Delta Quietly Ends Fixed Price Mileage Upgrades

Back in December Delta introduced the ability to upgrade with miles any time — from purchase leading up to travel. Your miles are worth only about a penny apiece and they charge you the difference in fare between what you bought and the price of the more premium option.

At the time, and leading up to when this was launched, I suggested that this could replace traditional mileage awards — where there are capacity controls, the airline makes seats available for upgrade they don’t expect to sell, and you pay a fixed (discounted) mileage price for those seats.

The price for those sorts of upgrade awards went crazy in mid-2015 around when the airline eliminated award charts, reducing transparency and value of their miles. In fact upgrade awards had a higher mileage cost than business class saver awards.

Now it appears those traditional upgrade awards have been eliminated from the SkyMiles program. A couple of readers mentioned to me that traditional Delta mileage upgrade awards are no longer offered, and a reservations agent tells me these were pulled on February 12.

A Delta spokesperson confirms and shares, “The introduction of post-purchase upgrades using miles via intuitive, self-service digital functionality has meant we’ve been able to vastly expand the availability of these upgrades to benefit more customers.”

Credit: Delta

No announcement has been made, and I suppose Delta doesn’t need to tell its members — since they not only eliminated award charts, they eliminated upgrade charts some time ago as well. It’s just that now the price to upgrade is usually going to be much higher since Delta CEO Ed Bastian says you spend one mile to cover one cent worth of cost towards an upgrade.

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. Hmmmm…… I wonder what is going to happen to the Upgrade Certificates (Regional and Global) that they award to their Platinum and Diamond Medallion fliers. Will they never be able to be used in advance (as when you purchase a flight to guarantee you are sitting in Biz or First)? Will one have to always buy the coach seat, then wait to the day of departure to find out you are upgraded? In a “we reward our loyal customers” world, those certificates should be able to be used to upgrade anytime upgrades are available using the dollar based mileage upgrades.

  2. not that anyone would actually miss it. Over the years I haven’t had one single success trying to use mileage upgrades at DL.

    but then again, who would trust a company that has the gall to tell you splitting their award chart into 5 levels is actually an act of mercy and customer friendliness ?

  3. @Gary, thanks. So they still have a seat “bucket” for these certificate upgrades. It used to be the same bucket as when upgrading with miles (fixed number miles, like when they used to have charts). So although they no longer have miles upgrades for a fixed number of miles, they theoretically have that bucket still there for the certificates. In my 4 years of being Diamond and trying to get certificate upgrades (Global) at the time of booking, out of 16 Global Upgrade Certificates, I have only been able to get an upgrade at the time of booking for 4 of them. For Regional Upgrade Certificates, NEVER at time of booking, but about 75% of the time they came through at the departure gate.

  4. How about international upgrades? We have been able to upgrade to business class day of travel for $400 and 25,000 stymiles for example. Is it now $400 plus difference in fare in stymiles?

  5. This refers to upgrading Delta flights. I was told that it was eliminated, but wanted to be sure so I asked Delta and they confirmed. Would love to learn that Delta was wrong to confirm this.

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