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How I used SkyMiles to upgrade my Paris flight from coach to Delta One

June 16, 2021
13 min read
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I recently flew from New York-JFK to Paris (CDG) to cover France's reopening to international tourists. While I booked a Delta Main Cabin economy class ticket, I ended up upgrading to Delta One using Delta SkyMiles.

Since the article published, I've been asked by several readers how I did this. So I figured I'd take a minute to outline how I upgraded my Delta flight from Main Cabin to Delta One.

I'll run through my experience first and then discuss how you can upgrade Delta tickets too.

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Upgrading from Delta one on a flight to Paris

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy).

I didn't book my Main Cabin flight expecting to upgrade to Delta One. After all, my trip to Paris was for work and it wasn't a flight review. I was looking for the most simple and cost-effective way to get to Paris on the day France reopened for tourism.

However, when I checked my flight 48 hours before departure, I noticed I had an upgrade offer on my flight. I could upgrade from standard Main Cabin economy to Delta One for $699 or 69,900 SkyMiles.

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

At first, I shrugged off the upgrade since it would give me less than TPG's SkyMiles valuation of 1.1 cents per point. But then I thought a little deeper — it's hard to get outsized value with SkyMiles these days due to Delta's hyper-dynamic pricing on international business class awards. Even partner tickets have skyrocketed in price.

Most Delta One seats from the U.S. to Europe cost 100,000+ SkyMiles each way. That said, a Delta One award ticket would likely have been significantly more expensive since I booked less than a month from my date of travel.

Plus, my ticket was right around $350. This low cash cost (which was reimbursed anyway) made it easy for me to justify spending the miles on an upgrade. I don't redeem SkyMiles frequently either, so it was nice to have a reason to use them.

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One last thing: I'm chasing Delta Medallion elite status this year. Buy-up upgrades like this rebook your ticket into a higher class of service, so you earn more Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) on your trip. Plus, you're eligible for the higher "accelerator" status boost offered to Comfort+, Premium Select and Delta One customers. This was another draw toward the upgrade for me.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Delta

Was upgrading to Delta One worth it?

I think the upgrade was absolutely worth the SkyMiles I spent.

We were originally booked on an A330-300, which has Delta's older (i.e. not Suites) Delta One product. This would have been fine, since I'd still have a lie-flat seat offering a restful flight to Europe.

Thanks to a last-minute equipment swap, we actually flew an A330-900neo across the Atlantic. This is one of Delta's newest jets and is equipped with true Delta One Suites, complete with a sliding door.

The service on-board was solid too. All meals were served on a single tray, but the flight attendants came around frequently to refill drinks. It was a good transatlantic experience and I arrived in Paris rested and ready to get to work.

Related: How to redeem Delta SkyMiles for maximum value

How to upgrade to Delta One with SkyMiles

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There are a couple of ways to upgrade tickets with SkyMiles. Here's a quick look at how to upgrade Delta (and partner) Main Cabin tickets to Delta One business class.

Upgrading to Delta One after you book

The most common method of upgrading with Delta using SkyMiles to purchase a buy-up upgrade before check-in.

You'll be offered a buy-up upgrade on your flight details page. Generally, an upgrade from Main Cabin to Comfort+, Premium Select, First Class or Delta One will appear above your itinerary alongside its cash and miles pricing.

For example, here's a one-way flight I've booked from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to New York (LGA) early next month.

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

You can choose to book one of these right away or you can wait to see if pricing changes closer to departure. Travelers with Delta Medallion elite status may opt to see if they can score a complimentary upgrade too.

If no upgrades are available, you won't see an option to upgrade.

Related: 8 reasons Delta One is my new go-to way to fly to Asia

Upgrading to Delta One when booking your tickets

You can also upgrade your tickets when booking a new ticket. You'll see upgrade offers at check-out. These are generally bookable with points or cash. You will generally see upgrades to one higher class of service (Main Cabin to Comfort+ or Comfort+ to Delta One, etc.).

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Related: Here’s how to use airline miles for a first-class upgrade

Upgrading flights on Delta partners

You can use Mileage Upgrade Awards on Aeromexico, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic flights with eligible award space. Call Delta to see what the upgrade cost is for your partner flight before you fly.

Related: How to ensure an upgrade on your next flight

Are any of these upgrade options a good deal?

Now that Delta prices most upgrades dynamically, it's hard to say if an upgrade is a good deal or not. It all depends on your specific situation. If a business class cash fare is high, but you can cover an upgrade with relatively few SkyMiles, it can be a good deal.

It's also worth keeping your personal valuation of Delta SkyMiles in mind. If you value SkyMiles at well over one cent per point, you may want to save them for a future redemption that gets you more value.

However, I rarely get more than 1.3 cents per point from SkyMiles, so I don't mind using them to upgrade tickets for a little added comfort on long flights. My rule of thumb with SkyMiles upgrades is to get at least one cent per point in value.

Related: Is it worth traveling in domestic first class?

How to earn Delta SkyMiles

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Want to earn SkyMiles to upgrade your next Delta flight? There are plenty of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, but the easiest way to earn is with a Delta cobranded American Express card. These have various perks, fees and welcome offers — here's a look:

Related: 9 Delta SkyMiles sweet spots worth saving up for

You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles instantly.

  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services), 1x points on all other purchases ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel; 1x points on all other purchases, ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

BOTTOM LINE

There are many variables involved when you upgrade a Delta ticket with SkyMiles, but I think it all boils down to how much you personally value Delta SkyMiles and the offer you're given for a specific flight.

In the end, I think I got an excellent deal upgrading my Delta flight to Paris with SkyMiles. Here, I showed you how you can upgrade your own flights to Delta One with SkyMiles. Keep this in mind as international travel reopens and you get back on the road.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business card, click here.

Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023