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I wish I could understand the crazy alchemy of Delta Global upgrade certs & REV MGT!

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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.

i am able to pick seats in Delta ONE once my GU cert clears

I can think of no better way to burn up a few Delta Global Upgrade (GU) certs than flying all the way to Japan in Delta ONE with a great frequent flyer friend! Oh, on top of that I am using them on a ~$400 “attack fare” and will, upon landing back in Detroit on a 747, just have crossed 1 million lifetime miles with Northwest and Delta Air Lines. Yeah, even I am kinda jealous of myself and I am the one doing it! 😉

When I booked the flights there were no GU spots on anything and I mean anything. I checked flight after flight after flight for even one open seat and got nada, zip & diddly. So, I picked the flights for the most MQMs and the best route plus time and product. After booking I requested my upgrades and waited.

I would love to truly understand the logic from the mothership about how they are currently allocating GU space. I spoke to some sources about the process and it really is a bit of a mystery even to those who know, that is, does it happen on one certain day of the week or is it somehow related to some time table or some other equation as to sold seats in Delta ONE (D1) or coach? Yes, I think comparing it to medieval alchemy is a fair comparison.

777 BE seats ATL-LAX MEGADeltaMR Delta Points blog
This will be my seat for 14 hours

Take for example the screen shot at the top of this post. Our flights to Japan are on a 777 and not really my favorite product that Delta has (actually one of my least favorite in the fleet) but so much better than ANY coach seat for 14 hours in the air so I am in no way complaining that my GU has cleared on our outbound segments. But this flight had just about half of the D1 seats already gone when our GUs cleared.

delta 747 exit row seats SeatGuru
Photo credit Delta 747

Compare this to our return, just a few days after the outbound legs, that has only a handful of seats sold of the 48 on the 747. Again, why did the jet with so few open seats clear when the one with almost all of the seats wide open not clear? I just don’t get the REV MGT or revenue management folks at all vs the loyalty folks and perks.

For now I have picked what I think are some of the best seats on the jet, that is, the 2 seat exit row that gives unlimited leg room and no middle seat most importantly. Also nice when traveling with just two people.

can only view seats until GU cert from delta clears
For now I just see the seats I want!

But I have learned one more little tip while “patiently” waiting (no, really not so much) for my upgrades to clear both ways. I have talked about before how, when you have requested RU or GU space, you can try to click on the 1st or D1 seats. If you can select them, this means your upgrade request has cleared and time to call Delta to make sure it is correctly confirmed and you are upgraded.

error when GU certs have cleared
This is a GOOD error. You have cleared!

But this round I learned one more little tip. If you happen to try to move your coach seat selection, and you get an error, that also is an indication that your GU has cleared and it is time to call Delta and confirm space is now open and what seats you want.

The one big plus from this latest adventure is I am heartened by the fact that I have cleared at least my outbound flights and I feel my return will as well. I say this because of so many reports online from various sites indicating their requests are clearing before flight as well this year. Yes, it is really frustrating not to be sure and to be able to confirm at booking, but as long as they eventually clear that is what is important. – 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. I bbboed the $450 ORD-NRT trip. Longest routing on the outbound and a connection in MSP on the way home….. Looked pretty bleak on the seat maps, but miraculously both cleared yesterday about 2 weeks out.

    • @Cliburn – Sweet and thanks for data point. I am getting many telling me updates just like yours. Enjoy!

  2. Perhaps because there people like my colleague who works in the legal department for a global auto supplier in the Detroit-area and can expense last-minute $12,000 business-class airfares on Delta from Detroit to Tokyo and Seoul.

    • @Ed – That could do it. They sure are not buying in advance as cabin is all but empty.

  3. Not sure if this is true, but I heard that every time Rev Mgmt sees a complaint about no GU space on the blogs or FT, they actually take away seats from inventory…?

    Kidding, of course.

    Ed wins the prize, here.

  4. I really hope your upgrades clear! That is great since I am looking at sea-hkg this next week in the middle bulkhead seat. UGGGHH! I may offer the aisle seat person $40 to switch with me!

    With your trip in mind how far out will it be before you can choose your meals? Do you think there will be an inexpensive offer to upgrade to FC when you check in?

    Keep up relaying all of these tips!

