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Delta extends upgrade certificate expiration, adds online availability tool

March 03, 2021
5 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Upgrade Certificates can now be applied to award and Miles + Cash tickets.

One of the best perks of Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion status is the opportunity to earn Upgrade Certificates.

Upon hitting these status tiers, elites get to pick several “Choice Benefits,” including Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates. These certificates have a higher priority than Medallion Complimentary Upgrades and may be requested and (subject to availability), cleared as early as when you book your ticket.

The only problem? Many elites haven't been able to use them due to reduced travel during the pandemic.

Most expiring certificates were only extended until the end of 2020. Additionally, there hasn't been an easy way to check upgrade availability.

Fortunately, that's changing.

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Delta extends Upgrade Certificates

In April 2020, Delta announced that Upgrade Certificates set to expire between March 1 and June 30, 2020, would have their expiration dates extended to Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, members with ones that would expire after June 30, 2020, will receive an additional six months beyond the current expiration date.

There was no plan to extend these certificates any further since Platinum and Diamond elites would be getting a second set of Choice Benefits for the 2021 program year without needing to requalify. However, in a fortunate turn of events, Delta will be extending them after all.

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All unused, active and/or previously expired Global Upgrade Certificates and Regional Upgrade Certificates that were selected between March 1, 2019 - Dec. 31, 2020 are being extended or reissued so that they may be booked and flown by Dec. 31, 2021. Delta says that these updates will be automatically reflected in your SkyMiles account by March 8, 2021.

First Class on Delta's A220. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As a quick refresher, Diamond Medallion Members may choose any of the following three options as one of their selected Choice Benefits:

  1. Four Global Upgrades
  2. Eight Regional Upgrades
  3. Two Global Upgrades and four Regional Upgrades

Platinum Medallion Members may choose four Regional Upgrades as their single Choice Benefit.

Note, other Choice Benefits, such as the $200 Delta travel vouchers, weren't extended any further.

Related: Which 2021 Delta Choice Benefit should you pick for a pandemic travel year?

You can now search Upgrade Certificate availability online

In addition to giving elites more time to use these certificates, Delta is also making them easier to use them.

For the last few years, the only way to search for upgrade space was by calling Delta and hopefully landing with a skilled agent to search the flights you’d like. But now, you can search for availability directly on Delta's website.

Simply log in and search for flights as you normally would. If you have Upgrade Certificates in your account, there will be a line indicating whether upgrades are available found just below the flight details that lists the route and flight times.

Related: How to earn Delta elite status with credit cards

(Photo courtesy of Delta)

If your itinerary has multiple segments, you can click on the text to check flight-specific availability.

(Photo courtesy of Delta)

And while you can check availability online now, you can't yet apply the upgrade certificate online yourself. When you're ready to use the certificate, call Delta and request that an agent apply it to your reservation. You can also request to be placed on a waitlist if a confirmed upgrade isn't yet available.

If you're booking flights for multiple people, Delta will only show that an Upgrade Certificate is available to use if there is availability for the entire party. So, if you're traveling as a group, you might want to book your flights individually.

Upgrade Certificates can now be applied to awards

The improvements aren't done yet.

Upgrade Certificates used to only work for paid bookings. However, they can now also be applied to award tickets and Miles + Cash tickets on Delta-operated flights. This is especially great since the prices for Delta One or first class awards outright can sometimes be extremely high. Most other airlines, such as American Airlines, don't let you use upgrade certificates on awards. Just note that basic economy fares are still excluded.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Delta

Bottom line

Delta's good news today is that it is extending Upgrade Certificates and now allows you to search upgrade availability online. Plus, you can now use the certificates on award and Miles + Cash bookings. Overall, this is great news for Delta Platinum and Diamond members looking to maximize their coveted certificates.

This isn't the only positive development for Upgrade Certificates in recent months. Back in October, Delta also made Global Upgrade Certificates more valuable for partner flights. All told, Delta elites are well-positioned for a hopeful return to the skies in 2021.

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

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  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
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