st.  At that point, one of us could choose regional upgrades as our Choice Benefit in order to apply those certificates to this upcoming flight.

I’m still not 100% convinced that we should do this.  If we book other longer-distance flights within the next year, we may regret having used up these certificates.  On the other hand, it’s unlikely that all four certificates would clear for this trip.  And when they don’t clear, they still have the effect of pushing you to the top of the upgrade list at the gate.  In a way, that’s the ideal situation because you have a good chance of an upgrade and can then still use the certificate for a future flight.  So, chances are reasonably good that we’d still have at least some of those certificates available for the future.

I think what I’ll do is this: once the 2019 elite year Choice Benefits become available, I’ll call Delta to find out if regional upgrades are confirmable for my upcoming flight.  Ironically, if all four upgrades are available, I may decide to hold off.  But if two out of four are available, that would be a good compromise.  I’d secure first class for one direction of the trip while still keeping two upgrade certificates available for a future flight.

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