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Do you trust that Delta regional upgrades work as stated? How do you know? What can and does go wrong!

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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.

trust works as stated

If you are a mountain climber you need to trust your gear. You need to trust that what is stated on all the different components are rated correctly and when it really matters they will perform as promised.

Now a Delta “Regional Upgrade (RU)” certificate clearly is not as important as climbing gear that can mean your life or death. But, I like the comparison because there is a ton of “trust” involved with both and we just have to hope they perform as expected. With RU certs, so much can go wrong you may not know about and I have first hand knowledge to share.

First off there is just so much we have to just “trust” when it comes to upgrades from Delta. We all “know”, from much questioning and evidence, what impacts your shot at a complimentary upgrade with Delta. We all “hope” those rules are followed. But much can impact them. For the most part, the same “rules” apply to RU certs. Like what?

Well say you are a medallion and want to upgrade and use an RU cert. What matters? The items that, according to all testing and sources, affect your shot at such an upgrade are:

  • Fare class
  • Time of ticket purchase
  • Time of RU request
  • Medallion level
  • Other tie breakers

Now let’s say you are at the same medallion level as another flyer, with the same fare class, both with the Delta AMEX Reserve card, then what is most important to you? Time of ticket purchase and time of request to use the RU cert. But can you trust this? Not always as so much can mess this up.

On my last mileage run of the year I dragged convinced bamboozled suggested a few other Diamonds join me flying to San Francisco for dinner at the AMEX Centurion and then flying back. Here is the deal. I booked first. Many of them, same status and same fare class and Delta Reserve card holders and requesting Regional upgrade later than me got upgraded before me. So, please take from this that what you expect and hope should happen may not always be the case. Then there can be so many issues.

Delta seems to have real problems if you apply a cert to one of your shorter segments, clear, and then wait list for upgrade on the other segments (one-direction of travel). Delta, in my case, had royally messed up my ticket and had to reissue it to fix it (Delta Assist in this case). The reissue was not done right and it resulted in a new date of ticketing dropping me WAY down the upgrade list. Ugg. The normally outstanding Delta Assist was kinda like (not a direct quote):

“Oppseee. Sorry. Yeah we goofed up. You are not where you should be on the list. But at least we fixed it the best we could via Gogo. So, we are done. Go away. Txs for your loyalty – sucker”

Now to be fair, after many HUCB events, I finally got a medallion rep worth their salt and they manually fixed the issue making it right. The rep clearly saw the failed steps from incorrectly assigning the RU cert to the reissue problem and on and on. So kudos to them for stepping up. I do feel part of this was due to the fact that I could prove, due to those with me, what was wrong. Most times I think reps just say something like: “there must be other factors for why you are not higher on the list than you are“. This time I caught them in the mistake.

So what should you take from this adventure and what will I do from now on? Here is my most important advice:

If you can not clear all segments at once, only request for the longest segment.

So much bad can happen if you do it any other way. Once that segment has cleared, THEN you can go back and request for the other segments. They may clear instantly or not but you can then fight with Delta to make sure the same cert (it does not take more) is correctly applied to the rest of your segments in the one direction of travel. Worst case, if things go wonkie, you have at least cleared on the longest most important part of the trip.

delta air lines says when everyones an elite flyer no one is reg new 2016 medallion program

Folks, upgrades are becoming a real battleground. There is a thread on the Delta FlyerTalk board talking about how some Gold’s have scored ZERO upgrades this year. Also in that thread, one Platinum out of Salt Lake said he had only had 1 upgrade all year. I guess FCM is really working well for Delta. Good for them, but not for us.

But when it comes to regional upgrade, I wish Delta would be a little more generous with open space as this is a perk of the elite program and if they are going to make it this hard to use and “play” with the rules, what is the point of being an elite at all? We trust Delta will treat us right for our loyalty. Loyalty, after all, is a two way street! – René

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. When it comes to Delta IT, you can’t trust anything. Customer service agents are a close second unfortunately. One might be the most well-trained, knowledgeable employee ever, while the next is completely clueless about even the most basic policies. I see this all the time with SDCs.

