Delta Eliminates Mileage Upgrade Awards in the Americas

Feb 26, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has made quite clear that he wants to give Delta passengers more ways to burn their miles. Except, as of this month, you now have one fewer method of burning. Quietly and without prior notice, Delta has officially killed Mileage Upgrade Awards on Delta-operated flights in the Americas.

Granted, Mileage Upgrade Awards weren’t exactly popular. Instructions on how to use them and details surrounding their application were hard to find, even from Delta itself. In a nutshell, MUAs allowed you to use miles to upgrade on most Delta-operated flights and on certain Virgin Atlantic-operated, Air France/KLM-operated and Aeromexico-operated flights.

Delta A350 Suite
With MUAs gone, you’ll be spending many more SkyMiles to end up in a Delta One Suite.

In a nod to the halcyon days of fixed award charts that were published for the world to see circa 2015, Mileage Upgrade Awards could be redeemed for set mileage amounts according to area of travel, though they were only valid with certain fare classes. The convoluted part came from only being able to use this tool by calling in and speaking with a Delta phone reservations specialist. They would look at your itinerary, see what fare class you paid for and report back with a mileage amount needed to upgrade into first or business class.

Because of this, only the savviest of points and miles connoisseurs even knew that it was an option. Still, for those reading who considered themselves a part of that group, hearing news of this cancellation will no doubt conjure up feelings of sorrow.

Get used to seeing this if you want to upgrade with SkyMiles.

In late 2018, Delta introduced a new (and very visible) way to upgrade from one cabin to another with SkyMiles. By simply logging in to your account and visiting your list of upcoming trips, you could see offers on the sidebar to buy into a superior cabin via SkyMiles or cash. This functionality came to the app in early 2019. Evidently, Delta sees this as the de facto replacement for Mileage Upgrade Awards, offering us this statement following our inquiry.

“The introduction of post-purchase upgrades using miles via intuitive, self-service digital functionality has meant we’ve been able to vastly expand the availability of these upgrades to benefit more customers.”

Oddly, Mileage Upgrade Awards are still mentioned on Delta’s support pages, but as several TPG readers have discovered, reservation agents are now telling anyone who asks to use MUAs that their only option for upgrading with miles is to accept whatever offer shows up in their My Trips page. It appears that MUAs may still be available for Virgin Atlantic-operated, Air France/KLM-operated and Aeromexico-operated flights if you can find availability.

We suspect that this verbiage will soon be yanked from Delta’s support pages.

Given that Delta generally pegs the value of a single SkyMile to 1 cent when pricing those upgrades, this avenue is almost always a terrible use of your miles. We typically wait until we can exchange SkyMiles for an award that nets at least 2 to 3 cents per SkyMile (such as this business-class deal to the Maldives), and now that MUAs are gone in the Americas, so too is the chance to secure outsized value via this method.

This story has been amended to clarify that MUAs have been eliminated on Delta-operated flights in the Americas.


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.