Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Many Delta Diamonds and Platinums will have received a very special gift from Delta in the form of a Regional Upgrade (RU) certificate (I wonder if any Delta 360s got Global Upgrade certs – hint hint). As a heads up, since the issue date was the 29th you have one year to use your certificate. This really is a telling move by Delta as the vast majority of Delta Points readers have seen their upgrade percentages, largely due to FCM, dramatically fall this year.
If you are not a Platinum or a Diamond, you may have received an email awarding you 5000 MQMs, or Medallion Qualifying Miles, in an effort to help you reach a higher Medallion level. Or, if you haven’t been flying or spending or doing much with Delta, or haven’t in the past, then you likely got a rock – I’m sorry!
The biggest question is how does Delta allocate space. Since I don’t work for Delta Corp, I asked them just that question and was told:
“Regional upgrade certificate space is managed based on predicted demand based on historical data and booking trends, but the number of seat requests is not a factor.” – Anthony Black, SkyMiles spokesman
So this really is a mysterious product that I liken to an alchemist turning lead into gold. An entire open first class cabin, for example, does not automatically mean RU space is available. Things that may have an impact, and we really are guessing here from experience since Delta isn’t telling, are demand, possibly the fare class you paid, and maybe even your elite status. Again, these are mostly educated guesses and I welcome reader feedback as to your experience using and applying RUs.
Only slightly less mysterious than our ability to use these certificates is comprehending the logic of airline routing rules. For example, let’s take a simple one, you fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles, stay a few days and fly back Los Angeles to Atlanta but on the return connect through Detroit, the breaking point for this fare is Los Angeles. If you wanted to use an RU cert. one would be required for your outbound, and one for the return. The fact that the outbound only has one leg and the return two does not affect how many certs you need, but space would have to be available on both legs on the return (you could request either leg if open or wait for both to open up before applying the certificate). However, especially when it comes to mileage runs, you can end up with some unique routing situations. For example, I booked one of the mileage runs starting in Anchorage, Alaska connecting through Seattle and Minneapolis and then returning direct up to Anchorage. While technically Minneapolis is my destination, the fare breaks in Seattle and so I can use one certificate to upgrade Seattle to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Anchorage, the two longest parts of this roundtrip.
One important thing to remember, especially again in regard to Delta mileage runs, just having flights all on one day does not necessarily mean they are all upgrade eligible with just one certificate. Take the Dallas to San Francisco run I blogged about, where you go Dallas-Detroit-San Francisco and still on the same day start your trip back form San Francisco-Detroit and the next day back to Dallas. Even though the 3 first flights are all on the same day, San Francisco in this instance is the breaking point for the fare. Again, how did I know, I called and asked!
The next thing to consider is how best to use your RU. Which segment is most important to you, or are all of the segments important? For example, let’s say you’re going Atlanta to Hawaii via Los Angeles, you may decide that only the Los Angeles to Hawaii segment is the one that really matters to you, or you may decide both are equally important and want all or nothing and that can be requested as well. If space does open up Delta will call (or e-mail) you and inform you that upgrade space is now available. If not you will likely be at the very top of the gate upgrade list the day of travel, but keep in mind in my Hawaii example, if you clear on the first leg at the gate that does not necessarily ensure your clearing the next segment in your itinerary.
The next thing to consider is one I have flip flopped on many times throughout my flying life, that is, is it more important to upgrade on a daytime flight or a redeye? Back when I was much younger I would go toe to toe with anyone and argue the merits of sleeping in coach and enjoying first class when awake. After all, time passes just as quickly when you are asleep no matter whether you are in the nose or the tail of the plane. However, now that I am older and have many more miles on the odometer, getting better quality of sleep has started at times to outweigh my need for a daytime upgrade vs. nighttime. I would advise before you put in your request to perhaps check which of these is a priority for your +1!
Speaking of +1s as a reminder, as a general rule you must request an RU first for yourself and then for others traveling with you on the same itinerary (one certificate per person). You can also, if you link identical reservations, apply an RU to those as well.
While this post is clearly focusing on Regional Upgrade certificates, similar rules apply in regard to Global Upgrade certificates, but note unless you have purchased a Y, B, or M class fare you will be restricted to the Delta metal only portions of your itinerary.
Bottom line, enjoy, if you got one, your gifted upgrade certificate or your annual choice benefit as a top level Delta elite. – René