    I will make Platinum in a few weeks, and will obviously choose RUCs as my choice benefit, although those Tiffany and Co luggage tags are oh so tempting 😉

    Hopefully I won’t have any major problems. I will probably redeem them at the last minute, so I can have them to use when I drop back down to GM (or gulp, FO) for 2017.

  2. Jane Kramer Reply

    It is amazing the range of knowledge with Delta employees. I was flying the other day and wanted to see if I could use my certificate at teh gate — there was one FC seat open. I was told you could use them from up to only 45 min. before the flight, to 3 hours to 72 hours. BTW which one is it???? But seriously, why don’t people know the answer to things like this? Needless to say I didn’t get to use it.

    Also on many occasions there will be no sold FC seats and they still tell me no availability. Really? That is crazy. Not one????? So the percentage of available RU space varies by route — is it a high revenue FC buy like LGA – PBI? Then you NEVER get to use them. Consistency would be nice.

  3. rick in boise Reply

    I feel back to Gold for 2015 but I dud have certificates from being Diamond. Not one was usable this year. 🙁

    I did get a few upgrades though, even as Gold. (and the usual, arrive at the airport at the top of the UG list,, then end up #11*)

    ** once I was #4 with only 1 seat in FC and got upgraded (a group of 4 FC [paid] failed to show at the gate, LOL)

  4. It’s hard to play by the rules when the rules keep changing or are determined by the luck of the agent who answers your call.

  5. Trust delta? Uh no. The same questions/advice apply to GUCs too. I don’t even request RU’s anymore. What you went through is way to much work for 95% of medallions.

    Soon I expect delta will let us use upgrade certs to only get to C+ since it is now seems to be the next class up from economy.

  6. There is no chance that Delta people aren’t monitoring these comments and the threads at FT. That said, how can they do nothing and expect their business to continue to grow?

    For example, the RUCs are, at best, a roll of the dice to see if they work. Yet, they allow continued ambiguous fulfillment of the benefit. That helps no one and just creates distrust from the people who buy the tickets. The RUCs issue is just a symptom of how little Delta cares about their best customers.

    I’d love to ask Mr. Anderson, (I’m certain you’ll see this) if he thinks the decline of DAL stock value has anything to do with how the people who fly his airline the most, really distrust Delta?

    I know I do.

  7. Having become a frequent flyer with Delta this year, I realize that with or without a RU Certificate, any Delta reservation can be snared in a web of mystery.

    Next February I am scheduled for a MCO-SAN mileage run with René and his friend Graydon. On Halloween Delta sent us emails: Our itinerary was changed. But thankfully we remained on the same flights.

    Then three days later, my itinerary ALONE was changed. But for the fact that I had travel partners, I would have never known the itinerary was still available because Delta had removed it from its website.

    The fare for the flights had increased three-fold. Is that why the flights were taken from me? Like so many other things Delta it will remain a mystery.

    I got my flights back by calling the VIP line. And to Delta’s credit I was immediately upgraded to FC.

    What is not a mystery is that I’m thankful I’ll get to meet René and Graydon!

