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Just how bad are Delta Medallion upgrades in 2015? Share your results in a new poll!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

voting for delta perk flyertalk

In a recent vote by FlyerTalk members, the most important thing they want to see from the elite program is complementary upgrades. Next is rollover MQMs that, with your status, help you get more of those complementary upgrades (yep, I see a pattern here).

One of my most viewed posts each and every year is one from two years ago and details all the factors that help you get more upgrades and even with all the changes going on at Delta the advice still works.

I love Delta Points readers and since the vast majority of readers hold some kind of Medallion status upgrades DO matter to you.

how hard are upgrades this year

But how are your upgrades going this year? Twitter follower Mike is keeping VERY close track of just how many upgrades he is getting out of MSP airport, one of Delta’s HUB airports. Any Delta HUB is harder to upgrade from than other airports since there are so many more medallions you are competing against and some who are willing to pay more for those upgrades.

cheap dl app UG

Then we have one of the things I was MOST afraid of under SkyMiles 2015 and that is the cheap selling of upgrades. Reader Matt recently shared how he was not going to clear and paid just over $50 for an upgrade. Can I fault him? He is going to not just get to ride up front, but also will earn MORE MQMs in the 1st class seat he purchased on his app.

Now on principal I can and do fault him as personally I will NEVER do this. I hate that Delta is doing this at these stupidly low numbers as this will basically put an end to complementary medallion upgrades if these kinds of prices spread system wide. One of the biggest perks of elite status will be GONE!

How are my upgrades going this year? Out of some 20 segments I have only missed 2 (some have been CRJ200’s with no 1st class). But I have had to work many of these flights to ride upfront. I have done SDCs and used RU certs and even pulled a Shena to get one of them. Most folks are not willing to work that hard to get an upgrade.

But you tell me dear readers. Please vote in the poll below and tell me how your “boots in the air” have been this year. – Rene


What has happened to your Delta medallion upgrades during 2015

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Rene, you just have to get used to the fact that Delta is in the business of making money. Giving away a complimentary upgrade may do well to maintain the loyalty of certain customers, but when I can upgrade my wife and me on a round trip from ATL to LGA for less than $100 each, earning 50% more MQMs while guaranteeing that both of us (not just me – I’m Diamond, and she gets my gift of Gold) sit up front, I’m going to do it. That you seem to have a “principal” that prevents you from doing this is to deny the basic fact that I brought up in my opening sentence. Be cool, Bro!

    • @Jerry – I agree with you to a point. Is your $100 better for the company than say someone who spends $20,000 a year on tickets who goes to another airline over this?

  2. Hey, at least I snagged the last Comfort+ window at 24 hours as a silver from Lax-Jfk last week. That’s a win!

  3. IMO, the $20K/yr crowd (which includes me most years) won’t switch over complimentary upgrades. They’re either hub captives, company policy captives, or they’ll pay the $100 without thinking much about it. If upgrades are the deciding factor, who would they go to? AA will be even more overrun with ExPlats in a couple of weeks, and UA isn’t an improvement in upgrades or performance. FWIW, I’m running 90% on 2015 upgrades (ATL-SLC has always been tough)

  4. It’s to DL’s advantage to promise upgrades but then sell them out from under elites at whatever the market will bear. It’s good business–until it isn’t.

  5. Shana Gainey-Lewis Reply

    At first I thought my upgrade rate was lower this year, but then I realized that those flights were accommodaing people affected by bad weather. As long as there are no snow storms then I get upgraded 5 days in advance. I see good and bad in the selling of upgrades. Good because I’ve had to buy an upgrade once when making a change to a flight because they waived the change fee and it was cheaper to upgrade than to pay the difference in fair. I’ve also upgraded with miles on longer flights between ATL and LA for vacation to ensure I sit in first since ATL is so Diamond heavy and I’m only Platinum. The bad would be if people start buying all the upgrades between Chicago and ATL (since I’m Chicago based I get upgraded most of the time), however it’s such a short flight that sitting in C+ isn’t so bad. I still like my upgrades though. I agree with the person who said there is nowhere else to go for the upgrades, so if I stop getting then then perhaps I’ll stop travelling so much and work from home more 🙂

  6. costs here at CVG are so bad and i’m getting so little in return that i’m splitting time between United (sigh) and Delta. i’ll make silver next year for both instead of gold or better for Delta. but as a small business owner, i can’t choose to fly Delta when the return benefit is so thin these days.

    i even considered getting status match from Alaska, but it just doesn’t work logistically from CVG. i get that it’s a business decision for Delta – but it is for me too.

