Delta Revamps Medallion Upgrade Program – Introduces Global and Regional Upgrades

by on December 10, 2013 · 63 comments

in Delta, Elite Status

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As a Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion for the past 5 years, Delta’s international upgrade policy has always been a thorn in my side. Top-tier upgrades have historically been restricted to Y, B and M fare classes (read: super expensive), so I’ve generally chosen other perks for my Choice Benefits options.

Delta lie-flat BusinessElite product on the 767

Delta lie-flat BusinessElite product on the 767

However, Delta announced today that starting March 1, 2014 Diamond Medallions will have new Choice Benefits options: Regional and Global upgrade certificates; and Platinum Medallions will be able to select Regional Upgrades. The big news is that Global upgrades will be eligible on pretty much all paid fare classes for International and Domestic BusinessElite routes): Y, B, M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X or V classes. They may be redeemed for the named Medallion member and up to one travel companion in the same reservation. The named member and the companion will each require a separate certificate.


New Delta Upgrade Chart

New Delta Upgrade Chart

Other Key Changes:
Complimentary upgrades for the transcontinental BusinessElite routes (currently assigned at the gate based on availability) will no longer be a benefit. Instead, Diamond Medallions can select to upgrade those routes (and other international routes) using Global upgrades or miles.

Also, upgrades to Hawaii from LAX/SEA/SFO and SLC are now eligible for complimentary Medallion upgrades, which is a nice change for those who don’t mind flying old-school business class to Hawaii!

Bottom line, Delta is making people pay a premium for their BusinessElite product. This now totally changes the Diamond value proposition – I know many people who stop short of the 125,000 MQMs required and opt to instead rollover a ton of MQMs and stick with Platinum. Now those 4 Global Upgrades, which are eligible on cheaper fare classes, could easily be worth $2,000 or more based on how much you value BusinessElite.

Industry Leading?
I still think American Airlines Executive Platinum is the best top-tier status. Not only do you get complimentary upgrades on transcontinental routes, but you get 8 systemwide upgrades that are eligible on all American flights – plus AA does not have cumbersome revenue requirements and their miles are much more valuable than SkyMiles.

But still, this is generally good news for Hawaii flyers and Diamond Medallions. I think transcontinental flyers who want upgrades need to look at American or even JetBlue and their reasonably priced new business class product, Mint.

JetBlue's Business Class product, Mint debuting summer 2014

JetBlue’s Business Class product, Mint debuting summer 2014

Other Details of the New Upgrade Program


  • Valid on all flights coded as KLM and operated by KLM.
  • One-way upgrade from published Economy fared in Y, B, or M class to Business Class.


  • Valid on most transatlantic flights operated by Air France.
  • One-way upgrade from Economy when booked in Y, B, or M class to Premium Voyageur Class.
  • One-way upgrade from Premium Voyageur when booked in S or W class to Business Class.

What do you think of these new changes?

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

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  • Garrett

    At the end where you quote the upgrade availability for KLM & AF, is that with the Global? I would be more than happy to use miles to upgrade a Y, B or M fare on KLM.

    Kind of sucks–I won’t be able to hit Diamond, so I’m stuck at Platinum. Kind of feels like I got the shaft there.

  • Michael

    I am flying to Hawaii through LAX December 30th 2013. Is the new complimentary upgrade policy in effect immediately or do we have to wait till march 1st to take advantage?

  • Paul

    How is this not a devaluation of SWU for Platinum Medallions who live outside the USA?

  • Paul

    How do you take away Transcon upgrades, especially with American, United, Virgin America and JetBlue all flying those routes? This is a huge downgrade for Delta. It is always tit for tat with Delta. They add something then take away something else. All they had to do was provide 8 global upgrade certificates to match American and it would have been great.

  • Tobin

    How will this effect existing upgrade certificates from the prior year that don’t expire until mid-late 2014? Will those automatically become regional upgrades and hence unusable for transcontinental flights? I rarely burn upgrades for anything but BusinessElite as I find as a Platinum I can typically get upgraded 95% of the time for other flights when selective about when I travel.

    Also, assuming the prior year’s upgrades do get relegated to “regional” status will they be usable for transcontinental BusinessElite prior to 3/1/14?

  • Matt C.

    The AA downside for me is that the Amex Plat no longer gets lounge access.

  • paulwesterdawg

    I’m confused on the Years/Timing. I made Diamond a few weeks ago. So, I’m Diamond in 2014. Do I have until Feb. 28th, 2014 to select my choice benefit? Or do I have until Feb. 28th, 2015 to select my benefit?

    I ask because this is the ONLY year that I may ever make Diamond.

  • Lee

    TPG, any idea on the mileage that will be needed for a transcon upgrade?

