You Can Now Easily Redeem Delta Miles To Upgrade

Filed Under: Delta, Reward Programs

Delta SkyMiles sure is a quirky loyalty program. We know that Delta is doing everything in their power to make SkyMiles a revenue based program in just about every way. This involves not only how they award miles, but also how you can redeem them.

Increasingly, Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed at the rate of about a penny each towards just about anything on Delta. At this point you might as well call them SkyCents, because you can redeem them for everything ranging from basic economy award tickets to premium drinks in the SkyClub.

One of my favorite uses of SkyMiles!

Historically Delta has made it difficult to upgrade

Among the “big three” US airlines, Delta is probably the airline that has made it the most difficult to redeem miles for upgrades:

  • They don’t publish how many miles are required to upgrade
  • They don’t publish upgrade availability online
  • Their upgrade costs are generally obscene, and they have significant fare class restrictions

Upgrading on Delta hasn’t been easy

Well, now Delta has suddenly introduced a really easy way you can redeem miles for upgrades.

Delta now makes it really easy to upgrade

As noted on the SkyMiles News & Updates page:

It’s here! You can now use miles to upgrade your seat at after booking a flight, making it easier than ever before to treat yourself to that upgrade without having to call Reservations.

Here’s how to upgrade with miles on a flight you’ve already booked:

  1. Find your reservation in My Trips at
  2. If an upgrade with miles is available for your flight, you’ll see a banner above your flight information showing the price to upgrade
  3. Select the button next to the price in miles
  4. Click ‘Select Seats’ to be taken to the seat map and confirm your upgrade

Delta is notorious for selling upgrades for cash anytime between when you confirm your reservation and when you actually fly. In some cases they’ll offer you an upgrade simply for the fare difference between economy and business class, while in other cases it will be significantly cheaper.

So with this change, Delta is making it easy to redeem SkyMiles in place of cash for these upgrades.

If an upgrade to a Comfort+ seat would otherwise cost $40, you can expect they’ll also give you the option of paying about 4,000 SkyMiles.

If an upgrade to a first class seat would otherwise cost $200, you can expect they’ll also give you the option of paying about 20,000 SkyMiles.

My take on this

We know that Delta does everything in their power to sell first class, rather than offer complimentary upgrades. They keep trying to drive up the percentage of premium seats they sell, and part of that is their aggressive sale of upgrades.

My general take on this is that since Delta is committed to having a mileage currency where each mile is worth roughly a penny towards the cost of anything Delta related, this is the logical next step.

Delta’s previous way of upgrading with miles was too complicated, so this presents a really easy way to upgrade.

Now, I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news, but I feel like a lot of people will be taking advantage of this. So that’s nice for the people upgrading, but less nice for the people who will be missing out on upgrades as a result.

Most people don’t actually view miles as a cash equivalent. In other words, if someone has enough SkyMiles in their account to easily upgrade, they may very well do this, even if they wouldn’t be willing to pay the cash.

Bottom line

Delta continues to do everything in their power to make a SkyMile worth roughly a penny towards anything on Delta, and this is an extension of that. I think this will end up being really popular, and I wouldn’t be thrilled about what this means for the prospect of complimentary upgrades.

What do you make of Delta’s new system of easily upgrading with miles?

  1. As a person flying roughly 1000000miles every year only in paid first class around the world, I just don’t get why people would play their a*s off just to upgrade in economy and business on the big three sh*t product. That’s a waste of time.

  2. I tried it a month ago it wanted like 150k to upgrade from Comfort+ to biz on a flight from TLV to JFK for ONLY ONE DIRECTION!!!
    Furghetta ’bout it!

  3. I applaud that the upgrade w/miles system is less cumbersome than it was previously but tend to agree with you that this is yet another way to increase monetization for their first class, I think that complimentary upgrades are largely a thing of the past.

  4. @Debit2 — Really. You take an 11-hour flight every other day, all year long? Not disagreeing on your assessment of the Big 3 US carriers, but I think you slipped an extra zero in there.

  5. For many of us with a stash of SkyMiles who fly primarily on paid economy or economy+ flights for work, this presents a very easy way to upgrade those flights. I just cashed in 9,900 SkyMiles to upgrade a SLC-LAX flight that I was unlikely to get upgraded on. Is this the most practical or efficient use of points? Absolutely not. But it will make the 2hr jaunt down to LA a little more comfortable.

  6. One advantage of this program is that you can both burn your miles through an upgrade without sacrificing the MQD/MQM that you need to qualify for status.

  7. i dont’ see this as “worsening upgrade rates” at all because at 1cpm value, these people are directly buying the desired at fair cash value. of course the bunch of whiny losers on flyertalk will proclaim this will be the stick that breaks the camel’s back when in fact they’re so blindly loyal to DL even sitting on turd won’t get them to change minds and change carriers.

  8. I’ve never understood the fuss about Delta Not that it can’t be decent on a particular flight
    It’s old aircraft lipstick on A pig and perhaps the worst value proposition
    in history of any FF program
    Because they run a bit more on time? Thank me for my loyalty? Yawn
    So much is out of their control like every airline

    One way to Detroit in an antique plane for 100,000 miles in First ?woo hoo!
    LAX to Sydney in a tired business class for a half million miles 500,000 one way
    Ugh I’ll pass folks no thanks
    I’m flying QantAs in First for 70,000 miles thank you and you can be certain
    I didn’t book with Delta and won’t
    life is too short to be screwed and throw your money down the toilet even if you have unlimited excess of funds
    Let the buyer be educated and aware
    I avoid them like the plague
    While i do I see a satisfactory airline I also see but one that is highly dishonest in customer service relationship and incredibly overpriced plain and simple
    The best thing I appreciate about Delta is sucking some of the overflow of passengers
    off of my favorite airlines so we get better pricing,more upgrade
    and redemption opportunities
    The Amex relationship appears to have minted a boatload of devalued mile currency in Sky Pesos or it could just be Delta greed
    Love having no miles with them it’s a great feeling

  9. I didn’t know about the change, and called Delta this morning to see if I could upgrade a one-way Award Ticket from JFK to LAX from Delta Comfort to Delta One – and was quoted 40K. (The original ticket had only been 20K.)

  10. Why don’t Americans just buy a ticket in the class they want to travel instead? I know premium fares ex the US are obscene compared to the rest of the world, but if airlines brought their pricing back to the real world they might be able to fill their cabins with paid fares instead of free upgrades.

  11. So, on domestic flights we often see that little banner offering to upgrade with miles. But we just booked an international flight (ATL to FCO) and…no banner showed. I called and asked to be put on the waitlist for upgrade with miles. They said that if we clear off the waitlist, the miles will automatically come out of our account. I’m wondering which has the better chance of actually getting that upgrade…waiting for one of those banner offers to pop up, or being put on the upgrade waitlist (our reservation detail page now shows a little note at the top that says “NOT COMPLIMENTARY UPGRADE ELIGIBLE Upgrade Status:Upgrade Waitlisted”). Also, our reservation was done by the company’s travel agency and they put my spouse and my reservations together. I’m thinking I should have them unlinked so that if only one spot becomes available at least one of us can get it?

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