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Delta living up to it’s promise to sell 1st class upgrades CHEAP. This is why your Medallion upgrade percentages are tanking in 2016!

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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.

delta drops price for 1st class upgrade to sell seats cheap
Delta dumps 1st class UG price overnight!

Delta is not being shy about the fact that loyalty means nothing in 2016. The promises of the past years about “more 1st class upgrades” is now just a joke and an insulting one at that. The top folks in leadership have told us they will sell 1st class cheap and that is just what is happening and it truly is a race to the bottom to ensure you, no matter what your elite class, will NOT score a “free” loyalty medallion upgrade.

Notice the tweet from RenésPoints Twitter follower Eric Goldmann. Last night when he checked a round trip ticket that he has coming up from Atlanta to Los Angeles and back, booked in L & Q class (cheap coach fares) I am told, the price to upgrade to 1st class was $210. Yet when he logged in today the price had DROPPED by almost $100. He said, “AMAZING!!!” I say NAUSEATING as a Diamond and a loyal-ish Delta flyer.

For years elites a.k.a. business flyers mostly have tolerated and not really cared all that much about the destruction of the SkyMiles program because all they really cared about were upgrades flying each week. As you can see, soon those will be completely gone at these kinds of prices. Why do I say that? Notice the simple math with help from our friends at

cheap fare atl lax rt delta mqms earned
Just compare MQMs earned!
fcm upgrade mqms earned
MQMs at prices this low? Why not!

The first screen shot shows the MQMs Eric would have earned in coach class and the next the upgraded 1st class MQMs earned for the trip (ignore the SkyMiles in the charts they are based on the OLD system). For $113 he is not only flying in 1st class with better drinks and food provided but also picking up almost 2,000 more elite MQM points to keep his status for the next year. That works out to just 5.8CPM or cents per mile to “buy” if you will the MQMs. That is an AMAZING price for elite points.

All this boils down to the simple question at what point is it just not worth it anymore, that is, loyalty and elite status. I have given up on hotel status this year and I know for a fact many have given up on Delta loyalty this year and are going “free agent” (see MJ on Travel for example). When you see numbers like this, I can see why. Delta is both making it hard to not pay for an upgrade and at the same time making it cheaper than ever to earn or keep your top elite status (confusing right). So are the other Medallion perks worth it when upgrades are gone and SkyMiles are all but worthless? You tell me! – 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. Hm….

    I just looked at my trip for MIA-PDX next month. The cost per person for the upgrade to 1st class RT has dropped from $848 per person to $777. Not worth the cost for me and my son. For $113, I would jump on it (Sorry René), but since I only paid $224 a ticket, it would have been worth it.

    I wonder if it would count as a “fee” or additional expense on DL and be part of my Plat Amex $200 airline allowance…


  2. Don in ATL Reply

    A by product of this selling upgrades is that it is very difficult to use (for DM’s) your GUC’s and RUC’s. I wanted to use a GUC to go to Asia. I had the DM rep on the phone look at a whole year’s worth of flights, and there were no seats available for me to use the GUC to Asia. And we looked all the way up to 330 days out. RUC’s are very difficult to use too. I booked a trip to SEA in January for August. I wanted to apply the RUC to get the immediate upgrade. No upgrade seats on any flight on the days I wanted to go — even though the forward cabins were EMPTY. They give these GUC and RUC certificates to their very best customers. One would think that they would make these certificates useable on almost any flight the DM member wants to use it on. Loyalty is not reciprocal.

  3. What would another perk be?

    C+? Waitlisted at best.

    GUC/RUC? Waitlisted or not available if seats are sold out.

    Board first? I got Delta AMEX.

    Skyclub? Still need to pay to bring my wife.

    Medallion upgrades? Down to 60% as a DM in a race to 0%

    Come to think of it, I did get a Tumi bag for MMer. Well, there’s your perk René. Better hurry up and get there before it turns into 5 HOOU certs.

    • @Dr. John – Well when you put it that way, I guess it is time to go hibernate for a few years and the economy turns and jets are 50% empty and see how the current Delta strategy is working then. Then again, by then, all the current MGT will be long gone with huge bonus $$$ in hand. 🙁

  4. @Rene – here are some interesting datapoints: I’ve been flying MSP-MIA half dozen times this year – M-F, full flights. Upgrades (if any) come minutes before boarding (I’m a DM).

    For last week’s trip, my upgrades came at the 5 day window – for both flights! This hasn’t happened for a long, long time. Still full flights – this is spring break time. I have a couple more trips in the next 3 weeks – both MSP-FLL – we’ll see how it goes.

  5. Santastico Reply

    They are shooting themselves on their foot. This is a short term thinking of making profits as much as they can but pissing loyal customers off. If you look at the economy history there will be a new bad cycle and when that comes and their jets are empty people will remember how they were treated. As I said before, people like me that fly over 100k miles per year CANNOT pay for upgrade. It is a corporate policy so no matter how cheap it is I cannot buy it. Thus, as a loyal customer I expect to have the chance to be upgraded but if that is taken I will take my business elsewhere. Delta is charging e $1200 to fly MSP-OMA-MSP. I have other cheaper options and will start taking my “loyalty” to another place.

