Delta SkyMiles Removes Restrictions On Using Upgrade Certificates

Filed Under: Delta, Reward Programs

There are lots of issues I have with Delta SkyMiles. Probably my single biggest point of frustration is the program’s lack of transparency. When it comes to the actual quality of the program, in many ways they’ve led the race to the bottom, in terms of elite status requirements, award redemption rates, etc.

However, one thing I have to give Delta SkyMiles credit for is that they do also make positive changes with some frequency. I can think of exactly one positive change that American AAdvantage has made to their program in the past few years, while with Delta I can think of many. That’s not to say that it’s a superior frequent flyer program (it isn’t, in my opinion), but I at least appreciate that they see the value in making improvements in some areas.

Just to give a few examples of some improvements, we’ve seen SkyMiles:

Delta SkyMiles has just announced their latest policy change. Per the SkyMiles News & Updates pageDelta SkyMiles Platinum & Diamond Medallion members now have increased flexibility when redeeming their upgrade certificates. Here’s how Delta describes these changes:

Starting January 22, 2018, Upgrade Certificates, which are available exclusively for Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members as a Choice Benefit, may now be used to upgrade on Pay with Miles tickets and SkyMiles Companion Certificates in addition to regular retail tickets.

Additionally, Certificate owners can now use an Upgrade Certificate on a companion without having to use one for themselves. So when two SkyMiles Members (one of which has Upgrade Certificates in their account) are traveling together on the same flight—whether in the same reservation or a linked reservation—an Upgrade Certificate can now be used for just one Member*. For example:

  • Previously, if a Member was flying to Europe for business in Delta One, and had a companion traveling on the same flight, he/she would not have been able to use an Upgrade Certificate to upgrade the companion to Delta One.
  • Now, in the same scenario, the Member will be able to use one Upgrade Certificate to upgrade his/her companion to Delta One as long as the companion is a SkyMiles Member.

Visit Upgrade Certificates to learn more.

* When upgrading on SkyMiles Companion Certificates, two Upgrade Certificates will be required to upgrade as the primary ticket holder and the companion must always travel in the same cabin.

It goes without saying that these are positive changes, though personally I don’t view these as making a huge difference in terms of my overall thoughts on the program.

It’s nice to be able to redeem your certificates to upgrade Pay with Miles tickets (which allow you to redeem SkyMiles towards the cost of a ticket at the rate of one cent per mile), and also to be able to use them for SkyMiles Companion Certificates (which come with select Delta co-branded credit cards).

Furthermore, the ability to upgrade a companion with a certificate without upgrading yourself is an area where Delta is actually catching up with the competition, as you can use American and United upgrades for basically anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re traveling with you.

Will you benefit from Delta changing the terms on their upgrade certificates?

(Tip of the hat to Rene’s Points)

  1. I’ve definitely use an RUC to upgrade a companion on a linked reservation when I was already in DeltaOne. I bought my companions ticket as a separate reservation using PayWithMiles too. So, Delta may have already been acting on this prior to now announcing it as official policy. This was extremely valuable to me as I travel for work and therefore have to book my own ticket through my company portal and if the flight is long enough, I’m already booked in premium cabin. Using my RUC/GUC on a companion is very valuable. In the previous example, I think I bought a $200 USD O/W LAX to JFK and got her upgraded to a $1600 typical Delta One ticket 🙂

  2. This is a negative change for me since I will never use those options and it will only take up more seats. Upgrading international is VERY easy on American and next to impossible on Delta. 6 years and EXP and I am 40/40 on upgrades used by me, 3/4 on companion upgrades. Delta I cleared ZERO Global Upgrades last year. thats correct ZERO, ZIP,, nothin… I think many others join me in …ZERO!

  3. The other big win here is that if you’re booked on separate PNRs (work travel combined with a partner’s personal travel, etc), you can now upgrade both of you as long as the PNRs are linked. That’s huge.

  4. DL’s thoroughly useless international network make their upgrades practically worthless. Just counting CONUS48 to HKG, AA flies 120 premium seats (F+J) daily, UA is 158, DL is barely 34-37 seats (depending on whether 772 or 330 that season). Thanks but no thanks, i have better things to do than to fight for 34 seats fed from their entire national network.

    When they don’t even know how to offer a proper network, of course they’ll find ways to trick you by giving you so many “options” to use the certs and giving the illusion of flexibility in lieu of actual usability.

  5. @henry LAX hand picking a market to make your point is silly. Look at lift to Tokyo or Seoul– Delta is certainly competitive despite having no real connecting access in Tokyo.

  6. DL needs to allow a member with upgrade certs to sponsor a passenger (not flying with the DL member) – just like how UA and AA allow this. This would make a lot of DL flyers much much happier

  7. Ryan: I’m with you. A year ago I couldn’t find ANY flights going anywhere I needed using global upgrades — and that was using a flexible schedule where I could travel +/- a month. This year I did get lucky and could use them on a trip to Europe, but I think they’re useless flying to Asia on Delta. We’ve previously had much better luck with AA for Asia, but I don’t know about others….

  8. Very glad to have this. I actually tried to upgrade a LHR-JFK flight earlier this month with a GUC but forgot I’d bought it with PWM.

  9. Lucky, Your comment about “However, one thing I have to give Delta SkyMiles credit for is that they do also make positive changes with some frequency.” – I disagree with this for two reasons. While Delta wants to give people the prospective that you have but there are two things that they do to strongly negate this.
    (1) They are often the first or one of the first to charge an extra fee. They will start charging fees for baggage between the US and Europe….
    (2) They are often one of the first to downgrade the value of their points, making flying with them only a must have based on time, location, convenience, or price. They have publically mentioned about their loyalty program being not important. The value of Delta points have done down (more points to redeem) how many times in the past few years. Furthermore, often times redeeming with them does not make much sense because of the high taxes and other fees which are worth more than just paying for an economy ticket if you want an economy class ticket on points, but you do not necessarily want to hoard them either.

  10. In reality the changes in policy are false promises.

    I work in an office with Seven Diamond Medallion members. All of us have been trying for a month to uncover itineraries with available GUC upgrade availability. Each of us have found many options where there are NO SOLD SEATS in Delta One and not one of us have been able to confirm a seat on any of our options.

    The Diamond desk reps have basically told us – you should just waitlist yourself and hopefully it will clear. And we all realize – and agents confirm – that in order to do that with the lowest risk, you need to isolate segments to the international routes, meaning you don’t have GUC upgrade extended to any domestic portions outside the upgrade certificate.

    Sandeep Dube the responsible VP at DELTA needs an earful from all of us as his analytics team isn’t providing him any data from the call center.

  11. This article just saved me. I’m on the phone with Delta trying to use an RUC on a companion certificate booking and was told that’s not possible. I pulled this up, read the new terms, and the agent put me on hold for a minute before coming back and thanking me for informing her of this – saying she hadn’t been made aware of the change. Kind of surprising given we’re three months into the new policy…

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