How I used SkyMiles to upgrade my Paris flight from coach to Delta One
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.).
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
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:
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. No annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. $250 annual fee. (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. $250 annual fee (see rates and fees)
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
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 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in the first six months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit. 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).
Related: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value
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