Rookie Wednesday: Testing & playing with Delta Regional Upgrade certificate options. What works, what doesn’t.

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RenesPoints Rookie

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.

delta skymiles regional upgrade certificate one-way pu591

Next week I will be taking my last Delta Elite Mileage run of the year. I will be joined by a few other points enthusiasts who also like the idea of gaining a few more MQMs before the year is over. But all of us are Delta Diamonds so it will be “fun” to see how many of us will be flying in the pointy end of the jet(s). As I have said many times before, mileage running is much better in 1st class.

I very carefully use all the “tools” at my disposal to do all I can to make sure I am up front on every Delta flight I take and I have only missed 2 all year so far! This also includes the very judicious use of Delta Regional Upgrade (RU) certificates (see this PDF for the current rules as of NOV15) when I need them. The basics for these certs is:

atl to msp to lax

You can use them each way, one RU cert. That is if you have 2 or 3 segments all one way / direction  you can use just one RU for all these segments (or where the fare break is considered one way / direction). You will have to use another RU for the way back. Sometimes, again if the fare class / rules allow it, you can even overnight and use just one cert both days. It really all depends on the ticket you have so please just ask!

wait on longer leg only

You can clear right away. That is, if space is open for instant RU space. If not you have a number of choices.

You could request to be wait-listed for ONLY the longest leg. If and when that clears you can then have it applied, either instantly, or be wait-listed for the shorter segment as well.

You can burn on short leg and request on longer legs. Using the same map above, you could, if space is open, clear instantly on the short leg and request upgrade on the longer one. There is a downside to this as your RU is burned right away and you may not clear on the long leg and be stuck in coach. Sad to use such a valuable cert for a short flight. Plus, you may have cleared on the short leg without the RU then it is doubly sad you burned it.

You can upgrade a friend with you. If you have someone either on the same PNR, or the exact same flights and link the PNRs, you can upgrade first you and then your friend to 1st assuming there is space otherwise you both are wait-listed.

If you don’t clear, you are WAY up the list. This is another perk if you do not clear before your flight. Sure the “normal” rules apply for upgrade order (see this post) but after that this will move you to the top of the list for everyone else using RU certs and above everyone who is not using one but just waiting for a medallion upgrade.

You can change your mind if not used. This one is a bit tricky. If you are upgraded on ANY of the segments, you have used the cert. However, if you see a ton of open seats in first, and have not cleared even hours before the flight, you can request to have the RU removed for requested upgrade and then maybe clear just as a medallion. Risky and a bit of a pain but it is possible to do.

with a week to go no space for delta regional upgrades

Now here is where some of the testing and tinkering comes into play. Notice the flight I am on next week. There are, as of this post, 12 of 16 seats open in 1st class and there is still no open space for an RU upgrade. Frustrating? You bet (thanks a lot Delta REV MGT team, btw). This leg is leg number two and a long flight. My first flight is rather long too, and a lunch flight, so I went ahead and cleared instantly for myself and a friend and am now wait-listed for the longer next one.

Now here is what “should” happen and it will be interesting to see if Delta IT works or strikes out. RU certs request should trump complimentary medallion upgrades. So, as the “window” for free upgrades begins, we should be the first ones upgraded. If any Medallion, unless they are also waiting for the same RU upgrade, goes before me I will not be a happy puppy. But in reality I know this is often the case and I will not be shocked to see this happen. This is something Delta really needs to address and fix.

On our return trip it is unlikely any Medallion upgrades will clear until the gate as SFO redeye flights I have found to be some of the worst and hardest to upgrade (other than most ATL flights on a Monday morning)! But again, thanks to RU certs in the records we should have at least a slim shot at avoiding coach on our trip back.

Other important bits to keep in mind when it comes to RU certs. If you clear, and make any changes like a SDC then your upgrade does NOT join you. That is not to say you will not clear again, but it is not automatic. However, if a change is Delta’s fault, then YES your cleared upgrade will carry over even if the rep has to “oversell” the inventory for RU space (yes, they can do that).

The last bit I would consider when it comes to RU use is do consider your expiration date of your certs. While it is generally not smart to use them on short-ish flights it is even worse to have one go unused or expire. In that case, use it anywhere you can as some value is better than no value (and next year try to wait as long as you can before you redeem your certs to start your 12 month expiration clock).

I personally feel RU certs are one of the best uses for my Platinum Choice benefit (Diamonds get both PM & DM choices). I have chosen them each year and have used them all successfully and have only missed one long flight so far. If you are having a hard time clearing with yours I would suggest the following tips:

1) Check for RU space before you buy a ticket.
2) Consider a slightly higher fare class when you buy if no space is open
3) Monitor / check your flight often for open space
4) Be flexible on routing for open space
5) Book as far out as you can.

All of the above can really help you clear. Once you are cleared, as already talked about, you have a bunch more options that you can work with.

The final frustration for me with these is we are all fighting against FCM or First Class Monetization, that is, Delta doing everything they can to sell every single 1st class seat rather than give a Medallion an upgrade with a cert they have earned. It is not like we have an unlimited supply of these certs and Delta allowing us to successfully use them is a tiny way to reward us for our loyalty year after year as well as our MQD spending with the airline.

Do you have any questions on RU cert use? Any comments on what has worked really well for you or has been a real frustration for you? Be sure to share them in the comments below! – René


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  1. The frustrating part is when seats are open and you get waitlisted. I don’t get the point of offering the RUC to then decide later if you can actually use it.

    Also, my wife is a PM and I’m a DM. We used her certs a few months ago and I was listed before her on the UG List. She was not happy, but she got the last seat up front.

