Free Upgrades on Delta Are Becoming Even Harder to Come By
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.
If you’ve noticed fewer Delta upgrades clearing of late, you’re not alone. As Delta celebrates a record quarter, it’s also rejoicing over a 10% increase in premium product ticket revenue and double-digit percentage increases in loyalty and mileage-related income. In lay terms, that means more people than ever before are paying up for confirmed seats in business and first class, which means fewer seats than ever are remaining open for complimentary upgrades.
This is a continuation of a trend that shows no signs of stopping. While Delta has one of the most generous free upgrade policies of the major US airlines, top tier elites should ponder just how valuable that perk is given this new reality. As the overall economy continues to thrive and Delta itself makes it ever easier to buy upgrades into premium cabins, we’re edging closer to a world where “want first, buy first” becomes the go-to mantra.
In the airline’s most recent quarter, 52% of adjusted revenue was derived from “premium products and non-ticket sources.” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president, noted “record passenger loads and $1 billion in revenue growth for the June quarter.” Additionally, Delta notched a new highest-revenue day on July 7.
In essence, we’re looking at simple math. When more passengers buy first- and business-class seats, Delta has fewer to hand out as free upgrades. It also stands to reason that the airline would make fewer available for use with Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates. Delta made it simple for customers to exchange their SkyMiles for seat upgrades at a value of roughly 1 cent per SkyMile, and while that’s a poor use of miles from a value standpoint, a huge swath of casual flyers don’t know any better.
While there’s no direct mention, one can’t help but compare Delta’s record quarter with American Airlines’ latest guidance that came before its quarterly earnings, scheduled to be released July 25. There, ongoing disputes with mechanics and the impact from the Boeing 737 MAX grounding have caused the airline to shrink for the first time since before its merger with US Airways.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees