RIDICULOUS Delta! $2 First Class Upgrade Buy-Up – #KeepDescending Worthy and Loyalty destroyer!!

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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.

This seat – for two bucks? Really?

Delta (like many airlines) has long tried to up-sell coach passengers into buying first class seats. This practice — called “First Class Monetization” (or “FCM”) — usually features discounted rates to entice passengers to buy-up to the cushy seats up front.

As a result, the number of seats available for complimentary, elite member upgrades usually shrinks.

We previously saw first class upgrade buy-ups as low as $10. That’s the cost of one liquor drink in coach. You can make back your money with one pre-departure beverage (PDB) in your first class seat before the plane even leaves the gate.

But a Rene’s Points reader recently hit an FCM jackpot — while Delta seems to have sunk to a startling low.

Michael Ross sent us a picture of his FCM offer. Delta offered him a buy up for — get ready — two dollars. For two flights. Total.


Yes. Just two dollars. United States currency.

Four quarters
I just want to upgrade one leg Delta. Please?

Yep –  A buck a flight!

Hi, Delta, I have a bunch of US $2.00 bills. Any first class upgrades available?

For much cheaper than a fast food restaurant value meal, Michael received two first class airplane rides.

A De Facto Mileage Run

In addition to free adult beverages, better seats, and meal service (if applicable to a flight), there’s a great SkyMiles perk to paid first class fares: a 50% (at least) bonus Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs. (Full fare first or business class tickets earn 100% bonus MQMs.)

Michael’s $2 buy-up essentially turned his trip into an insanely cheap mileage run (click here for help with a custom run mileage run from your home town airport).

For reference, we at Rene’s Points strive to find mileage runs for about 4 cents per mile or less in coach (around 8cpm or lower for first class).

Michael has us all dead to rights. His two buck investment turned into a 3/10 of a cent CPM mileage run.

Delta Values First Class at a Dollar?

I understand Delta wanting to make money from a valuable product — and don’t fault them for FCM. Delta is a (very) profitable business — not a charity.

But are they saying first class is now worth a measly dollar? (Which, as an aside, is a huge insult to the fantastic flight attendants working forward cabins.)

Frankly, why should I ever pay more than a buck for another first class upgrade on Delta?

One ten dollar bill and two one dollar bills.
Will this buy out first class on a Delta 717?

Let’s Be Fare

A technical glitch is a possibility we must honestly consider.

Delta IT isn’t the company’s crown jewel. So it wouldn’t surprise me if juuusssst maaaaybe a couple of zeros should’ve found their way to the left of the decimal point. Maybe this was some sort of an error or mistake fare?

But Complimentary Upgrades are Free!

“Delta gives away upgrades for free on almost every flight!” you may say. “Medallions don’t pay anything for upgrades!”

Make no mistake about it: Delta makes a lot of money from Medallion members. Even from flyers who obtain a chunk of their MQMs through Delta-branded American Express card spend, Delta rakes in the dough.

Where Cheap FCM Could Hurt Delta

Can you see “Two Buck Tuesday!” becoming a thing on Delta?

Complimentary upgrades are a fantastic — if not the best — perk of being an elite status holder with any airline. But when those go away because of cheap antics like $2 FCM, so will the valued frequent flyers. They might not completely abandon the mothership — especially one that’s the best airline option for West Coast travelers 😉 — but their eyes and wallets will wander.

Elite status holders’ business is far more valuable than that of leisure travelers who rarely fly an airline but can buy up to first class for a significant discount.

Give Your Two Dollars Cents

Was this a glitch? Or a cheap move to make two more dollars? Share your thoughts in the comment section below! – Chris


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.


  1. I wonder if that happened on a recent flight from ATL to Lima Peru. Airport monitor showed 9 available First Class seats with an hour to board…yet the cabin was full when we took off.

  2. Maybe, but It was more likely non-rev Delta employees. Vanishing FC seats at the last minute out of ATL seems to happen all too often.

