Changes To Delta Medallion Upgrades

Delta announced a new upgrade policy for Medallion members today, effective as of March 1, 2014:

Delta Upgrade Certificates

We are always looking for opportunities to improve the Medallion program. Beginning March 1, 2014, Systemwide Upgrades will be replaced by Global Upgrades (available in all markets) and Regional Upgrades (available in the same markets as Medallion Complimentary Upgrades, but with higher priority) as a Choice Benefits selection. Global and Regional Upgrades will be valid on all paid Economy Class fares except for E, providing you even more options and convenience.

  • Diamond Medallion members may choose either four (4) Global Upgrades or eight (8) Regional Upgrades.
  • Platinum Medallion members may choose four (4) Regional Upgrades.
  • You may continue to select Systemwide Upgrades as a Choice Benefit through February 28, 2014.

Domestic routes (with the exception of transcons out of JFK) continue to be complimentary, and flights between the west coast and Hawaii are now eligible for upgrades as well.

New Delta Medallion Upgrade Program

On the one hand, it’s great to see Delta finally offering a meaningful international upgrade option to their elite members, as that has been a major point of weakness for the SkyMiles program. Similarly, offering upgrades to Hawaii seems like a no-brainer, as American, United, and Alaska all offer complimentary upgrades to their top elite members on those routes. So props to Delta for those updates.

On the other hand, requiring a Global Upgrade for a domestic transcon just seems a bit cheap, and a slap in the face to Platinum Medallions especially. Delta has made great improvements to their transcon offerings, but given that American and United have (or will have) a similar product, it seems odd to potentially alienate elite members. American offers complimentary upgrades on transcons to their top tier elite members, and United elites at least have the option to use a Regional Upgrade on those routes.

It’s also worth noting that unlike the systemwide upgrades offered to top tier elites by American and United, Delta will require the elite member to be traveling on the same reservation in order to use an upgrade certificate:

New Delta Medallion Upgrade Program

Overall, I think Diamond Medallion members definitely come out ahead with these enhancements. It’s a bit trickier for Platinum Medallions, as they effectively lose transcontinental upgrades out of New York and gain upgrades from Hawaii to the west coast, so it very much depends on travel patterns. The loss of Systemwide Upgrades (as difficult as they were to use) means that Platinums will effectively be limited to mileage upgrades for international flights.

On the whole I’ll give these changes a thumbs up, though.

Now that both Delta and United offer their top tier members a hybrid of regional and global upgrades, my money is on American doing the same when they revamp their frequent flyer program for the “new” American.


  1. The YBM requirement for international mileage upgrades makes them pretty useless, since these classes often cost more than discounted business fares.

  2. You got this one way wrong. Big loss for SEA based flyers at the Gold and Platinum levels especially. Thinking of transferring over to Alaska now.

  3. As a lowly gold, I am mostly happy with the changes. That being said, I think platinum status (which used to be the go to for many) sucks now. Diamond or Gold or bust. The extra work to get from Gold to PL doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense and could be spent elsewhere and attempting to fall short of Diamond and rollover seems like a fool’s move now. Thoughts?

  4. That kind of sucks IMHO. I understand taking transcons out of the complimentary upgrade pool, but at least let people use regional upgrades for it, especially if only Diamond members are going to get global upgrades. True one could argue that they aren’t making money by giving free upgrades, but typically those free upgrades are going to the coach travelers who pay higher prices.

    That said I guess it makes some sense, getting an upgrade on the 757’s (at least out of LAX for anyone but Diamonds) was already very difficult and that probably won’t change. Also, in SEA they have a monopoly on the premium transcon market (not including the occasional int’l 757 that pops up) so presumably they can fill even the 767 with this. I could see the 767 in LAX posing some problems given that AA is still, for now, offering complimentary upgrades to Business and UA allows regional certificates for upgrades. Also, I can’t imagine there are that many SFO based Diamonds so given that the non-Diamonds who were traveling won’t be able to get to the front for free or with some kind of instrument they could presumably take their business elsewhere forcing Delta to rely mostly on people going to SFO, but I guess that was probably already largely the case.

  5. (OK, Snark mode=ON)

    Delta’s PR staff should have changed that first line to, “We are always looking for ways to REDUCE the true benefits of our expensive Medallion program, especially small ways that our semi-loyal members may not notice.” To continue,”If you think this sly change is small or sneaky, just wait until you see the major screwing that you will experience, effective Q4, 2014. We strongly recommend that you use your existing upgrade certificates as quickly as possible because their real value will continue to shrink and they will become even more difficult to acquire and actually use. We sincerely regret starting this program and we are doing everything possible to discourage its use. We hope that the entire mess is gone by the end of 2015.”