  • kimpossibble

    So, I’m finally making Platinum this year, and not only do the bogus Regional upgrades not work on transcons from JFK, there is no longer any chance of a complimentary transcon upgrade either? WTH, Delta?

  • Allan Klein

    Chose my choice benefits yesterday and DL won’t undo them for me. This sucks, considering I gifted Gold Medallion in hopes of a companion LAX-JFK upgrade in March.

  • Allan Klein

    They’ll stay SWUs with the same terms they have now.

  • Lee

    Looks like the upgrades will stay at 12,500 for one way. But, these were never open for transcon. If that doesn’t change, I think transcons will leave Delta in droves.

  • Will

    The only people who win are bargain basement fliers who a) never buy up to K+ domestically or M+ internationally and b) people who never fly transcons. If you’re a NYC based Diamond you’re a massive loser, unless for some reason you never fly to Cali.

  • Tobin

    So zero complimentary upgrades for medallions between LAX and NYC after 3/1/14, period (unless it’s a DM using a global upgrade)? Am I reading that correctly? Is that regardless of lie-flat or not? Or is it just that they still clear at the gate when not using a certificate?

    So LGA or EWR from now on if one wants upgrades from the West Coast to East Coast and vice-versa?

    Even for LA or NYC based DM flyers they now have to decide between flying coach LAX-JFK or burning an upgrade that could be used for transatlantic? I love how Delta calls this a benefit, ha!

  • Tobin

    Would also like clarity on this as was planning to fly AF with my upgrade certs as a PM.

  • Greg Degenhardt


  • Josh

    doesn’t do much for me as a good medallion…

  • Josh

    I meant gold medallion

  • Andrew Hobbs

    totally agree. regional certs aren’t much good for international based plats. So choose old school SWU’s before March 1, 2014 and live with M+ fares or something else?

  • thepointsguy

    Delta is following United these days so I’m not surprised. United makes elites work for transcon upgrades and now Delta does too. I just hope American stands firm and values their elites.. if not, elite status will continue to erode into oblivion!

  • thepointsguy

    I think you just need to do a cost/benefit analysis- is the lounge access really that important and if so, maybe the Citi Executive AAdvantage card might make more sense (though it is a weaker all-around card than Amex Platinum in my opinion). Decisions, decisions!

  • thepointsguy

    No complimentary upgrades- even at the gate and there are open seats. Must use miles and YBM fare or Diamond Global Upgrade.

    I guess Delta is figuring their elites will get used to Economy Comfort, though I suspect many will flee to JetBlue or American.

  • thepointsguy

    It certainly is… makes Diamond much more valuable.

  • thepointsguy

    A NYC Diamond that wants to confirm into BusinessElite a couple times a year to LAX could consider this a win since you don’t have to play the gate lottery for those 4 flights.. but in general for those Diamonds who knew how to Same Day Confirm/ play the system to get upgrades, this is a loss.

  • thepointsguy

    I’m thinking Delta will start releasing more upgrade inventory. If not, I think your prediction will be correct.

  • thepointsguy

    Correct.. I’m a Platinum too, but am basically focusing on AA exclusively next year because Executive Platinums have it pretty darn good for transcons compared to United/Delta

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t think they change.. so 12,500 for most economy fares domestically

  • thepointsguy

    They stay the same.

  • thepointsguy

    Hawaii complimentary upgrades don’t start until 3/1/14

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- with the global. Regional upgrades are not eligible on partners

  • thepointsguy

    And I think you’re right in saying Platinums are getting the shaft here…

  • thepointsguy

    You can use current upgrade certs for AF/KLM, but going forward the Platinum Regional Upgrade certs will not be eligilbe

  • Scott

    Paul – I had the same question!!

    So it looks like if I just re-qualified for Diamond for 2014 I can wait to select my benefits until march and get Global Upgrades for 2014 Diamond Choice Benefit?

  • Joseph May

    I’m a NYC Based Gold/Platinum. Huge loss. If I’m not going to be able to get the hope of an upgrade Transcon I might as well credit to Alaska. Flying 100% for leisure why should I bother with Skymiles???? Loyalty for economy comfort doesn’t quite cut it for me….

  • VeritasIII

    I actually chose NOT to make Platinum this year and to put my miles in another program…wish they would have announced earlier and I would have flown more on Delta. Their loss. As a Gold/Platinum…I just status matched to Alaska and am not planning to bank Skymiles any more starting in 2014.

  • Scott

    UPDATE: I just received an email response to my question from Delta for anyone else that was wondering:

    If you earned Diamond or Platinum Medallion status in 2013 for the 2014 Medallion year and have not yet selected your Choice Benefits, you will have until February 28, 2014 to select the current Systemwide Upgrades. Beginning March 1, 2014, only the Global and Regional Upgrades will be available as the upgrade option for Choice Benefits. Since you have until February 28, 2015, to make your 2014 Choice Benefit selection, you can wait until March 1st to make your choice and secure the Global Upgrade certificates.