  7. I don’t feel like the number of upgrades I have gotten this year is much different than what I have experienced in years past. However one thing I have noticed is that the number of upgrades I get at the window (as a PM at T-5 days) has greatly diminished and I am instead getting them at the gate.

    • @Ian – That is an outstanding point. Yes they are holding UGs to gate and the big problem there is gate shenanigans happen more often than most know.

  8. Rene, you would have a great point if you were seriously considering moving to another airline, which I don’t think you are. JEM makes a good point in my opinion – most of us who have built up the elite status will not be quitting because of the complimentary upgrades. They’ve done us a service by making C+ a decent deal for most flights. The problem is that the long-hauls (ATL-LAX, for instance) will not have FC upgrades priced attractively so C+ is the only option there.

    • @Jerry – But I am in some ways. I am seriously lowering my spend on DL this year and earning on other airlines. Plus, when it comes to buying 1st class tickets I will be looking at others. Something I would NEVER have done before this year.

  9. I’m in my first full year as a Platinum. I’m 11 for 12 this year out of MSP…but my job is flexible and thus my flight times are somewhat flexible, so I do tend to look for flights that I think I have a higher shot at the UG. I have noticed better overall service as a Plat vs a Gold.

  10. This year I’ve only missed 2 flights out of 20 with crj, weather and AmEx Companion not included. Which is the same NET RESULT as last year.

    But, my 5 day out emails are getting less frequent.

    Sadly, I’ve purchased 1 upgrade for $99 RT MYR-MCO! It guaranteed my wife (PM) and I would sit together for once as her upgrades are 30% at best. This was a no brained because a 1st class ticket was almost $400 more than the original ticket price US the $99! How is that good business???

    BTW, most of her UGs are MYR-ATL and then nothing.

  11. I can’t seem to vote in the poll from over here in Sweden, but I’m 2/2 on PLT upgrades this year, both at the 5+ day window. Last year I was only upgraded 2x w/o using my RU certs.

  12. I have noticed less upgrades this year, but primarily that is been due to SDC or weather. I am an Atl hub captive, so my choices are limited. What am I going to do, switch to Southwest?

  13. Robert Scott Reply

    Rene, I have missed 2 of 6 upgrades on paid coach tickets and both were ATL-LAX legs. On a future HKG flight, my GU got me upgraded on 4 of the six legs initially with the only two not, being MSP-SEA legs. About 2 to 3 weeks after booking, one of those legs cleared and the remains on request, for a Sept trip where all seats in first on that leg are still unsold.
    I see where all this might be going. I can envision a new DL Upgrade program for elites whereby we don’t get the possibility of a complimentary upgrade at our window, but we get the opportunity to buy our upgrade at a discounted fee before the lower elites and the general public. Where nothing will be free.

  14. I am a Diamond with reserve AMEX and I am seeing a lot less emails 5 days out for upgrades. They seem to come < 3 days out, if at all. Out of ATL, traveling on monday or tuesday, its always hard to get upgrades anyway. To be honest, I almost always try to book K class or higher for my longer trans continental flights so I can use miles to upgrade using the delta AMEX perk. It is usually the best bang for the buck (of miles) then using the standard miles for upgrade.

    IMO though, at least Diamonds get to board as PREM and get a snack basket in Comfort+ now. Besides the wider seat and free meal on longer flights, those are the best perks of first class.

  15. As I read many of these posts, it seems that a lot of upgrades go to people who just fly to collect more miles. For those of us who actually fly for work and are thus tied to time schedules and budgets, I wonder if this reduces upgrade opportunities.

  16. During my last 2 months as Gold (Jan-Feb) I was upgraded RT to both LAX (with companion!) in Jan and into LAX/out of SFO to SLC in Feb, my base. No weather issues, and possibly offpeak times helped I think. Was able to select C+ for my whole family for tickets purchased in Feb for travel in April to SFO. Now Silver from March 1, tonight flying SLC-LGB and snagged C+ for my brother and I at the 24 hr window, so far no complaints!

  17. This is so hard because for work I no longer really travel alone. One of my bosses is with me now that they have time to be on the road a bit more, but one is silver and the other is gold… I don’t want to split the reservation because I always feel guilty (the little 27 year old employee getting the upgrade and making them walk past me). So, because of this, my upgrades are cruddy for the time being. Flying alone for personal I feel like they might be slightly lower than last year.

