During Delta’s quarterly investors’ call this week, mothership brass revealed a surge in premium seat purchases. But more cushy seats sold = fewer seats for Medallions to enjoy complimentary upgrades.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian noted (via Business Insider‘s David Slotnick) 65-70% of premium cabin seats are purchased by travelers. That’s a sharp increase from eight years ago — when Delta sold only 13% of its domestic first class inventory.
The airline is pushing first class buy-ups more aggressively than before. SkyMiles are treated as currency to purchase upgrades. And don’t forget the $2 upgrade opportunity a Delta flyer enjoyed.
But complimentary upgrades are a huge perk of elite status — and Delta knows it.
As a Medallion Member, we know upgrades are important to you.
With upgrades on the decline, what can help you “buy” first class seats without breaking the bank?
Save on Delta First Class Seats – With Points
There are several ways points and miles can get you upgraded to first class.
Upgrade Using Points
But like other awards (tickets, Global or Regional Upgrades, etc), inventory can be very limited. And you may spend a lot of time on the waitlist.
If you want to buy a guaranteed first class seat, we have a couple more options.
“Buy up” Using SkyMiles
When you purchase a Main Cabin or C+ plus seat for a Delta flight, you’ll likely be given the chance to purchase a first class upgrade.
Delta SkyMiles members can — inventory allowing — purchase “cash” upgrades at a rate of one SkyMile = one cent.
In the above example, my upcoming flight from Burbank to Salt Lake City would run about 15,256 SkyMiles for a first class upgrade.
Want First? Buy First! (Using American Express Membership Rewards Points)
You can apply American Express Membership Rewards points toward airfares purchased through AmexTravel.com. Like SkyMiles, MRs are worth a cent each when applied to airline ticket purchases. If you’re MR points-rich and really want first class, consider this option. Plus, these qualify as cash/paid tickets — earning all applicable MQM, MQS, MQD. and SkyMiles.
But here’s where it gets interesting — if you have the right Amex card.
The American Express Business Platinum card (read more about this card) gives cardholders a 35% refund when paying with points. (Cardholders must select a preferred airline — such as Delta — to use for coach tickets or purchase an eligible first or business class seats to receive the benefit.)
A $1000 first class ticket paid entirely with 100,000 MR points would ultimately cost the cardholder 65,000 points. Again, these trips code as cash tickets — allowing a nice scoop of MQM and MQD (and SkyMiles).
Frankly, the 35% rebate perk is reason enough for me to hold on to my Amex Business Platinum card (learn more about this card).
Increase Your Upgrade Chances with an American Express Delta Reserve Card
If using cash or points for first class seat purchases isn’t your jam, remember the American Express Delta Reserve Card personal (learn more) and business cards (learn more) serve as a tie-breaker in the upgrade hierarchy (after Medallion status and fare class). My dad noticed a spike in upgrades once he became an American Express Delta Reserve Card personal cardholder (learn more).
What Do You Think?
Is Delta’s huge increase in first class sales a temporary boon? Or are complimentary upgrades on the way out?
Please us your thoughts in the Comments section below! — Chris