  • Lee

    If I qualified for plat this year, can I select SWUs for my platinum benefit prior to March 1, 2014 and use them for the next 365 days to get transcon upgrades on Q or higher, or does that go away on March 1? If they work for a year, I may push to make Diamond this month, as I could then pick 6 more, so I would have the potential for 10 one-way transcon upgrades, right?

  • Lee

    I just called for a random JFK-LAX flight in March where not a single Business Elite seat has been purchased. There were no mileage upgrades available. If it stays like this, it is time for an AA status challenge for me.

  • tomg63

    This is terrible for NYC based Medallions. I’ve flown dozens of transcons in the last 5 years as both GM and PM and upgrade percentage has been at 50% or so (it is especially good when flying on weekends or around holidays). Even SM have a shot at upgrades on some flights. I’ve always found a way to fly Delta and am generally willing to pay about $50 more per leg versus other airlines because of the shot at an upgrade. I have to say I’ll be flying JetBlue a lot more because of this change. Delta will have many, many empty seats up front too.

    I don’t get the point of leaving the seats empty. Does it really cost that much to cater a few extra meals and provide an amenity kit for the complimentary upgrades?

  • Long Time DL Plat.

    Wow. Been Platinum for 7 or 8 years and am nearing a million miles, but with this Transcon shift, I’ll finally be abandoning Delta this year. AA should really do a targeted challenge. After a lot of loyalty, I’m ready to be picked off…

  • Oops

    Actually selling my delta stock. I think the elites will flee in droves

  • Garrett

    Hahaha. Thanks for the support–still stings a little bit. I already have the SWUs for next year, so I’m going to get as much out of them as possible. I called and spent an hour on the phone finding LAX-AMS flights where I could use them for next year, and even though I’ll end up shelling out a few thousand dollars per flight, I’m still saving around $1800 on each round trip. $900 for each SWU isn’t bad in my book. HMPH…

  • Michael

    There are a lot of people complaining about this change but I honestly think this is the most positive change delta has had out in years. Granted I am an Atlanta based diamond so I am not affected by the transcontinental issue from NYC and I book business for international work trips but being able to upgrade 2 personal round trip international flights a year is amazing and i fly to Maui once a year and connect through LAX so bring able to get upgraded on both the LAX and the OGG leg will be great. I think the only losers are the NYC based diamonds and platinums because they really are the only people getting upgraded on those trancon flights.

  • Dale

    I will be DM after my MCO-ATL-MCO MR next week. Planning to fly MCO-KGL-MCO next year. Probably via AMS. How best to UG? Can use Global UG to and from AMS, but what about AMS-KGL?

  • Daniel

    I’m a Diamond member based in NYC and I’m literally stunned at this change; I fly the JFK-LAX route constantly. I sent an email and encourage all other medallion members to do the same; if their best customers complain loud enough the decision could be reversed.

  • Darrin Earl

    I’m in exactly the same boat… if this had been announced earlier, I’d be a happy Diamond now instead of having banked miles as a Platinum.

  • E

    That’s great info. I just called the PM desk and I think I confused the Delta rep even more than I was confused. I didn’t realize that you had until February of the FOLLOWING year to select the Choice benefits for 2014. I’m in a similar boat to Paul in that I made PM for the first time midway thru 2013 and may make DM in the next 2 weeks if I can spend enough $$ on my Skymiles AMEX. I realized today I could choose my PM choice benefit, but didn’t want to snag something if the Global/Regional upgrades would be available on 3/1/2014. Certainly confusing and I’m surprised that Delta hasn’t put the response you received in an FAQ.

  • Seth

    Delta is going to regret this decision as thousands of regular fliers will now leave to go to other airlines.

  • jkramer

    they also shortened the medallion year did you notice that? it is now feb. 1 not march 1.

  • Mike

    I went to to see if I have redeemed my benefits yet for 2014 (I haven’t). It showed that I can apparently redeem one benefit for making Platinum this year and an additional 2 benefits for also making Diamond? (I was Gold last year) Does anyone know if this is true? I’m going to wait until March 1st so i can redeem for the Global Upgrades… I’m just surprised I can select 3 benefits between making Platinum and Diamond. Anyone else have this happen to them?

  • Carson

    Finally, someone get it. Good write up.

    Not only was the introduction of these changes by delta to members via email yesterday insulting (they suggested that they made these changes based on feedback from platinum and diamond members) but too many other bloggers are calling these changes positive – echoing Delta’s talking point that Systemwide upgrades were not well liked.