  8. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    I had a similar hellish-experience on a status run (as opposed to mileage run) that I’m almost done competing right now. About four days ago, I saw a really good airfare out of MDW for about $700 to MNL. Unfortunately, it required a couple days layover in MNL and then there was the expensive of getting to MDW on the day after Thanksgiving. I searched around and played with options before getting a similar fare with a semi-quick turnaround in MNL out of YYZ for about $700. The catch? I used 20,000 miles via “pay with miles” to bring the price of the ticket down a little. Not the greatest investment of miles but for me diamond status is more important. Anyways, I booked and right away called the Diamond Desk to apply my global upgrade certificate for outbound and return segments. No problem, so I was told. My upgrades on the outbound cleared instantly. Shortly thereafter said I was confirmed in business pending seat assignment at gate for the returns. Great. Not so fast. While checking in-flight I noticed my upgrades had been taken away. I started conversing with @DeltaAssist who informed me the upgrades on the return were removed because a “pay with miles” (full or in part) ticket isn’t eligible for a regional or global upgrade certificate. I didn’t know this. It’s a pretty crummy policy but if that’s the policy then that’s the policy. The issue was I was specifically told otherwise by the Delta agent and was actually extended the benefit. That’s a big deal, in my opinion. They claimed there was nothing they could do and that I’d have to call the diamond desk. Except I was in-flight and going to Asia, where my phone wouldn’t easily work without incurring a significant roaming charge. After crashing at the airport, I checked in for my return flight expecting my downgraded comfort-plus seat for return segments. The check-in agent told me the flight was oversold and asked if I’d volunteer. I said I would if she upgraded me to business on the MNL-NRT segment, at least. She said she would and I would get my new seat assignment at boarding. Big mistake. I should have insisted on a boarding pass. Well, by the time the gatehouse opened, my upgrade had been taken away because the flight was no longer oversold. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, if they just put me on a list in the event they needed a volunteer. Yet that’s not that happened. I watched the agent type everything in and I listened carefully as she said I was operationally upgraded into business. Once in-flight, I wrote Delta via the contact form online. I didn’t expect it would help what with the time change and the typical delay of a day or two in getting a response. Well, by the time I landed in NRT I had a response from Delta. The agent apologized profusely and said he was following my flight, also indicating I had been upgraded to business for my long-haul out of NRT. He then offered me a gesture of 10,000 miles. To end this very long story, it was a hell-ish experience but as others have said you have to literally fight it out for your upgrades and never take no for an answer. Delta did eventually treat me right, but it shouldn’t have taken this long.

  9. Hi i can see quite a few things you say and I agree with 99% of them, Myself i,m a Platinum member, and my 3 kids and wife are gold, what make me laugh is that they are above me on upgrade list sometimes? and I have also Delta plat reserve card, The most annoying thing is with Virgin atlantic, Where if your are a gold or platinum, you get an extra bag, priority boarding, and club access? Virgin don,t know the rules, and say no.I have photo shot the rules to show them, at check in, otherwise, they don’t agree, I never have any problems , but my wife does all the time.,

  10. Two weeks ago I was also doing the Dallas mileage runs San Francisco and Las Vegas. At the time I was Platinum, but earning Diamond during the later part of the trip. Prior to departing Michigan, I had received upgrades on several of the 12 (yes, 12) legs. For the others my name appeared on the upgrade lists. I had several RU left so when my name dropped out of contention for first/business class I would call the Delta Medallion desk and ask that they apply a RU certificate to move up the upgrade list. In one case the agent was new, said it couldn’t be done, and then talked with another agent for help. However when my name didn’t change position on the list, I called again and the second agent was able to make the change – and I moved to the top of the list and was upgraded. i tried the same procedure the next day, and was told she would have to cancel my check-in for the flights involved. That sounded strange, and sure enough my name did not move on the upgrade list. I immediately called back and talked with an agent who fixed everything and my name moved to the top and I was upgraded on both flights.
    Now that I’ve been home for two weeks, both RUs still appear in my Delta wallet as open. Don’t know why, maybe because phone agents had goofed things up on the original calls, or whether I just got lucky. BTW I was upgraded on 75% of my flights (and told on two legs that I couldn’t be upgraded because of Pay with Miles on my positioning flights (altho another leg on the return part of the positioning leg was upgraded). Also did earn Diamond for next year! Hope to use some of my GUs to enjoy some of the international mileage runs that I keep reading about.
    A year ago I never would have expected myself to be on the Mileage Run train. Thanks for the encouragement and keeping us informed.

  11. I am a Platinum member and I have requested to use the 4 regional upgrades on 5 flights and I’ve gotten it every time (4x on JFK / LAX). No issues at all. In fact, 2 times they did not apply the certificate to my upgrade….so I’ve been upgraded 5 for 5 and I still have one certificate left.

    I flew from Boston to LAX yesterday, was 3rd on the upgrade list with 2 seats open…I called 2 hours prior to flight time and jumped to #1 on the list (and got the upgrade).

    Happy to share a positive story here as it seems like everyone is complaining!

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