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What is the exact Delta Air Lines Elite Medallion Fare Class upgrade order? Take a look.

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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 ONE seat on Delta Air Lines 747 RenesPoints blog
Gosh I love the Delta 747 seats.

The other day, in this past week’s FAQs post about Comfort Plus upgrades, reader Tom challenged me that I was wrong that buying a C+ “W “fare (not a free upgrade to C+) could improve your shot at an upgrade to first class. He commented:

“I bought a W fare. Delta agent asked me why I bought into W since the upgrade is free for me as a Platinum. I said I wanted higher upgrade priority for first class and she was quick to call out that it does not impact domestic upgrade priority as there is still an underlying economy fare class (L in my case) despite buying into W. Maybe the one rep I spoke to is mistaken, but I’ve seen it confirmed on Flyer Talk forums as well. Worth looking into…”

Well Tom, confirmed on FT can mean a great many things and it could be spot on or it could be not so spot on at all. As for agents, well, they can often be the last to know anything. As you can see, Tom suggested it was worth looking into so I reached out to a Delta CORP company representative at Virginia Avenue (the home of Delta Air Lines) and was told this:

Q) Comfort Plus domestic W fare class. Where does that fall in line for upgrade fare class priority? Is it above YBM or below YBM?

A) We do not publish the exact order the fare families fall into.

So, well, that is an exceedingly less than helpful to answer our question. But notice what it says on (our source for the most accurate Delta information – they say) regarding upgrades and fare class:

unlimited upgrade are based on fare class families 1
This is REALLY clear to me.

We all know the fare class order would be kinda important here right? So why would Delta not publish this “exact order”? Let’s look further down the page:

unlimited upgrade are based on fare class families 2
OK, does this letter order matter or?

Well that “seems” to show a fare class order does it not? I mean they could scramble the letters in any order they want – right? So this, to me, is an indication of fare class order. Let’s dig deeper:

delta fare class order on delta-com
AH HA! When it comes to price, THIS matters!

Now this, to me, is the absolute final answer. What you see above is what happens when you go to book a ticket. Once “pricing” starts to get involved Delta gets really picky as they can end up in a world of hurt with the government when it comes to tickets and prices if they are playing games with us at any point along the way. Accuracy really matters when it comes to price!

So, by posting the fare class in THIS EXACT ORDER when it comes to pricing at the time of purchase that tells me this IS, in fact, the correct and exact order for upgrades. Plus, it just so happens to also match all the other lists printed all over

So Tom, to answer your challenge to me, Delta is not telling us – and yet clearly they are! I stand by my post that it is correct and that a purchased W class fare WILL, in fact, help you get more upgrades – until Delta tells us otherwise. – René


UPDATE: If you want to get into the nitty gritty of fare class codes and discussion look at the comments below on this post and the link to DeltaPRO for more of how it is done.


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’m a DM that flys ATL-SFO,SAN,SEA quite often, usually booking seats <14 days out. Prior to this new C+ upgrade world, I would routinely ask agents to price the current lowest fare class (not E) and then price the next highest fate class as well. If the difference on the round trip was <$100 I'd almost always book the higher fare to move up on the 1st class upgrade list.

    Now I ask agents to price both Main Cabin classes and W class. W class seems to be ~$30-50 dollars above lowest MC fare available. The next highest MC class is always more expensive than W. Delta is in fact making it easier and cheaper for me to upgrade. Because I'm taking a W fare/seat from someone else and paying less.

  2. Rene,

    It’s obviously not crystal clear either way, but I find it hard to believe you are correct on this one.

    Price out a few examples:

    e.g., LGA to ATL, 10 days out, refundable.
    11am departure: W is $457, Y is $945.

    e.g. MSP to LAX, 10 days out, refundable.
    1127am departure: W is $716, Y is $1049.

    That pricing differential is pretty typical.

    Seems highly unlikely that W has priority.

    • @Mark – Just because a Y fare cost MORE than a W fare does NOT mean it is highest priority. I am correct on this one and the post shows that clearly. Sorry.

  3. My W fare upgrades (all but one segment) cleared this week at 6 days out. The last segment still hasn’t cleared but likely will clear at the gate. I’ve never had them clear that early.

    • @CarolK – Once folks catch on to this I think we will see a great many more W fare class sales.

