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My last Delta 747 flight & the frustration with Delta Diamond Global Upgrades

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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.

In honor of the final official week of Delta 747 flight(s) I wanted to get this trip report going. Soon Delta will be parking all the x-NWA 747s in the Arizona desert (you can only see this airline boneyard from the road.) If you are shedding a tear – I feel your pain as well. I just had to take one more ride on the “Queen of the Skies” and a few frequent flyer friends decided to do the same including a Delta360 member who has already flown over 400,000 miles this year with Delta!

I learned a bunch on this trip as I always do when I fly Delta including booking an extra seat. When I book or look for group / reader runs I try to find them all in 1st class to avoid upgrade issues. But clearly for the 747 that was not practical. Still, the cost to collect a bunch of elite points was low and that works too.

When I first booked our tickets the Delta One cabin was all but empty. But since the two segment flight, on two different types of aircraft, had just one flight number that made upgrades in advance hard. I should have, at booking, had the reservation split into two separate flights to increase the chance at an upgrade. That plus separate the reservation into two for my pal Dave and I as it seemed Delta started to release Global Upgrade space just one seat at a time over the weeks and months before the trip. Lesson learned the hard way.

Another issue was the day of flight. There were many of us trying to use Global Upgrades with few seats left. Some of our group cleared at the gate – I was one of the ones who did. But there were some strange IT things going on in the background.

The value of Delta Diamond Medallion Choice Benefits / Global Upgrades are real but there is so much “hidden” from us. I truly wish Delta would make this top elite perk much more transparent and allow us to search on for open space. To offer such a perk and make is so hard to use is not the way to engender long term loyalty with a frequent flyer.

Anyway, this was a grand way for many of us to say farewell to a treasured part of our childhood and years of fond memories flying the “Queen of the Skys”! I will over the next few weeks share the Delta One experience on the way over as well as the contrast with the coach flight back.

Did you get to fly the Delta 747 one last time this year? Or, do you have any fond 747s Northwest or Delta memories of a ride on this amazing aircraft? – 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. Delta stinks. Look how hard it is to upgrade. Over 7 years I have never missed an SWU on American. I am 25% on Delta. Excited to go back to EXP. Aside for Americans many faults, its much easier to be a frequent flyer on them. Delta makes everything a headache and their planes, onboard business class product are WAY behind American. Ill take an American 777 in Business Class payday over the Delta A350 and of course its way better than all DL other Business Class products.

  2. @Rene This was sure a blast – I love the group picture! It was great to join such an auspicious group of @avgeeks on this run and I look forward to other interesting adventures.

  3. Thanks Rene for finding the deal and organizing the trip as well as many other events at the Chicago Seminars. It was a great trip (GUC problems notwithstanding).

    I second the complaints about GUCs. I used two of them and didn’t get upgraded on either 747 segment. I booked when the trip was announced several months prior to the travel dates. The DM rep cleared me on the two short 767-300 segments between NRT and MNL. The rep assured me that the GUCs would later clear on the 747 since B class was nearly totally unbooked.

    Of course the GUCs never cleared for the 747. To add insult to injury, on the day of travel there was no clear information about the waiting list or how it is ordered. The delta app, delta website and airport list each showed different lists. The DM phone reps were little help. Our travelling companion who was a Delta 360 graciously let me talk to one of his reps. This rep was by far the best rep (or supervisor) I’ve ever spoken with at delta b/t/w. Even he was unable to provide a satisfactory answer.

    Still the great welcome and send off we got at MNL and the time in the NRT Sky Club made the trip worth it. Plus this year I was able to fly a delta 747 in business on three segments between ICN and DTW and once on KLM (2-2 upper deck seating) between AMS and IAH. There is an enormous difference between the 747 upper deck and packed C+.

  4. If a Global Upgrade is not available at booking, it now never seems to clear until at the gate. If then. Even though I have almost 3M actual miles with Delta, 2018 will be my last year as a DM thanks to the $250k Amex requirement. So soon goodbye GU. They were great at first, but now often just a source of frustration the last couple of years.

  5. John Hayes Reply

    My brother-in-law (@mpmesq) and I flew DTW-NRT-MNL and return in September and used our GUs. Great trip! Actually, I flew from SAN-DTW-NRT-MNL-NRT-DTW-SAN.

  6. I’ve never been able to confirm a single global upgrade on Delta, ever. I’ve been a Diamond since day 1, and a NWA plat for a decade before that. 2 million + miler. I keep selecting the certs, hoping for a miracle that never comes.

  7. Just got back from the “last” round trip, DTW-INC-DTW. There was a group of Diamonds on this flight in D1 and we had a great trip.
    On the return the Captain was retiring with the plane so that made it extra special. We received lots of SWAG including a 747 Model for D1 fliers and printed flight plans for a few of us from the crew, spent time in the cockpit and hanging out the hatch. Great trip, good time. I will definitely miss the Queen!

  8. In many years as a Diamond member on Delta, I *NEVER* was able to use more than one of my Diamond upgrades. One year, I almost got to use a second one out of Narita, but someone paid for the seat at the last minute and I got de-upgraded. (Can’t blame them for that one) But with the chances of the upgrades going thru, they have just about zero value in my eyes.

