My First EVER Experience Redeeming Delta Global Upgrade on a SkyMiles Award Ticket!

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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.

The recent Delta KEEP CLIMBING Diamond and Platinum Medallion perk change is a real stunner! Chris highlighted the news here with the long-time begged-for change from Delta to allow us to search for Regional and Global upgrade space on Well done, Delta – simply well done (and about time).

Speaking of time…

I really wish Delta had done this or told us about this coming change before the end of January. I freely admit I would have picked Global Upgrades vs. all SkyMiles as my 2020 Medallion Choice Benefit had I known this was on the way. Then again, at that point, it looked like my chance to get a COVID-19 vaccination was maybe sometime this summer soonest. But now it will happen in less than two weeks (yeah me)!

Anyway – back to my first ever booking experience with the new rules.

Delta, as you can see from the SkyMiles news updates page on, has in black and white the updated info. But the info is not everywhere yet — so I was a bit anxious about how the booking would go. After all the T&C for the Global UG certs still say:

But I was hoping that the Delta Medallion phone rep would have better info than the above screenshots of the published cert rules.

I am planning, now that I will have my COVID shots done and max protection by early May, to visit Europe in the fall. My wife loves to be able to sleep flat traveling over the water. We found the perfect flights, after using the new data to show upgrade cert space was OPEN, and were able to book coach award seats for 44,000 SkyMiles each one-way. Yes, there were cheaper flights but again these were perfect and also Delta GU cert upgrade space showing on But would it all work? Time to call Delta.

Unbelievably, the Delta phone system put me in contact with a Delta rep I have known for well over 10 years. He is now a Delta 360* rep but was helping out on the Diamond calls today. He had not yet seen the news that you can now use GU certs with an award ticket but looked at the rules and – as I had hoped – Delta HAD updated the rules at their end for reps to see.

In no time at all, he applied the GU certs and asked me what seats I wanted.


The only tiny funny little quirk you want to be careful with is that it takes a few hours for the ticket to really issue and be completed. This matters because if you try to change seats right away when you are done with the rep it could pop up the offer to charge you thousands of dollars! Just wait and you will be able to move around the cabin free in a while.

This really changes the entire elite question again at Delta. For now, we are still seeing SkyMiles awards a little bit cheaper than paying cash (i.e. 1 cent per SkyMile value). I do think this will change as soon Delta will, unless there is a flash sale, peg SkyMiles at 1 cent each. So for now, being able to use upgrade certs on awards is amazing and truly wonderful. My two tickets, if I had paid cash, would have cost me nearly $7,000 vs. 88k Skymiles, 2 GU certs and $11 in fees. Again, a stunning value from status!

Later on the same day, I booked another one-way ticket domestically and used a leftover ticket credit, combined with a Delta eGift card, and paid the rest on my Platinum Card from American Express. I also instantly applied 2 Regional Upgrade certs (the ones Delta thankfully extended through year-end).

Gosh, it will be fun to be back in the air and doing so once again with great value extracted from my years of loyalty and flying Delta! – 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. Chip Douglas Reply

    Just remmeber that Dr. Fauci has said it’s not safe to travel even after having had your vaccine. You can still catch the virus and transmit it to others, even if your own symptoms are mild. We all need to be responsible global citizens.

    • @Chip – I expect by fall, with masks and most with their shots, the risk will be very low (unlike now).

    • @Derrick – Gotta say I am stoked and thrilled (to be getting my “jab”). Already working on plans for a mega JAN 2022 “fun run” to lock up Diamond Status in about one-ish week!

    • @Rene,

      I ended up taking the $200 certificate as my award for my Plat status. Flying back and forth to nashville, I figure I will use that towards a ticket. I don’t think I will be doing a mileage run this year and I already have 75k mqm with carry over fromast year. On top of that I have three bogo certs that I have to try and use this year as well. GF is getting her first shot today, so she will be willing to travel in May.

      @chip, cdc announced today that those that have been vaccinated can now meet maskless and vaccinated grandparents can visit healthy grandkids. Definite step in the right direction.

  2. Barry Graham Reply

    This is a nice new feature. Thanks for giving us your experiences. I booked some award travel in first and now I am wondering whether I should cancel, rebook in coach and use a GUC or whether I should just keep it as is. Also that award travel is on Virgin so I don’t know how easy it would be to use a GUC and whether it’s worth the extra time and hassle to save some miles.

    I have another that I booked with Pay with Miles that uses 50K miles more than it would have done had I known this was coming and booked with miles instead. It’s true that it does give me MQM which I wouldn’t get with an award ticket, but I don’t know if that’s worth an extra 50K miles and the fact that I would then have an eCredit to use (since Pay with Miles miles don’t go back into your account.

    • Chuck Lowenstein Reply

      Hi Barry:
      I haven’t been on Virgin since before C-19 so I don’t know if they have our special menu in the lounge – do you know? It always made the long layover before returning to TLV a lot more enjoyable.

      • Barry Graham Reply

        Chuck, nice to hear from you (for the benefit of others, Chuck and I met on another forum for another airline many years ago and then happened to be standing next to each other in an airport and would never have known had we not introduced each other).

        As I remember, the Virgin Club Houses are closed at the moment (at least the ones in JFK and LHR). Kosher food was available on the flight but not in the airports as I remember it. I do not know about TLV.

    • @Edw3rd – Yes! That was the point. I was able to use the new search (see links in post) to find the perfect Delta One lie-flat route and book with coach SkyMiles and use GU cert to upgrade to D1.

        • @Edw3rd – Not sure what routes you are looking but many D1 options with certs to AMS this last summer / fall for example. Be flexible (like all things SKyMiles).

  3. Don in ATL Reply

    Rene, GREAT WORK! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to finding upgrades too using award tickets and GUC’s.

  4. Do you have to call to have you GUC applied or are customers able to do that yet?

  5. is showing flights available to all over Europe, but aren’t many countries still requiring quarantine ? We have a trip booked to Switzerland in August using GU (yea!) but I am worried that if quarantine restrictions still are in effect we may need to cancel.
    Rene do you share our concern about restrictions or are you traveling somewhere where there are none?

    • @Bill – I think by this fall restrictions will be largely over (or at least I hope so). I am not about to travel internationally right now or this summer.

  6. Don in ATL Reply

    @Rene, THANKS to you, I just booked an award trip and upgraded with GUC. In searching I found my coach seats on DL metal at 44K each way, but when checking the RT price, it came to only 80K RT, saving myself 8K Skymiles on each ticket. Go back and see if this works for you too. Don

  7. Hi Rene. This is GREAT news. I’ve never used a GUC before, and this is very promising.

    How about availability to use GUCs on partners? It looks like, with rare exception, the availability of GUC use is not displayed on itineraries with connections in Europe to partner-operated flights. Is there a way to determine that availability online? Are Delta reps able to find that if you call? In your experience, are GUCs useful on partner connections?


    • @Rob W – You can only use award plus GU cert on Delta flights. You can still use them on paid partner flights in the correct fare class. You will need to call.

  8. Wonder how hard it will be to book ($$$paid seats) GUC’s on AK or KLM have never been able to do so in the past

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