  5. René, congratulations on reaching 1 Million Miles!

    You’ve gone a million miles
    How far’d you get?
    To that place where you can’t remember
    And you can’t forget.
    Bruce Springsteen
    Secret Garden

  6. @Rene – that is freaking awesome! How many months out are your trips? I’m looking at some flights in November and don’t want to select my DM choice benefits until I absolutely have to – ideally sometime this fall.

    • @FLN – Smart to wait until you MUST choose as your 12 month exp clock starts the day you pick.

  7. It’s really annoying. “Choice” benefits were intended as a “gift” but it’s more like begging. My DTW-PVG last week had 10 of 40 D1 seats wide open for weeks, but still didn’t clear until one hour before departure. When the FA came around to introduce herself she was like “oh you’re not on my list, you must be a free last minute upgrade”.

    • @Jim A – Yes, like hotels, loyalty should not be a “beg gift”. You have earned your benefits by your loyalty and loyalty $$$$$

  8. I have said this before, but I want to put the theory out here again. Upgrades, in advance of “at the gate” have nothing to do with how many seats are available in 1st class. It is all about how many seats they have in coach. How badly does Delta want to sell the coach seat that you are occupying ?

  9. Rob Willie Reply

    I’m writing tonight from Tokyo, from the Hyatt Regency using my two free nights from the Hyatt Chase offer. No problem whatsoever applying my Globals at booking – over & back on the top deck 747. In fact, I’ve never had a problem applying Globals. I’ve been up front to Oslo, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Dublin – all with GU.

    You may have better success after a million miles or two. Delta can do no wrong in my book. I’ve never made a complaint or taken miles that were not flown.

  10. Clarence Ing Reply

    Congratulations on reaching 1 MM and your thoughts about GU. Very interesting in how seats are allocated. I have no idea. Made MR end of Jan with my wife SFO ATL NRT SIN NRT JFK SFO and requested UG but got them only part of the time. NRT SIN on outbound leg and NRT JFK leg and one of us got JFK SFO UG. I am DM 2.2 MM and wife is PM 1.2 mm and we used for 4 GU but they only charged us for 2 and we did get the UG SFO ATL at beginning of MR. Am using GU for Apr 18-21 SFO JFK NRT SIN NRT JFK SFO and have received confirmation of JFK NRT NRT JFK leg which are longest and am waitlisted on other legs but realistically have a pretty good chance of getting UG as there is still a lot of space available on the other legs. Will just have to see how it goes. That run is worth 25,318 MQM . Am currently in UK and requested use of GU cents from DL here in UK but was told I would have to call DM desk in US and they couldn’t help. Was told to use Skype which I have so made the call and Michelle at DM desk applied cents and confirmed what I have posted above. One experience on earlier MR in Jan. They had my food request on ATL NRT but couldn’t find it, they found request for my wife and on NRT JFK leg IFE and lights didn’t work for my wife in 2B, was later compensated $200 TV or 20,000 RDM. Took TV to spend on other flights. My IFE didn’t work and they only gave me $100 TV, my wife made request later and got $200 will have to see if they will “UG” mine request to $200. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Thanks for your blog. I also enjoy John Delta and his laptop travel. Blessings to you and all your readers. Clarence

  11. Dale Williams Reply

    A gift is a gift. Gifts are not earned. I wonder if ‘these se are my rights’ attitudes of the heavy hitters get under the skin with staff at Delta?

  12. Ken Krause Reply

    Delta needs to come clean about this. First, American gives their top tier fliers 8 upgrades, not 4.

    Secondly, I was #1 of 3 for days with 3 seats available. As I walked to board I was suddenly 3 with 1 available and was told it was a glitch. Not sure how I go from 1 to 3 on 5 minutes before boarding, but as a 1M miler and Diamond I’ve found the certs useless and the people at the desk less than useless when it comes to explaining how it works. They need to come clean – it shouldn’t be a mystery

  13. Rene:

    I’m curious about how revenue management releases seats for global upgrades. I’m booked on JFK-TLV in about seven weeks and there are 22 J on the outbound and 12 on the return. Is there a schedule by which they release seats? Should I be checking every Wednesday or Thursday or whenever? Or is it more random? I’m hoping to clear before the day of travel.


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