Delta Upgrade With Miles Option

Delta sent out an email to SkyMiles Medallion members today outlining a supposedly “new” way to upgrade to first class with miles (even though it has been around for a while). I’ve received a few emails about it expressing confusion, so figured I’d provide a quick rundown.


Basically at the time you purchase a ticket, Delta is giving you the option of paying the difference between a revenue economy ticket and a revenue first class ticket at the rate of one cent per mile.

They always show you the option of paying the fare difference (in cash) between economy and first class at the time of ticketing, so immediately below that is an option to use miles instead, at a rate of one cent per mile. For example, in the below scenario you can move up to first class for $147 or 14,700 miles.


Here’s how describes the “Upgrade With Miles” option:

How does it work?

To book at, first log in, then select your Economy Class ticket. If your reservation is eligible, you’ll automatically see the option to Upgrade with Miles in your Trip Summary. Once selected, you can use your miles to upgrade all tickets in your reservation.

Reservations eligible for Upgrade with Miles:

  • You must be logged in and have sufficient mileage balance to upgrade all passengers in the reservation for all flights in the reservation.
  • All flights in the reservation must be within the U.S. 50.
  • There must be available seats in the premium class to upgrade all passengers in the reservation for all flights in the reservation.
  • Flights must be on Delta or a Delta Connection® carrier.

What is the difference between Upgrade with Miles and Mileage Upgrade Awards?

Upgrade with Miles is only available during an original booking at or with a Reservations Specialist. Upgrade with Miles is based on the difference between the Economy Class fare selected and the lowest BusinessElite, First or Business Class fare for the itinerary, which is converted into miles. You will earn miles and MQMs based on the cabin flown.

Mileage Upgrade Awards may be redeemed for fixed mileage amounts according to area of travel and are only valid with certain fare classes. The upgrade transaction can be completed up to 24 hours prior to departure and must be booked through a Reservations Specialist. You will earn mileage credit based on the Economy Class fare paid for the ticket. Inventory is limited.

Do I have to be traveling in order to use Upgrade with Miles?

You may use your miles to upgrade other passengers, even if you are not traveling. However, you must be logged in at or be an authorized user of the account when purchasing an Upgrade with Miles ticket from a Reservations Specialist.

Will I earn miles for Upgrade with Miles tickets?

Yes, if you purchase an Upgrade with Miles ticket, you will earn mileage credit, MQMs, Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) and applicable class bonuses based on the cabin flown. Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) will be awarded based on the cash amount of the ticket purchased, excluding any taxes and fees.

Bottom line

It’s not an especially tempting option and not even a new option, but it is basically just another option to redeem SkyMiles for one cent each. In cases where the fare difference between economy and first class is minimal, using this method to upgrade could be cheaper than using the fixed upgrade award chart.

That being said, even if it is less, you’re probably better off just paying cash for the fare difference. Even though SkyMiles aren’t the most valuable mileage currency, you should be able to get well over one cent per mile value out of them… which is the best you’ll be able to do with this offering.

(Tip of the hat to John)

Filed Under: Delta
  1. Indeed. I saw this email and thought that they must think I’m stupid. I can always get 2cpm, even with Skypesos and their horrible availability. *Hint: redeem for AS flights!

  2. This may actually be a useful option for DL medallions who are Skypesos rich but still want the Mqm’s and MQD’s( specially silver and gold ). Using Skypesos for award travel means no Mqm’s. Even though it is a horrible value, pay with points used to be only possible with an Amex Delta card. Could this be the start of pay with points/miles a la Northwest before ? Interesting. Thanks Ben!

  3. @Winston has a great point. I am sitting on a huge pot of miles (and with a 4 months pregnant wife, will not be taking any big international trips for a while!). With less work travel for me this year, redeeming miles for extra MQM’s and MQD’s may be the difference between Gold & Platinum. Definitely something to think about…

  4. @ Winston & @ Nick E — based on the terms quoted by Lucky, you get MQD on cash amount of ticket purchased. So the main benefit you’d get is MQM which is based on cabin flown.

  5. DL is such a scam, they want 20cents a mile on earn for status and give us 1 cent for redeem? Forget the mileage game and fly the most convenient schedule. Even in times of irregular operations I get more respect as a Y flyer than as a Diamond anymore, or a 1K which I was, or even an AA EX PL I am giving up. When they dont have your biz but they want it they put out, when they have you locked into these programs they treat you like mushrooms if they can get away with it. Free agent all the way for my $$$

  6. They will offer this option up through check in. Of course, Delta US First Class doesn’t include any food or video entertainment. However when your spouse has exceptionally long legs, sometimes it is good to be the nice wife.

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