  4. W is not just a fare class. There are also fare suffixes that book into C+, just as /WNUP books into GAP.

    • @MrLincoln – I get what you are saying but even a 1st class UP fare becomes a 1st class fare. I also understand that they can downgrade you by rights if they need to into coach as your fare basis was not a full 1st fare. But, for an UP fare, for all intensive purposes like a SDC, etc you ARE treated as a 1st class fare even though you are an UP fare. Now on to the basis for C+ fares (see the DeltaPRO page for what we are talking about).
      However Delta works it out of the base bucket fare class, it becomes a W fare class. Once it is an UP C+ fare class should it not have a higher upgrade position than the base fare it originated from. That is it has now become a W fare class on it’s own like a 1st class UP fare, as shown on the fare order list on you see above, and thus should it not have a higher upgrade priority than the bucket it originally pulled from?
      If it is the way I have suggested, W fare will clearly always win and it makes it a huge perk to buy. If it falls back to the UP fare base code then it can be you are getting MAX perk of the MAIN CABIN fare it originated (ie YBMSHQKLUTXV in order) from and then all you are buying is the “experience” being sold.
      Bottom line I don’t think Delta is going to show us EXACTLY how internally it works one way or the other but I wish they would. Plus, when it comes down to it, and the gate agent is looking at the upgrade order list on his or her screen, they can click on any name on that list they want to clear an upgrade for 😉

  5. We’ll see if I get the upgrade on an upcoming ATL-DCA flight. Purchased a cheap W fare just to see if it would boost my chances.

    If it does, I have a feeling that W fares are going to fly off the shelves. If that happens, tiebreakers will be more important than ever.

    If in addition to higher priority, W fares also offered 125% MQMs, they’d be a no-brainer in most cases.

  6. I just flew SFO-ATL yesterday. My original fare class was K. When I was upgraded to C-, my fare class changed to W. I called Delta to see if it would increase my upgrade priority. She said my priority was still based on my paid K fare.

    • @Bill – Re-read first few lines of post: “buying a C+ “W “fare (not a free upgrade to C+) could improve your shot at an upgrade to first class”

  7. Great idea to test with a cheap fare. But how will you know if your chances increased?

    • @Bill – Since Delta is not telling us flat out, all we can do is follow what we have in front of us. But when you think about it, we all have to just trust the Delta tech does ANY upgrades as they should right? An then there is SHENA that can come into play. Let’s face it, so much with Delta we have to test and learn and try since they shamefully will not tell us the truth and the facts.

  8. On a side note, now that C- is officially it’s own class, be careful playing around with your seat assignments. I was on the phone with an agent and she changed my C- seat for just a second. The system automatically gave it to the next person on the upgrade list.

    • @Bill – Ugg. If only C+ was worth it all this effort would be fine. I really hate C+ changes.

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  10. I don’t know if my story is relevant or if I should even be telling it but here goes. I booked a 4 segment round trip flight for my husband yesterday that was priced out at $550 or 37500 miles in main cabin, $739 or 57500 miles for C+ seats, all under the lowest fare column. I booked using the miles in main cabin because it was “cheaper” and he’s a platinum so I can keep on eye on fares, etc. Before I even got back to select seats, he had been “upgraded” to C+ seats, all aisles even. Glad I didn’t waste the extra miles required for C+ seats especially given that I thought 37500 were more miles than it should have been in the first place.

    • @Sarah – If you did Pay with Miles it acts like a revenue ticket and yes as Platinum instant upgrade to C+ happens if space is open. The nice thing also of PWM over award is he will earn MQMs. But, keep in mind, PWM does not have free changes like and award ticket does.

  11. Rene, it was not a PWM ticket. I used 37500 miles for a main cabin seat ticket. The C+ seat would have been 57500 miles. But, the seats were upgraded to C+ seats before I could make the seat selection myself.

  12. Sean Brown Reply

    I too have had this same issues with where W falls in the midst of the order… I use this chart as it is an ongoing evolution of what I’ve found to be truth… Agreed that DL will never publish an exact order, but I’ve flown in a paid W class ticket and a lower medallion was upgraded ahead of me because they were in a M class ticket.

  13. Rene,
    I am sitting in 10E, a Comfort+ seat, as a Diamond Medallion who booked a W fare from ATL-DTW. I was #7 on the upgrade priority list and missed it.

    I concur with some of the dissenters that W must not give you overt priority but instead there must be an underlying fare class my very poor upgrade priority was based upon.

    • Sean Brown Reply

      @Rob — You have to look at your fare basis code. Even though it says “W” class, there actually is no such thing… Had same exact issue in May when they rolled this out….

      • @Sean Brown – And yet you are just guessing as Delta is NOT saying. You can claim this all you want but we just do not know. We have reader results that buying W class has helped.

        • Sean brkwn Reply

          So @Rene – I have escalated this with delta corp up to a director level and they have confirmed that the fare basis code designates the upgrade priority.

          I’m 100% sure your “reader results” are not correct. You can go buy a W fare and I’ll buy a Y fare and I’ll wave to you from first. I’ve spent a dozen hours escalating this with delta because I took was burned by this.

          And FYI, price out a W and Y fare and find out which costs more.

          • rene

            @Sean – Could you please email me the names and the quotes from this so called delta director as the official head of Delta PR Anthony Black is not saying this nor does show this. Again, you are just stating gossip without proof.

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