Delta Introducing Elite Upgrades on Domestic Lie Flat Business Class Routes

With Delta introducing lie flat premium cabin seats on New York JFK – Seattle and New York JFK – San Diego effective April 1 and New York JFK – Las Vegas May 1 current rules are that those flights will not be eligible for elite upgrades. (They’re getting the planes by flying domestic equipment transatlantic from New York to Ponta Delgada, Portugal; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Shannon, Ireland.)

Zach Honig reports that Delta intends to introduce day of departure elite upgrades for domestic flights with lie flat business class marketed as ‘Delta One’ effective April 1. That will include New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.

Upgrades won’t be processed at the ‘elite upgrade window’ instead they will be day of departure (unclear if that means “within 24 hours of departure” or literally same calendar day).

Here are the Delta lie flat premium routes where this policy should apply:

Upgrades are determined by:

  1. Elite status
  2. Fare class
  3. Whether the passenger is a Delta Reserve (premium co-brand) American Express cardholder
  4. Whether a corporate designator is on the ticket
  5. Whether the customer has spent $25,000 on a co-brand credit card for the year
  6. Date and time of upgrade request

Offering upgrades on premium cross country flights is a return to something they were doing in 2014 but expanded to a broader scale (automated, and now across more flights).

One the other hand it further entrenches the idea that Delta doesn’t want to give away premium seats 120 hours, 72 hours, or 48 hours prior to flight. They think holding back seats will mean selling seats instead of upgrading elites. Although holding back upgrade inventory didn’t help American sell more premium seats, they still gave away as many upgrades just closer to departure.

And of course you still may get an equipment swap with barely an apology.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. it’s mostly a comestic thing to make the elites “feel” better. premium transcon upgrades, routinely fail to clear even by supported by instrument.

    and with premium transcon *CASH* fares routinely floating around $599 one-way these days for advance purchase, upgrades of any kind would be super rare. ($549 for the peripheral MINT routes like JFK-LAS)

  2. Delta is working on a new, unannounced secret provision to prevent any of these upgrades from actually being award. It will be implemented at midnight on 3/31/18.

    If there’s one thing about Delta, is their consistency in reducing the value of their SkyPesos program. I’ll wait and see before I book any Delta transcons for next year.

    SkyPesos = Zimbabwe dollars

  3. The only real change is the upgrade lists will be longer. So now you’ll see 60 names on the list for 0 available seats for Medallion upgrades because DL already sold the One seats or they went to the laundry list of Medallions trying to redeem their RUC/GUCs.

  4. As a non-Delta elite who usually books last minute, I welcome the continual move to selling F. I’d gladly pay $200 more to “steal” that seat from the overentitled salesman that booked the cheapest seat possible three months ago. Your miles are worthless to me so just give me a fair price on the seat or i’ll go out of my way to fly Mint.

    Just continue to fine tune your model cuz MIA-MCO one way for $1,300 in F but $135 in coach is laughable. Maybe you do that on purpose to gin up your upgrade ratios?

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