  3. This is why a Diamond with AMEX Reserve card traveling on a GUC can’t catch an upgrade ATL2AUS. Economy Discomfort+ service was abysmal last night. Remember the good old days when Diamond upgrades to 1st would clear 5 days out? ‍♂️ And GUC availability is abysmal as well- had to fly AUS>MSP>AMS>DUB to get Biz availability over Atlantic instead of AUS>ATL>DUB. It’s like the mother ship says “Dear Diamonds, here are your awesome benefits but sorry you can’t use them”

  4. I am a diamond and have never been offered a buy-up is that because I am on the upgrade list? I only fly domestic a few times a year so most of my travel is international.

  5. It’s more like Glenn & his group need to keep their promises to investors that delta would hit 70-75% paid first. He never said how. So even $2 goes toward that load factor. And since the revenue is dumped into premium category, very difficult for investor to break out what they’re charging for an upgrade.

  6. I’d be shocked if that wasn’t a glitch. As someone who flies EC out of ATL all the time, my usual offer is close to full rev cost. But, FWIW, upgrades out of ATL are practically nonexistent.

  7. I was in FC on a flight from DTW to Las Vegas a few days ago and the “value” was little more than $2. Ancient 757, no room. Was looking forward to a rare time where I could watch the NBA playoffs. No, of course it didn’t work, no live TV. The FA finally hung my sportcoat , which had been sitting on my lap, about one hour after departure. The rare meal was laughably small and average. On a 4 hr flight, a pre-drink was offered, another one when they took our meal order. That was it. 90 minutes after the meal, I had to grab an FA to get a lousy cup of coffee. No one offered a post-meal beverage (I did not sleep on the flight)..

    Finally, I had to check my bag, and long after the Priority bags were spinning around the carousel multiple times, 35 minutes after landing, I walked in the bag office and they said my bag is coming, “It’s going to be with the next batch of bags”(?) I did get my 2500 miles for the wait. So there’s that.

  8. $400 one way is about the first class fare anyway. This seems more an issue of a high coach fare to begin with.

    If he were on a $150 fare and got offered $2 to buyup then something’s really up.

  9. I think that there is more going on here than Delta wanting $2 more in revenue. I assume Delta gets a lot of data from AMEX and is able to target these offers based on the person’s tendency to spend on luxury in other areas of their lives. Giving people a sample of first class will create an appetite for first class. In essence, it’s a free upgrade for a potential future first class customer.

    Even though I am a DM, these days I always try to book FC. On the other hand, why should Delta upgrade a DM that only buys coach tickets? That DM already knows what first class is like. If anything, the lack of upgrades will encourage that person to try an book FC. I recently flew from SFO to MSP and there were two FC seats open and 42 people on the upgrade last. Clearly, most of those people have no expectation of an upgrade, yet they are flying Delta. I recently that read (maybe on this blog) that Delta is now getting less than half of their revenue from the economy cabin. If they lose a few coach fares from DMs that decide to travel on other airlines, it’s probably not a big deal. The planes will still be nearly full.

  10. I used to feel proud to get to Diamond status, as there were some real benefits, now it appears that what Delta recognized as significant in the past is going away. They have gone from nearly broke to profitable to highly profitable and are striving in order to get to the next level. I am starting to feel that loyalty is for fools.

  11. I believe Greg (#9 above) got it; Delta’s way of rewarding a full (or almost full) fare paying coach customer. As a lifetime Gold Medallion, I would have liked the opportunity for a free upgrade, but I can understand giving the high paying coach customer a break.

  12. I feel ripped off. We got $.93 pp for Comfort+ MSPDTW last fall.

  13. Ed (Snoop) Bastain should do a video with the real Snoop Dogg about ‘I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind’, if nothing else to replace the current dumber than dumb ‘cartoon’ format seatback safety video. Snoop would bring in more people to DL than Ed, and it would be a funny thing to watch.

  14. I’m guessing he was originally booked in a high fare class, like Y or M, etc. I’ve noticed that the price of a purchased upgrade depends on the original fare class.

  15. the whole free upgrade thing in America is a joke. It devalues the product. and in turn the airline doesn’t invest in it.

    That’s why none of the American airlines are any good.

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