Rookie Sunday: Does it help your Delta upgrade chances to split a reservation in 2018?

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a regular feature on the Renés Points blog. This blog 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 featured topic.

Is it wise to split in 2018?

NO(-ish)! Saved you a click then? Is this the shortest post in history since you mostly have your answer? Well maybe, but do notice I added “ish” on the end of my NO answer. Thus I still think you rookie elites can read on a bit so you know what I am talking about because I can PROMISE you that medallion reps will many times give you bad information when it comes to elite “+1” upgrades. Also, you and I need to know the facts as well as some strategies to help you use this rule to get more upgrades for you and the one with you on the same reservation.

First the rule (as of this post date anyway). If you have two people on the same reservation or PNR (key part, btw) then the two of you should both enjoy the same status level for the flight, that is, the elite level as well as all the other bits that have a huge impact on your shot at an upgrade starting at 5 days preflight as well as where you are on the list the day of flight if you did not clear before the check-in window (much more likely in 2018 since Delta is selling upgrades so cheap nowadays and holding back elite upgrades).

So let’s get the simple one out of the way: is there now any advantage for one person to get an upgrade by splitting the reservation into 2? Will this, as it did in the past, shoot the single elite up the upgrade list by no longer having the lower elite (or non elite SkyMiles member) on the reservation? No, it will not. Even if reps tell you this will help in 2018 it will NOT as it once did in the past. But there is a caveat here to consider so it is not as simple as I make it sound. Like how?

There are many times at the 5-day upgrade window where Delta only has 1 seat open for a medallion upgrade. If you have you and your +1 on the reservation do you know what happens if there is a single elite below you? Yep, #3 gets the 5 day window upgrade over you two in the #1 & #2 slots because there is only 1 seat open for upgrade. The same thing also applies at the gate if there is only 1 seat open for upgrade. Now in the latter case a great and competent rep will call you over and ASK you if you want to, at that point, split the reservation and give the upgrade to one of you two (rather than just splitting it without asking). Why does this last bit matter?

Let’s say you have more than 5 days at where ever you are going and on the return the 1st class cabins are mostly empty. If your outbound reservation has been split to get that gate upgrade then on the return only one of you are likely to get the return 1st class upgrades (vs. both if you were still on the same PNR). This can be a reason to consider booking two one-way reservations with your +1 so that if you do have to split it does not negatively impact your return trip. There are other pros and cons of two one-way reservations so don’t always jump on this choice unless upgrades are your main goal.

Bottom line is while in the past splitting a reservation could have a mega impact on your location on the upgrade list. Today that is not the case and if you are going to split, it is for a bunch of other reasons – moving up the upgrade list is not one of those anymore. – Rene




  1. I’ve got GUCs applied to ATL-NRT and return for my wife and me while Rev Mgmt has blocked upgrades for months even with ZERO sold seats. I split the PNR based on a Diamond rep advising me that DL may only release one seat at a time over the upcoming months. As GUCs beat all other upgrade instruments and international flights don’t offer free stuff upgrades, I’m hoping to beat the odds that there aren’t too many other GUCs applied to this flight as my wife has no status.

  2. How about if there are 4 people on a reservation? We have an award flight booked and I can’t request an upgrade for myself +1. Should I split this into 2+2 so that two of us can get upgrades?

  3. Rene, timely post. Two of us were recently on the same reservation and flew to ATL. Upgrade cleared for both of us at the gate. For our return flight, I noticed my companion was no longer on upgrade list with me. Someone (I am guessing the gate agent) split the reservation without my knowledge. I spent an hour on the phone with a supervisor who told me there was no way to get him back on my reservation or with me on the upgrade list. I was livid. Is this true? Thanks in advance for your education.

  4. Lax-Ase 4 first seats open all week ! I was #1 hubby#2 and unknown# 3!five minutes to board my hubby got upgraded. Then the unknown guy then finally me-number 1 on the list crazy!!!!

  5. Hi Rene,
    Off topic. I’m stuck in SJD trying to get back to MSP. I’m looking at a 5 hour delay due to mechanical problems. What kind of compensation should I be asking for?

  6. Rene, does the 5 day window only apply to purchased tickets, but gate only for award tickets?


  7. @Mark – First off I hope you booked with a good travel card as some give you perks at 3-6 hour delay. So, you could go enjoy a nice meal etc (check card T&C). As to Delta, email them a complaint on If you do not like offer respond to THAT email and ask for more.

  8. What is the right way to book a ticket with 2 medallion (1 gold, 1 silver) and 1 with no status so that it doesn’t get marked as “not complimentary upgrade eligible” for all 3? I very rarely get upgrades as I’m only silver but my husband does fairly often as a gold but I still like knowing there is a chance

  9. @Alex – Put the GM and no status on one reservation and the Silver on the other for best chance of at least 2 getting upgraded.

  10. @Alex – Oh, and once both booked ask reps to “LINK” both reservations so if things go wrong you have a better shot they see that.

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