  18. Bill from Cambridge Reply

    Grammar counts. It’s “fewer” upgrades, not “less.”

    • @Bill – Have you read the blog much? Grammar and spelling are not my strong points! 😉

  19. As a diamond I would agree with others I’m still getting upgrades but much more likely to be at the gate. I think Jerry makes good points about a lot of people not caring enough to switch but for me I flew delta 90% of the time last year. I’m not hub captive, I do have more flexibility than a lot of corporate travelers at huge companies. For me with all the downgrades Delta is still my primary carrier but I’m not making an effort to fly them anymore. I have two trips this year one domestic one intl that in the past I would have booked with delta. Instead booked with other carriers because of one less stop. So for me I haven’t given up on delta but they now get 2/3 of my business as opposed to 90%

  20. Actually I am getting more 5 day upgrades than last year. Platinum both years but -0- 5 days last year & 100% 5 days this year. I did just buy my wife (gold) an upgrade for our last flight since there is no possibility of a gold upgrading.

  21. This is probably a stupid question, but if I pay for the upgrade to FC on an award ticket will i get the miles then?

    • @ttxri – MQMs yes 100% including class of service bonus. SkyMiles has been sometimes yes, sometimes no by reader accounts.
      PS there are no stupid questions! 🙂

  22. @rene So really it is to my advantage to buy the FC upgrade on a ticket that cost me 20000 miles round trip (MST_RSE) to get the MQM and miles for a ticket I would normally not accrue any miles at all.

    • @ttxtri – Yep that is why I commended Matt in the post for that part of the choice. I still hold it against him for other reasons 😉 (just needling Matt a little bit – he is a great guy)!

  23. dotti cahill Reply

    i have to go thru atl to get anywhere so that causes a HUB of diamonds to compete with not good…also getting hard to get a C+ or whatever it is called when i book a flight before i pick a seat i usually get row 42 nuts

  24. I am getting upgrades at about the same rate, 16 of 17 segments this year (DM). I agree that I am getting fewer 5 day out upgrades. I have always thought the 5 day upgrades are a result of their algorithm deciding that they needed to offer my coach seat for sale and had given up on selling the 1st class seat.

    Anyone have any expiree with their global upgrades? I am hoping to use one on the way home from Korea today. They say I am on the ‘wait list’. I can see that there are plenty of 1st class seats available but the agent on the phone says they still have not been released.

    • @Kelly W – You should clear no problem at gate as long as there is a single seat open.

  25. Going to make silver status in May. Should I expect to ever get an upgrade? Based on what I’ve seen, even 6AM Sunday flights are probably out at this point.

    • @William – I would say 10-20% at best unless booking Y class then many. As Silver I would consider C+ an UG as well as exit rows (often the best seat on many jets).

  26. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    7 of 14 for 2015 including 2 tomorrow and 1 Sunday. Before March that’s 4 for 10. So maybe some GM normalization is coming. 2014 was a fairly solid 57% or so. Flight 11 was nrsb an no upgrade their either…sheesh!
    Problem in ATL is the fact that Southwest is becoming an option now because of merger of network. Dread flying them but price eventually will become an issue, giving away companion passes, matter of time.
    SirRichard please save Atlanta and not talking ATL either!

  27. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    I am Diamond seeing a drop of about 50% at the 5-day mark and 30% at the gate. In terms of insights to offer your readers, I have an unscientific analysis which fits the facts. Originating cities with a higher per capita income see more people buying upgrades than in the past. In parallel, people flying on a ticket purchased by a corporate travel department (I bump into them a lot) were in the habit until Delta’s big change of not even bothering to purchase an upgrade because Delta stupidly used to require a reissue fee and/or refund of the original ticket to the purchaser. As I fly on corporate tickets about 25% of the time (about 75% (coincidentally) before Delta’s change), it was impractical for me.

    Simple conclusion: routes which ALWAYS cleared at 5 days have become 50% at 3 days and 25% at the gate. Quick example: March 20 early evening flight IND-ATL on an MD90. I checked in online exactly 24 hours before the flight. I was first on the list with 4 seats remaining in the forward cabin. When I arrived at the airport, I had dropped to position 7 on the list with only 3 seats open. Before the change, that seldom happened. In this case, though, it was an award seat. On that same itinerary, my connection ATL-MCO upgraded at 5 days. I fly that route most of all and have learned that I always fight with other Diamonds unless I depart before 8:00 for morning flights and between 5:00 and 8:00 for evening flights. That second leg was aboard an MD88. The brakes worked adequately landing in ATL and then MCO.