  2. There’s 31 seats left in coach on that flight as well. Even C+ open as of now. I’m beyond irritated on no UG on this leg because I instantly cleared on my SFO return leg transcon via Delta One seat to JFK. I’ll never understand this stuff.

  3. Why does buying up a fare help? Is is just for a tie breaker if someone else is using an RUC?

  4. Rene, thanks for the info. I am currently trying to use my first ever RU cert for a January trip to ASE. Doesn’t look good according to seat map. FCM must be working well. However, I have additional seat maps for first showing under the reservation (but not selectable). Are those always there when you have requested RU? Or have I been cleared but don’t know it yet? I’m thinking about cancelling them to use on another trip.

  5. René,

    I am doing my statistical analysis again on these flights WITHOUT any use of RUC’s so that data will be invaluable to compare; a Diamond w/o the certs.

    We’ll see how the cards play out!

  6. Rene, How do you “1) Check for RU space before you buy a ticket.” short of calling the Diamond line?

  7. On Upgrades: Make sure the res is correct. The certificate must be the lead and not the medialion upgrade, as you want the medialion upgrade overiden. A good way to tell is to look at the seat maps in your reservation. Click change seats, It will show a separate click for the map for the flight you are trying for the upgrade. If there are two separate maps for the flight, then you are correctly listed on the flight and should take you to the top. I had a DM get me when I was using a GUC because it was wrong in the pnr.

  8. “Other important bits to keep in mind when it comes to RU certs. If you clear, and make any changes like a SDC then your upgrade does NOT join you.”

    While I agree that many DM phone reps don’t know the rule or necessarily how to do it, you absolutely can SDC on a flight where your RUC cleared and has been reissued (and there’s a seat in F on the flight you want to SDC to). The only time you can’t SDC to an avail F seat is on a medallion upgrade.

  9. @MR. G – Yes smart tip and helpful to check. Also, another tip, when you go to that “2nd map” and if you can click on a seat and it lets you select it, space has opened up and you can call and grab the seats. It has happened MANY times for me way before notice from Delta.

  10. Regarding “You can upgrade a friend with you.” Does these mean that 1 RUC can clear an upgrade for two people, or would 2 RUCs be required? I’ve never chosen RUCs, but I have chosen GUCs and the DM rep I spoke to this summer said that it’d take 2 GUCs each way (i.e. 4 round trip) to upgrade my companion and I on a hypothetical same-PNR JFK-FRA trip.

  11. Rene,

    Apologize for the dumb question, but to clarify: I can upgrade a second person on the same PNR without using an additional cert?

    So 4 certs = 2 round trips for both me and my wife, provided we are traveling together?

  12. @HITconsultant – 1 each ie you will need 2 each way for you and friend. And you must UG you first then you can UG friend.

  13. Can you use these on NYC>SFO or LAX routes? If so seems like the best value you could get (which makes me think Delta would block them out).

  14. @Mark – That’s my understanding also. My current situation is that I have applied a RUC to my SJU-JFK-LAX-SJC mileage run. The SJU-JFK and LAX-SJC legs have cleared and the ticket has been reissued.

    Any chance I would be immediately eligible for an SDC to the SJU-ATL-SJC route in First if it doesn’t look like my D1 JFK-LAX leg will clear? Do all the legs on my original flight need to clear for this to work?

  15. @CMS –

    That’s where I plan to experiment in 2016; to see if it’s an easy upgrade on LAX-JFK with Regional Upgrade Certificates or not…

    I agree it’s probably (for most folks) the preferred route to exercise these.

  16. Great points Rene. A few more tips from someone who has used multiple G and R certs too. Check your my delta wallet often and make sure Delta records match yours. I have had to get my GUC and RUC “fixed” several times because Delta IT/Agents used them improperly. One time they used certs expiring in 2016 and instead the certs expiring in 2015 Dah! On another occasion they booked someone else using my certs that I knew weren’t used. I have also put my RUC in and moved to the top of the upgrade list only to find out later they didn’t need the Cert because according to Delta IT I would have gotten the upgrade without it – so that went back into my wallet. Finally, you have to call to use these certs anyway so if the flight you want isn’t available for immediate upgrade have the desk look for other flights a day before or after or earlier/later the same day or perhaps a different route. Unless you’re flying from Atlanta to Johannesburg with limited flights there are usually many routes/times where you want to go. My most recent one was last week to Hawaii. I wanted to fly Sat or Sun but wasn’t available so went out Mon instead. FWIW, on this same trip I was able to get the non-stop that wasn’t available to use the certs on at the time, but thanks to the might schedule change and Rene tips I got the FA to change to the original flight I couldn’t use when I booked the trip 2 months earlier. In short, when I am flexible I have always been able to get the FC upgrade confirmed via certs the day I booked the flight – took the worry right out of it.

  17. I pretty much refer to these as Really Useless Certificates. For instance, I called the Diamond line the other day to try and use a few. For January, MSP to SFO, 2 seats booked in FC…no RUC available.
    For December, LGA to ATL, NO FC seats booked, no RUC available.
    January, SFO to CVG, NO FC seats booked, no RUC available.
    But of course my LGA to DTW is available…all 501 miles. Wow!
    When I was finished on the phone, the Delta rep asked if I had said yes to the “will you answer 1 question?” when the call is done. He knew I was pretty disgusted. I hope others have had better luck.

  18. great. more DMs to fight for seats. Why do I think the pointy end I will see is the BACK end of the plane? 🙂

  19. RU, SUC% I had 6 for the year (used all but 1) short legs (750 miles or less) no problems instant upgrade and when I did get a possible RU on long runs (good luck) it so messed up my reservation. I had to get a re-ticket specialist and 20 min on the phone, yea that is real “agent” title I kid you not (twice) to get my second half of the trip to work out……crazy!
    Good luck for RU to all!

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