    Now, on AA, my SWUs almost ALWAYS go through. Those have real value to me.

    (Just comparing the experience)

    As for the 747, yes, I have many great experiences on those birds going all the way back to when they were NWA jets. Heck, I’ve probably been on every single one in the fleet a few times.

    I have to say, upper deck on a 747 is about as close as you will get to a private jet. In spite of AA being my primary airline now, I’ve flown DL a few times simply due to the 747 upper deck. There is no experience like it on any other aircraft. I’ll miss those planes.

  9. Global and Regional Upgrade certs alike, pretty much not worth the paper they aren’t printed on. And then there’s Shena, who was working the gate for our flight yesterday, taking that remaining glimmer of hope away by moving #8 on the upgrade list into the last open lie-flat at boarding instead of someone with a cert applied…but you’re not asking about that, are you?

    747, huh? Never got a chance to fly on one with DL or NWA, though had an uncle who was senior pilot on the MSP-NRT run with Northwest Orient Airlines — that name will quickly date some of us 🙂 — so had an open jump seat invitation waiting if I ever got my passport and a ticket, as long as I was home before my parents’ imposed 9:30 curfew on school nights. 😉

  10. This sounds like a lot of fun! I am new to this website – have been PM for many years and DM for 2018 – which will likely be the first and last time if I don’t find a workaround to the new $$ cc spend. Ugh! Someone mentioned a prior Chicago Seminar. I’d be very interested in a Seminar to accelerate my learning. Can someone tell me more about them? How often are they offered? Where are they communicated? Can a newbie benefit from them or will they be completely over my head? Thanks all!

  11. End of May I booked a flight for early Sept LGA-DTW-NRT-MNL and return and hoping to apply GU certificates. Like most everyone else, at time of booking, business class was wide open. Periodically I would check and call Diamond desk asking about upgrade status. At least 6 seats still available on both intl legs when I left for positioning flights to LGA night before. Next morning, I arrived in Detroit to discover that I was not going to be upgraded to NRT (at least 2 individuals and companions were, but as a single traveler, that’s a pet peeve for me). At that point there was no way I would survive sitting upright for both legs + face a possible similar situation on the return. So I opted out in Detroit. I was looking forward to getting ahead of the crowd for final flights on 747 but decided I couldn’t do it without the upgrade.
    At this point, I still have 2 GUs which I have to use by March, and some money (altho they’re telling me it will probably not even approach full amount, because my flight plan originated in LGA, and I took that first leg). I’ve had success using GUs before, but am definitely leery of experiencing the same frustration. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of paying for a ticket, being putting on a GU standby list and then finding out the day of the flight that I won’t be sitting in that lie-flat seat. Ouch.

  12. 0 for three on regional upgrades this year. 20 seats remained on the last attempt when I purchased the ticket and they must have sold every last one of them. I ended up #3 on the upgrade list when we pushed back. Everyone thanks me for my loyalty but I do not see if from Delta revenue management.

    • @Leslie – When they are selling cheap upgrades (i.e. under $100) it says much about loyalty and rev mgt yes! You can thank Delta President Glen a.k.a Mr. Ham Sandwich next time you see him.

  13. @rene Tanks for the info. I will definitely pencil in next fall’s seminar – thanks!

    Do all Skyteam partners base MQDs on miles vs. dollars spent? This seems like a great option to make MQDs without paying $20K to Delta but if I’m not quite ready to do an international MR are there generally many domestic Skyteam opportunities? Finally, are there groups that do MRs together? Might be fun option. Thanks again, Rene!

  14. Steve Wallace Reply

    What a great article and good comments! I started this route to manila many years ago using nwa from Memphis, never ever dreamed of status or upgrade until Renes blog came along,…..and adam and staff at juicy miles! I made diamond last year and the next and am determined i can do it for 2019. I detest delta but from the midwest they dominate, soooo ive switched to china eastern on my international segments and love it. A few bugs such as long lay over but a nice lounge in Shanghai now and a very reasonable hotel 5min walk and its pretty nice for the way lower price than delta business. Just sayin!
    Sorry i missed the group in manila, come again and stay a few days. I will be sure to meet you next time.!!
    Thanks for every blog i learn so much!
    Btw i used four global certs and 6 regionals last year, left two unused. It is nail biting close but it worked. I don’t think it will ever again on the Asia route with delta business seats cut in half….i miss my 747!! Geeez china eastern 777is half business and first class cabins, they really go after that client!

  15. Rene…..thanks for bringing this back up!

    1) Delta PLEASE let us search RUC/GUC space online, your stingy Revenue Management Sucks! RUC/GUC are a choice benefit for being loyal. Also don’t block it, we aught to be able to book a RUC/GUC if there is space available.
    2) When this new waiver takes effect and decreases the number of Diamonds lets get the good reps to answer calls from Diamond’s and get some of these reps answering out of there, they are HORRIBLE….they shouldn’t even be answering normal calls. Most of the reps are great, don’t get me wrong and have been a great help but there are some that are horrible.

  16. dotti cahill Reply

    got to fly one last time upstairs on the 747 with Nina in May…it was a fun farewell!!!

  17. hi rene, are RUC/GUC inventory searchable on expertflyer? what fare code do they book into? thanks again!

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