Rookie Wednesday: Tips, thoughts and recommendations for Delta Upgrade certificates (Global & Regional).

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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 gu certs terms and conditions

The most valuable Delta elite Choice Benefit

Most of us are now used to the intricacies of Delta upgrade certificates, that is, Global (GU) and Regional (RU) ones. They are quite different from the old SWUs we had in the past, but at this point no elites should have any of those left to spend so we can focus on what is in place now.

First off, I wanted to return to where I broke the news (and then weeks later other blogs seemed to just find out as well) that Delta, for the 2017 Medallion year, has given Diamonds the option to pick either 4 GU certs or 2 GU and 4 RU as one of the choices (plus they can also pick a Platinum choice including RUs as well).

Many in the blogosphere said this could be a great option, but the more I think about it the less I agree under most conditions. First and foremost is value. A GU can mean you are buying a very low cost fair to Asia or Europe or Africa and then riding in the pointy end of the jet for what would have cost you thousands of dollars (maybe even tens of thousands of dollars). So there is the simple value of the GUs. But beyond that there is upgrade priority.

A GU has upgrade priority over an RU even if you choose to use the GU domestically (yes, you can use a GU inside the lower 48). So, if you choose GU vs the 2 GU + 4 RU you are netting less certs but your certs have higher priority. This can matter for a special trip and you may personally feel “that” upgrade is more important that the possible extra 2 RU certs you could have chosen as your Medallion Choice Benefit.

Next I said under most circumstances. If you only now and then fly internationally, and live in LAX/SFO or NYC and travel between these two cities then YES having extra RUs can be huge as all elites now need to use one (RU or GU) to ride upfront.

The other reason I think the 2+4 is such a bad idea is Hawaii. I don’t go to Hawaii that often because I like the Carribean. But in addition it is because it is such a stinkin’ long way away from me in the Midwest. If I go, I want to go via ATL and the direct long flight to Hawaii and then you need a GU cert to score that upgrade.

upper deck on a delta 747

One ride before Delta parks the 747s

I have also touched on this before but it is worth a reminder as it is a mistake so many make. Delta reps are not all equally competent. If you call to have an RU or GU cert applied to a trip, after it is done, wait a day and call back and make sure it is applied correctly. Also, consider ONLY (if no space is open) requesting for the LONGEST flight. If and when that one long leg does clear, then go back and have the same cert either applied or requested to the other leg or legs for that direction of travel. Having a cert burned for a short 1-2 hour segment to me is a total waste of such a valuable perk from Delta. And yes, as you can see above, my million miler segment has cleared from Japan on a Delta 747 and I am upstairs and will smile from takeoff to touchdown. I then called in and applied the cert to the connection leg and it cleared instantly.

On to another questions that comes up again and again. What if you are going to drop from Diamond or Platinum – can you still use your existing certs? You bet until the expiration day. You don’t have to be a DM or PM to use them and you will still get priority over those who do not have a GU or RU attached to the reservation (even at the gate). So don’t forget you have them and can use them!

I am often asked if there are workarounds to allow you to use your GU or RUs if you are NOT traveling with someone. If you really work it maybe but the big risk is it could get canceled and you could end up losing the cert as well. I just don’t recommend this as the risk is not worth it. Now what can work with little risk is you split the reservation (say you and wife / +1) and then LINK them and lastly request medallion upgrade for you. If you clear and are already in 1st class then you only need to try to use one cert for your companion. A nice workaround to possibly save a cert.

Another issue is schedule changes. If Delta makes changes, and you have already cleared, you keep your upgrade. A rep may spout that this does not count but they are wrong. If it is Delta that has messed up things for you then they have to fix it. They CAN, if you push them and they want to, oversell RU & GU space to make this happen. Again, if it is Delta’s fault things are messed up then they must fix it. This is very different from YOU choosing to say SDC or change things as then you are not guaranteed to get your upgrade you had. Not to say it can’t happen if there is space but it is no longer a done deal. I hope you clearly see the difference. While technically the latter also applies to IROPS or irregular operations, I have found Delta tends to be very helpful in doing what they can to clear you if you were cleared before and had a flight cancel for whatever reason. Call this one a gray area and do what you can.

The last bit of advice I will give you is don’t wait or hold them so long that you just burn them because they are now going to expire. I personally am much more happy to be in a situation where I have used all my certs and wish I had more than find myself at the end of the year just booking something because I hate to see them expire. So if in doubt, apply a cert midyear. Just use some kind of personal rule like any flight over 3 hours you are just going to request the UG. Or, every flight with your wife / + 1 you will request them (keeping the tips above in mind as well). Just pick what works for you and please don’t let them go away! – René



  1. I have to agree with Renee on his last point. Don’t wait to use them. I almost “lost” a GU last year but burned it anyway because it was going to expire the next day. And, of course this was the same trip where I finally got my ONLY medallion UG out of SFO without really needing it.

    But the problem remains, they are capacity controlled by Delta who is betting someone will by the seat for an extra $0.99 via the mobile app during check in.

  2. @Rene – I didn’t think this would work – I thought the rules for RUs was that both the named medallion and the linked passenger had to both use a RU? Of course, perhaps getting upgraded first at the 5 day window is a way around this?

    “…If you clear and are already in 1st class then you only need to try to use one cert for your companion. A nice workaround to possibly save a cert.”

  3. Rene, wife and I hit platinum last year but haven’t seen where we can choose our gift which we will be the RU.

  4. @rene, I went into my wallet but still can’t find where they are offering me my choice benefits.

  5. Rene, just attempted to select Diamond benefits. Wanted the 4GU and 8 RU selections. However, online options were one or the other not both. Called Delta Support and was told that I first need to select my Platinum benefit. I had wanted to delay that so I could postpone some of those RUs for later. Do you know, must I first select the Platinum benefits first? Does that enable me to them select both the 4/8 upgrades as a Diamond?

  6. GRRRR. Rene, I’ve been on the phone again. This time connected to a web support person telling me that it has been changed. The website reads either/or and you can no longer choose both the 4 GU and the 8 RU as diamond benefits. Has anyone else had this problem?

  7. @Carol – This has been the case for a long time. You CAN choose RU(PM) + RU(DM) or RU(PM) + GU(DM) or for 2017 PM(RU) + 2GU&4GU(DM). Then another gift like miles etc but NOT more RUs.

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