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Last-minute Delta elite status tip: Upgrade existing flights to earn more MQDs

Nov. 16, 2022
3 min read
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Last-minute Delta elite status tip: Upgrade existing flights to earn more MQDs
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Delta elite members, your elite year ends Dec. 31.

This means there's little time left to plan a last-minute Medallion Qualification Dollar run to keep or upgrade your elite status. But even that might not be possible depending on how packed your schedule is between the holidays, existing travel and other commitments. Given how expensive holiday travel is this year, it could be hard to find a mileage run that fits your budget.

Luckily, there's another option if you have upcoming travel already booked: paid upgrades.

Years ago, Delta implemented “upfares.” At its most basic, these are post-purchase upgrades to a higher class of service. So if you’ve already booked an economy seat to fly home for the holidays — or if your company has booked you in the main cabin for a year-end business trip — you may be able to pay to move into a higher cabin, like Comfort+ or first class.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Delta

Oftentimes, the airline offers this at check-in or when you view your upcoming flight in the airline's mobile app or online. You may see it when you check in, load your itinerary or try to select a seat in a different cabin from the seat map.

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The money you spend on these upgrades counts as MQDs just like a flight would. For example, I'm flying round-trip from New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) next month to visit a friend. I'm booked in economy, but I can pay to upgrade my ticket to first class. An upgrade on my return ticket costs $74.18 or 6,900 SkyMiles. In turn, I'd earn 74 MQDs from the cash upgrade or 69 MQDs for the mileage upgrade.

Additionally, you'll earn a 50% Medallion qualifying mile (MQM) bonus when you upgrade to first class.

Related: Last-minute strategies for earning Delta Medallion elite status


This may not work for those looking to cover massive MQD gaps, but it may be the push you need to hit that next tier. Saving yourself the hassle of booking and taking a flight to a random destination while also making existing flights more luxurious is a win-win. This is especially true if paying up to do so secures a higher tier of airline status for 2023.

Additional reporting by Darren Murph.

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.