  6. If i opt to pay for First/Biz class. which Fare class will I get? Can I automatically assume 150% MQM? how about if I’m originally booked in E class?

    • @RT – You get the bonus for fare class but I do not think E class is upgrade-able this way.

  7. Because I climbed the Medallion ladder from Silver to Diamond in just the past 16 months I’m not qualified to comment on changes in the frequency of upgrades. And sadly, I also have little experience in the luxury of collecting Sky Miles based solely on miles flown.

    I will be flying 20% more this year than last – 3.5K miles per week. For pleasure. On my own nickel.

    I am DM until Feb 2018 but if things don’t improve I will end my relationship with Delta along with my Am Ex Delta Reserve Card for two reasons:

    1. Measured in CPM, Delta just raised its ticket prices by 59% on the route that I travel. I’m glad I booked all of my trips before the increase.

    2. I can no longer choose C+ seats for me and a companion at the time of booking. Pay for these seats? You’re kidding right? Never!

    From February 2018 onward I will shop around for the cheapest Premium ticket I can find regardless of the airline.

  8. Albert Collver Reply

    Rene, sure you correct about earning MQM / MQD for upgrading to first? I ask because I have done this internationally. I received the coach MQM / MQD. When I asked Delta about this the answer was, “I am showing that you purchased a business class seat not a business class ticket, therefore you are not eligible to earn MQM’s or MQD’s, I hope that explains.”

    • @Albert – Make sure you can not confusing cash and miles. Not the same thing is a FCM fare.

  9. Tom - MaineBigDaddy Reply

    Same thing happened to me on a multi city trip in a few weeks. PWM-DTW-DEN/DEN-MSP-AUS/AUS-DTW-PWM – 9 legs for $250 to upgrade the entire trip, that is less than $27 bucks a leg. Hard to argue with that math!

  10. I will be happy when they finally do eradicate the upgrades to first. It will be completely pushed out of my mind and I won’t ever have to look at the monitor or app again. Currently it is a tease just to dangle the possibility in front of you.

  11. I hope delta reps are reading these comments! I agree totally and first noticed this practice more than 2 years ago, Delta offering upgrades to first for less than 100.00 on some routes. If you are buying your new tickets and the difference is 590.00 or 680.00, who wouldn’t just pay for first? That’s a typical fare coming into Key West. Check them out.

  12. Bill Lewis Reply

    I just did a purchase and SAV-MSY RT not a long trip but always nice to have a big seat, ticket was L @ 431.00 and $$ up to BC was 179.00 for the trip OR 20K miles RT I went with the miles I have 800K + SO I guess I lose MQM for BC at this point but I wonder if I loose MQM for the entire trip doing it this way, anyone know send me a reply.

    thanks R for all you do!

    • @Bill – If you did PWM or Pay With Miles you earn MQMs. Even if you pay 100% with Miles this way you earn FULL MQMs. The program that can burn you is cash and miles. Not the same.

  13. I trust you get the irony: The selling of cheap F is destroying the Medallion program, yet what you are most impressed with is the cheap MQMs that get you to . . . . . Medallion status! Personally, I like F/B for the room and special treatment, so I don’t care so much about the elite status.

  14. They’re doing me a favor on this one. I’ve pushed for Platinum for the last few years, and the entirety of my career as it exists now. With cheaper paid upgrades, I can pay and not rely on my status. I like this–I don’t have to mileage run, and I’m free to choose whatever airline suits my needs best. I would guess that losing a lot of flyers like myself would ultimately be bad for their bottom line (we have been known to pay A LOT to fly Delta when the other options were much cheaper), but that’s their problem. Now I get to do what works best for me, and what makes my life more pleasant 🙂

  15. So what if I can mqms “cheaply” if I never get to use those perks? I guess delta Doesn’t have too many perks left to descend from does it?

  16. I made money flying first class on Delta this month. I paid $240 to upgrade MSN>YUL roundtrip (which included lounge access on my long Detroit layover because it was “international first). On the return flight YUL>LGA, I was assigned C+ and I complained, since I had paid for F. They said it was because of an equipment swap with a smaller F cabin, and not only did they refund the fare difference for that leg ($115), but they also gave me a $200 travel voucher. I was pretty darn happy in that C+ seat for the 55 minute flight, and was back in F for the 2.5 hour flight back to MSN.

  17. Reminds me of the soul song from the 70s — Money money money money…Money. Someone else wrote it. Someone else sang it. But delta sure can dance the blank out of it. Lol

  18. I’m with all of you. Last week I flew the LAX-JFK Delta One route and the 767 was not sold out in Delta One space on either leg. But instead of upgrading a portion of the list of 15 or so people on the gate monitor, they opted to sell the space at a discounted rate instead.

    Race to the bottom indeed.

  19. I have an idea. If they are never going to upgrade us for free anymore, their newest perk for the medallions is to offer us the upgrade fee/surcharge at the 5 day out mark for DM’s and so on for the others until the day of where they open up the sale to everyone!!! Now I think that is loyalty!! HA HA

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