Delta is gutting confirmed international upgrades awarded to top elite customers, as first reported by Andrew Kunesh.
Top tier SkyMiles Diamond members can select confirmed global upgrades as a ‘choice benefit’. These have moved a customer on a coach ticket to business class on any Delta flight where upgrade space is available.
However starting February 1, 2022 that’s changing.
- Global upgrades will only confirm a coach ticket into premium economy. Only purchased premium economy tickets can be confirmed into business class. (Customers traveling on an aircraft without premium economy can still go from coach to business class.)
- Those who upgrade from coach to premium economy this way can waitlist for a business class upgrade, and those clear starting 24 hours to departure. No more guarantee of double upgrades, so if you want business you have to at least buy premium economy.
- The one-cabin upgrade rule applies when using these confirmed global upgrades on partner airlines, too.
- When buying coach and upgrading to premium economy, there will be no capacity controls. These upgrade certificates confirm into revenue inventory (if there’s a seat for sale, the upgrade to premium economy should ‘clear’).
- These global upgrades can also be used on to confirm first class on domestic and close-in international (Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central and northern South America).
- Upgrades will have standardized validity, lasting from the time claimed through the end of the status year (claim a certificate October 1, 2022 and it’s valid through January 31, 2024).
Business Class, Credit: Delta
Customers unhappy with these changes can exchange global upgrades for 8000 SkyMiles apiece on request, though this requires a phone call and the value of your time waiting on hold may be greater than the value of the miles you’ll get.
Since these global upgrades confirm into first without capacity controls on regional flights, regional upgrades become worth less too, and Delta is will to exchange those for 4000 SkyMiles.
At about a penny apiece in value, $80 for Global upgrades and $40 for Regional upgrades tells you about how Delta values these.
Premium economy, Credit: Delta
You can think of the new one-cabin upgrade limitation on Delta’s global upgrades given to top elites as a new higher-fare requirement to be eligible for a business class upgrade with confirmed elite benefits. And since business class upgrade space is rarely confirmable at booking, the extra money you now pay to buy premium economy in hopes of an upgrade to business – rather than just confirming it – is an unregulated lottery. (The Airline Deregulation Act pre-empts state lottery rules.)
Confirmed upgrades without capacity controls for international upgrades on domestic flights is something American Airlines used to have 20 years ago, and until January 1, 2002 Alaska Airlines lacked a capacity controlled inventory for its first class product as well (5000 miles would confirm an upgrade into revenue first class, a great deal as Alaska began flying transcon flights).
In contrast, American Airlines confirmed international upgrades are still valid on the lowest fare and confirm upgrades from economy to business class (skipping premium economy). At one point this looked like it would end, and perhaps Delta’s move makes that more likely, but it’s a real differentiator for top elites they’d be foolish to lose – especially since the airline is so tight on confirmed business class upgrade inventory to begin with.
And United allows confirmed upgrades from coach to business and using additional upgrade points this is even now possible on the lowest fares.
I first coined the term ‘Skypesos’ for Delta’s redemption currency, but they’ve made their elite levels better in recent years. This is a move backwards, and if other legacy carriers do not match it is an uncompetitive one at that. For an airline that devalued award pricing twice during the pandemic, though, it’s hardly surprising.