    Not so sincerely,

    Johnny Q. Screwed Up, Jr.
    Recently Demoted VP of
    Promotion and Loyalty Programs

    P.S. Don’t like the food on your Medallion upgraded flight. Get over it. We sold six seats and catered for five, figuring that one smarter than average paying customer would skip the meal. Bring your own or we may find an opened box of stale crackers that a coach passenger refused to eat.

    (Snark Mode now=OFF)

  6. After mulling over this for a couple hours, this seems kinda short-sighted of DL, at least with regards to JFK and SEA-based Medallion flyers.

    Since I am SFO-based and fortunate enough to have elite status with AA and UA , I will almost always choose those airlines over DL for travel SFO-JFK (whereas, the opposite was previously true). Good decision DL? I think not.

    On the flip side, I will now at least consider DL when traveling to Hawaii!

  7. @No-Fly Zone: Agreed, it’s really hard to see what’s “improved” if you are anything but a Diamond member. All they did was provide a perk the other two big airlines were already providing at a higher qualification status. Delta’s great if you fly it enough to be a Diamond, but given how useless their miles are, the only way I could see myself doing that is if I moved to ATL/MSP where you really have no good options otherwise.

  8. I am one of the few (?only one) who think that United has the best balance. RPUs x 4 = freely transferable and can be applied online
    GPUs x6 to any International flight for 8 classes of economy (or domestic if you have too many)
    and complimentary upgrades if any left after TODs

    AA has a big void between Plat and EXP and DL … DL?

    The only thing good about DL is they count loyalty from all sources (including Amex) to help nudge status up and keep you loyal. But that loyalty gets you really nothing much in return!

  9. Good and finally can UG to BE without paying super high fare, and this will stop many NR in BE.
    I think DL will change LAX/SEA/SFO-JFK back to regional UG, let us wait and see

  10. I strongly disagree that American Airlines will follow. Not only does it have significantly more premium capacity on these routes, it also continues to have a First class cabin that, like the front cabins on UA and DL, can’t be upgraded into without a premium upgrade instrument. Airlines have been devaluing their programs for the past decade…except American. I don’t think it will suddenly start now.

  11. System or Global upgrades are of no value on Delta, call it what you want. They have no reason to allow you to use the upgrade regardless of fare paid, because they can sell the seat for $8,000 USD to fly from USA – Europe and Back, and business travelers pay it because companies allow it. If you were Delta would you give it away? I certainly would not. They have no reason to allow you to fly free, try using miles to pay for a ticket on Delta in first or business class, so high it is laughable. The loyalty at DL works one way, theirs. Why fly them I do not get it.

  12. I was very surprised when I got this email yesterday! Systemwide upgrades with few class restrictions are definitely cool but I am cautiously optimistic until I see the inventory for the number of upgrade seats available. I am definitely very upset that there are no more complimentary upgrades for premium transcontinental flights, but Delta must be getting some nice corporate contracts. I am not sure if it takes a global, not a regional upgrade, to upgrade those transcontinental flights too. Even United allows regional upgrades to be used on p.s. flights. Yes eastbound flights can take up to six to seven hours in the winter, but I still think it is a bit cheap to require a global upgrade, other than to restrict access of Platinum members to upgrades on the premium transcontinental flights. I also think those intra-Asian flights should require the use of premium flights, as services on those intra-Asian flights are some of the worst one can find in Delta’s network. Delta uses the excuse that passengers are tired to serve really tiny meals in both J and Y. One tray dinner on NRT to HKG is not acceptable. Some of these intra-Asian flights to Guam and Saipan are operated by 757s with those domestic seats too. Anyway, we will see how easy or difficult for Diamond members to use the upgrades before seeing if this is a real benefit! Those SkyMiles management folks are very heavy handed!

  13. Please have another look at what’s happening to diamond members and how it compares with the industry. Just comparing diamond to United’s 1K you can see a huge gap in value.

    Diamond = 125,000 miles. In exchange for that you are awarded EITHER 4 Global Upgrades (presumably equating to 2 r/t fligs) OR 8 Regional (ie transcontinental flights).

    1K = 100,000 miles. 6 Global Upgrades AND 4 Regional. You earns more 2 more for every 50k additional miles you fly over and above.

  14. Before the change, I received 4 SWU as a PM plus 6 SWU as a DM. Now, I will only receive 4 Global Upgrades. Being based out of Manila, this is grave reduction in benefits. I’m not happy with the change. Wish Delta would allow GU at a lower class fare. At this point the Regional upgrades are of little value, at least in my situation.

  15. SEA Based flyers get the shaft with the new Delta changes. I travel a lot to the East Coast and my Platinum Status on Delta just got severely reduced. Bad on Delta. I’m looking to move my business to Alaska

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