Redeem Delta Global Upgrades For International First Class

Filed Under: Delta, Korean Air

While there are many things that I’m not a fan of with Delta SkyMiles, I do appreciate that they’ve built a global network of airlines, and have gotten pretty good about offering reciprocal benefits when traveling with them or their partners.

Rather than relying solely on a global alliance (in their case, SkyTeam), they’ve primarily focused on having specific bilateral agreements with airlines.

You Can Use Delta Global Upgrade Certificates On Partner Airlines

Delta Diamond Medallion members can receive up to four Global Upgrade Certificates per year as part of their Choice Benefits (alternatively they can get eight Regional Upgrade Certificates, or two Global Upgrade Certificates and four Regional Upgrade Certificates).

These can be used on airlines beyond Delta. Specifically, they can be used on select flights with Aeromexico, Air France, KLM, Korean Air, and Virgin Atlantic.

This month Delta has added yet another interesting option for redeeming these.

Use your Delta Global Upgrade Certificates for travel on Virgin Atlantic

Redeem Delta Global Upgrades For Korean Air First Class

For the first time ever (as far as I know), Delta Global Upgrade Certificates can be used for travel in international first class.

As of September 16, 2019, it’s possible for Delta Diamond Medallion members to use Global Upgrade Certificates to upgrade to first class on Korean Air. This is in addition to the ability to use Delta Global Upgrade Certificates to upgrade from economy to business class on Korean Air flights.

Korean Air 747-8 first class

Do note:

  • This is only valid for Delta-marketed flights that are operated by Korean Air (so you need to have a four digit flight number starting with the “DL” code, and the ticket number has to start with 006)
  • You can only use this to upgrade from business to first class, so you can’t double upgrade
  • You have to contact Delta reservations by phone to apply for an upgrade on a Korean Air flight
  • The upgrade has to be confirmed at least 24 hours prior to departure, and the upgrade can’t be waitlisted, so you have to hope that there’s confirmable space

Use a Delta Global Upgrade Certificate for Korean Air first class

Bottom Line

It’s cool to see Delta expand the partners on which you can redeem your Global Upgrade Certificates, though overall Delta’s Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates leave a lot to be desired:

  • Delta doesn’t show upgrade space online, so you have to call to both ask about availability and to actually upgrade
  • Delta has heavy restrictions regarding the type of tickets that are eligible, and in this case only codeshare flights being eligible

This could come in handy if you happen to be flying paid business class on Korean Air and can book it as a Delta codeshare, but that’s about it, in my opinion.

Has anyone used Delta Global Upgrade Certificates for upgrades on partner airlines? What was your experience like?

(Tip of the hat to Eskimo)

  1. Korean First is essentially the same as Korean Business. Same seat, smaller cabin, more stuff.

    This is an exceptionally poor use of GUCs.

  2. @M – its only the same seat on their 787’s. Their 777s, a380s and 747-8s all have a proper F hard product, as seen in the photos above.

  3. 1) 747-8: One of the best first class hard products. Low density cabin in the nose of the 747. Tons of privacy.

    2) 777-300ER: Newer interior. Wider seats and more pitch than business.

    3) A380: Older product. Spacious cabin, but less privacy.

    4) 787-9: Narrow fuselage. First class cabin is nearly identical to business class cabin.

  4. The detailed T&Cs appear to specify that this is only valid if your original ticket is booked in J fare class, the most expensive one, so even those flying on their employers’ dime often wouldn’t be eligible, as full J fare tickets can be very expensive.

  5. @Guru — Thanks for clarifying. I suppose it’s likely that I’ve been looking at the 787s solely because of the routings I’d been targeting. I couldn’t even wrap my head around an extra 10K SkyPass miles each way for the upgrade.

  6. @M – absolutely agreed. Caviar, vintage champagne, and china are all fine and dandy, but the biggest plus for First is the amount of space you get. KE’s 787s don’t provide that.

  7. Speaking of partner upgrades, this is really kool. First time using a UA GPU to request a cabin upgrade on a LH-operted flight and it just cleared about a day before travel date!!!

    “Re: Global Premier Upgrade confirmation for Lufthansa Flight 7xx (ICN-MUC)

    Global Premier Upgrade confirmation

    Your waitlisted upgrade request has cleared. The upgraded cabin, Lufthansa , will now be reflected when you view the reservation on the Lufthansa website.

    Please note: Canceling or changing your reservation will cancel the upgrade and initiate a re-deposit of the withdrawn Global Premier Upgrade(s) into the original MileagePlus® account”

  8. Never able to use my GUC’s with AF or KLM! On KLM we paid for premium economy but got demoted to the cattle car Theu do not treat DL elites as well as Delta treats them

  9. Takes a special kind of pathos to derail a thread to make it all about you when it’s off topic and nobody cares

    (and 60 year olds have no business using the phrase “kool”)

  10. When DL DMs experience true international first class on Korean Air, they will understand that Delta calling its business class DeltaOne (like it was first class) is a joke. You can use DL miles to book a business class ticket on China Southern or China Eastern and on domestic flights within China the business class award will put you in a first class suite on the planes so equipped. Those domestic flights will be international first class lite because the routes are shorter, but the automatic upgrade has come in handy on several three-hour flights on CZ between Guangzhou and Beijing.

  11. I have the opposite need. Does anyone know: Are you able to use Korean miles to upgrade a Delta-operated flight on Korean issued ticket stock with a Korean flight number? If so, is there any easy way to know if the upgrade space is available or when it typically becomes available? I have an flight book ATL-ICN-KUL booked through Korean but in Delta Premium Select but would love to upgrade to business.

  12. For popular destinations on Delta Global Upgrades are practically impossible to book with the help of the Diamond line. I am wait-listed on LAX-SYD during November in Delta One. Two Delta people on the Diamond lines and two other representatives on the same line gave me conflicting information –I do not know who to believe? On Flights 41 & 40 Delta Select is available for Upgrade but Delta One can only be wait-listed. I was told conflicting information if I book Delta Select and request to go on the Delta Upgrade List to Delta One it will require 2 certificates on each flight! Two other agents told me NO that only ONE certificate is required for each segment. I do not know who to trust. I am gambling thus far with my name on the Wait List for Delta One. Has anyone else experienced this?

  13. @Mike Nottinger

    Your GUC is used when you have been cleared for any upgrade.

    So from Economy if you clear for Premium Select that is 1 cert used. You can still waitlist for Delta One, which will cost you another 1 cert if get upgraded again.
    So from Economy if you want to use only 1 cert, you must not upgrade to Premium Select but only straight for Delta One.

    But according to your words, you paid for Premium Select thus if you get upgraded to Delta you will be using just 1 cert.

    GUC this year is still day of departure gamble. Next year when most Diamonds can’t spend their way up on MQD waivers, situation might change.

  14. Fortunately, most people understand (a) that the value of a discussion board of this type is increased when the conversation is broadened to include features or offers from competing programs; (b) that it is inevitable that most people will post about their own experiences; and (c) that it is not anyone’s problem if some unhinged posters cannot chew and walk at the same time and are easily confused when a discussion is broadened.

    *Speaking of premium cabins perks*, cheers from the brand new Asiana Business Lounge ‘West’ in Terminal 1 at ICN!

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