  28. I was PM last year, I’m DM this year. I’m getting fewer upgrades, a LOT fewer 5 day out upgrades, and seeing really high prices for “sold” upgrades (i.e. $319 to get upgraded on LAX – DET Wed Night red eye).

    I won’t ever pay for an upgrade, that would be rewarding Delta for screwing me over.

    My response to Delta’s #KeepDescending is that I no longer buy tickets on Frankly, I’d rather have 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points than 2 SkyPesos.

    One question: Does the 24 hours to cancel a ticket only work if you buy it on

  29. My husband and I are both Diamonds. Out of 10 segments I’ve only been upgraded twice this year. I became diamond late in 2014. As a platinum the year before and gold for two years before that, I received more upgrades. Today we were 2 and 3 for priority of 11 with 3 seats available. That was still the case when we checked in. I guess people purchased the upgrades because we didn’t get them and they are full. I’ve continually worked for years to become a higher elite for upgrades. I’m disappointed to say the least.

  30. Kent Morrow Reply

    I achieved my first medallion status (Silver) for 2015 using segments. Thus far, through eight flights (16 segments), I have received four upgrades including one out of my HUB (ATL). No ability to compare so I have been pleasantly surprised.

  31. offers $954 r/t to upgrade to Delta One JFK/LAX in June–should I take that or is that way too expensive? I’m PM in a C+ seat.

    • @Ben – You can buy a Jet Blue MINT seat for about that price in FULL RT so… NO!

  32. I’m only 1 for 8 this year. But that’s probably because all those flights were:
    1. On extremely low fares.
    2. Through ATL or DTW.
    3. I’m only a lowly PM/MM, not a DM.

  33. Wife & I — both Silvers — just went to her friend’s wedding in Punta Cana and bought premium economy tickets, which were about $250 more than non. (I should add we purchased these months before we had status and just heard about mileage runs, MS, Rene’s tips, etc). Our final routing — thanks to myriad schedule changes was LAX-SFO-ATL-PUJ-ATL-MSP-LAX. (Maybe TMI here, but if it helps with the research, happy to share)

    Of our six flights this past week, we were moved up front three times. LAX-SFO (B fare, cleared 50-ish hours prior to flight), ATL-PUJ (B, cleared about 15 hours prior) and MSP-LAX (Y, cleared at gate, about four minutes before we boarded). (PUJ-ATL was a D fare, so that doesn’t count, of course).

    ATL-MSP (Y fare): from the time we checked in to the time the plane’s door closed, we were the top two on a long upgrade list. We watched FC go from five available seats to zero. Maybe they sold those with cheapie upgrades or people already in first on other flights SDC to ours?

    SFO to ATL: (B fare): upgrade list was a cast of thousands. (Sat in row 10 (C+) of a737-900ER, experience was fine.)

  34. Delta Platinum Medallion with reserve card out of Minneapolis. 10 flights and only one upgrade so far (Denver) …Yippie 🙁

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  36. Jane Kramer Reply

    Used to be based in MKE and was upgraded almost all the time. I’m a PM. Now in NYC and just being here has dropped my upgrades at least in half. Now, I fly high revenue FC routes (LGA or JFK – PBI). Especially in the winter there are few open FC seats. In DEN right now. On teh way all FC seats sold prior to check-in. Perhaps that was due to the “offer” they had to upgrade for $826/RT. NOT. Are they even serious when they do that? Who on earth would ever pay that much to upgade.

    Anyway I’m 3 days out to return to JFK and there are 12 open seats in FC on a 737-800. Doesn’t look like anyone has cleared yet. 3 seats sold. This will be interesting. I’m not confident I’ll get an upgrade but at least I’m in C+. Btw, aren’t they supposed to pass around the FC basket now? They didn’t on my trip out here. Just two rounds of cart service for a 4 hour flight. I’ll update the UG story if anything happens.

  37. Jane Kramer Reply

    UPDATE: at t-24 12 seats still available. No Comp UG that I can tell. I’m currently 2nd (of 3) on the list. We will see what happens tomorrow.

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