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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
One of the more popular perks that come with Delta Platinum or Diamond elite status are the regional and global upgrade certificates. But if you don’t use your certificates before your status expires, do you lose them? That’s what TPG reader James asked us in an email…
I do not anticipate qualifying for 2018 status with Delta, but I had 2017 Delta Platinum status and the regional upgrade certificates that came with it. Will I still be able to use these upgrade certificates after I become a general Medallion member?TPG Reader James
Delta’s regional and global upgrade certificates can be tricky to use because of space constraints, but they’re extremely useful when they work. The regional ones will get you a confirmed upgrade to first class on any domestic Delta flight, including transcontinental flights, Central America and some South American flights, and even Delta One flights to Hawaii starting April 1, 2018. The global certificates can be applied to any destination Delta flies, but are only available to Diamond elites. Both versions can be used on almost any economy fare class except for Basic Economy and award tickets.
Unlike many elite status benefits that expire when your status expires, Delta upgrade certificates work a bit differently. Both the regional and global upgrade certificates are valid for one year after you get them, but because both versions are part of the “Choice Benefits” associated with Platinum and Diamond status, you can control when the expiration clock starts. That’s because you have until the end of your elite status year to pick your Choice Benefits, which means it’s possible for your certificates to have an expiration date that falls after your status has already ended if you don’t re-qualify.
So what does this mean about applying upgrades to trips that are before the expiration date of the certificate but after your status has lapsed? Here are two related sections from the terms and conditions for regional certificates (the terms and conditions for global certificates are similar):
Upgrade Offer: This certificate is valid for upgraded one-way travel on flights operated by Delta Air Lines, including eligible connecting flights, between the origin and destination of a ticketed fare for the named SkyMiles Member or a travel companion pursuant to the terms and conditions of this offer. …
Expiration Date: Certificate expires twelve months from date of issue – no exceptions. If the expiration date falls during ticketed travel, only flights flown during the valid period are eligible for upgrade. Certificate may not be extended, reissued or returned for credit under any circumstances.
As you can see, neither of these sections specify that you must still have status with Delta. The first one says that the certificate must be used by “the named SkyMiles Member or a travel companion” and the second states that the certificate expires twelve months from date of issue.
Since there’s nothing else in the terms and conditions that relate to this question, it would seem you should be able to use the certificates after your status expires. It’s also logical — why would Delta allow you to choose a benefit at the end of your status year that you couldn’t use beyond that date?
But because it’s still a little nebulous, our best bet for confirmation on this question is to take a look at some actual data points on Flyertalk and elsewhere, and when we do, we find a number of cases where people were able to use their upgrade certificates beyond the end of their elite status year. There are also reports of Delta agents confirming that the certificates can be used after your status has expired, and the Flyertalk Wiki on its main Global Upgrade Certificate thread specifically notes:
Upgrades can be used after you are no longer a Diamond Medallion as long as the upgrades are still valid, though non-DM-line phone agents will be less familiar with them, so they may be harder to use or run a higher risk of being processed incorrectly, so it may be worth booking your GUC flights before your DM status expires if possible.
So, James, it might take a few phone calls to find an agent who can do it, but you should be able to use your certificates in 2018 even after your status is gone. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com.