    I’m not an opponent to changing a system and making it more useable but don’t lie to everyone in the process about it being better for them.

    Forget for a second that there’s no more complimentary upgrades platinum members on premium service flat bed gourmet dining business class nonstop flights coast to coast. That’s not tenable. One can argue a case for diamond but I’ll even let that go. You want free biz class coast to coast get a connecting flight.

    What I have a problem with is that unless. You fly between California and Hawaii regional upgrades provide ZERO value to platinums. So, they lose big here. For diamonds the insult is 2 fold they are given a choice between one or the other Regional or global and the number of global upgrades is less than the number of system wides offered before.

    Look at this comparison between delta and united top tier.

    United 1K (100k miles) = 6 global upgrades AND 4 Regional which can be redeemed to upgrade on premium services flights between JFK and California.

    Diamond (120k miles) = 6 regional upgrades which only give you upgrade priority over comps OR 4 Global upgrades.

    Not hard to see that Delta is offering by far the worst value. I’m going back to United or American.

  • Carson

    Sorry but if you fly 50k or less a year this conversation is a waste of your time. Not trying to be a dick but some of us spend our life on a plane and we can use them all if we want. We choose to strike a bargain with a single carrier group in exchange for some perks to make our lives a little less miserable. And Delta clearly doesn’t give a shit.

    Now I have to stop bitching and go get on a plane.

  • paulwesterdawg

    When you hit DIamond, you should get both the Plat and Diamond benefit. I have the same option.

  • Confused Diamond Delta

    I am currently Diamond Delta. Its Dec. 15th and I need 4 MQS to Gold or 9,640 MQM’s to reach Gold.

    Calling the Diamond line they say I will keep my Diamond until Feb. 2014. I don’t understand the rollover stuff.

    Should I take a flight with four segments before the end of the year or just go into 2014 with where i am at????

  • AndyTTB

    YOU RUINED MY DAY POINTSGUY haha… I go to Seattle a ton. This is crushing… i cried into my coffee

  • AndyTTB

    Completely agree Tom – are they thinking people will purchase 1st class more now that it’s harder to get? Highly unlikely, fewer companies are purchasing employees 1st class tickets these days.

  • Kit Reyes

    Maybe someone can clarify this for me. I made Platinum again for 2014, and am considering choosing the upgrade certificates as the benefits option. I see how this sucks for domestic flyers. But what if my flights are mostly international (DTW to Japan, JFK to Amsterdam, etc…). Can I use these upgrade certificates on a reduced ticket?

    Why does Delta always make it confusing for people to understand the BENEFITS? Is it because there are none anymore?

    Now if I can use these certificates on a reduced-fare ticket internationally, then it’s worth it. If I can’t use them, then I should just take the 20,000 free miles. Help!

  • Kit Reyes

    Oh wait…I’m only Platinum, which means I only get Regional tickets instead of Global tickets so I can’t use my benefit to upgrade a flight from Detroit to Narita.

    However, since it’s technically regional, and it’s a Delta plane, can I use a Regional upgrade certificate for a flight between Narita NRT to Manila MNL?

  • karl

    anything outside the us is global

  • Don

    I am very upset by Delta’s announcement today of the changes in reward miles for 2015 based on dollars spent rather than miles flown. As an international flier, this will cut my rewards to almost 1/3 of what they are now. I am a platinum stepchild with Delta, coming from NWA. Little by little, Delta keeps chipping away at our benefits. A few months ago they announced the new MQD program. I plan to check out the AA program, as you have recommended. Thanks for your article.

  • anyaciecierski

    I just attended an interview with Delta and they talked about how they will start charging in-flight for seat upgrades. I wrote about it here:

  • Pissed Off Platinum

    I flew SFO to JFK two weeks ago. I just checked in for the same exact flight and noticed that the ‘upgrade’ list was not showing up in my app. So I called. Apparently, Delta hates JFK, SEA, LAX and SFO. As of 3/1/14, there are no longer any complimentary upgrades for these flights between JFK and any of the above markets. This means that Diamond and Platinum medallion members will be sitting in economy ‘comfort’ while 14 of the 16 business class seats sit empty.
    I don’t object to the new MQDs, because let’s face it, if you’re making gold/plat/diamond, you’re spending that much anyway. But to pick out 6 markets (Hawaii and ATL are left out, too) and treat us like cattle for being loyal is a slap in the face.
    Pissed Off Platinum

  • mike

    AA stepping up its EP benefit and marketing at the same time Delta working hard to get its diamond jfk to lax customers to leave. Ahh, I smell synergy. Do you suppose they’re actually colluding to move high fare paying business travelers from delta to american for some reason. Whether intended or not, the tactical synergy could not be better done. Thank you Delta for the clarity around how devalued your lax to jfk DAs really are

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