Delta Will Now Upgrade Silvers on Award Tickets: Who This Hurts

Delta now offers complimentary domestic upgrades to Silvers on award tickets, a benefit they already provided to higher-tier elites.

These are upgrades to domestic first class, and exclude routes operated by international business class “Delta One”-configured aircraft.

Like other elites, upgrades clear starting 24 hours prior to departure, and priority is based on status — with paid tickets ahead of awards. Delta’s upgrade priority is:

  • Elite status
  • Fare class
  • Whether the member holds a Delta Reserve co-brand credit card
  • Whether the member is traveling as part of a corporate agreement
  • Whether the member has spent $25,000 on a Delta co-brand credit card in a year
  • Time of upgrade request

Historically at Delta Silvers haven’t been considered ‘real elites’. With the introduction of ‘Sky Priority’ in 2010 Silvers lost priority check-in for instance.

This move doesn’t cost Delta anything substantive. Domestic first class seats rarely go out empty. This might help a Delta Silver using their miles domestically on a Saturday regional jet flight in a market where the airline is overscheduled like Seattle.

What this does, though, is shuffle who gets upgrades. Silvers are eligible for upgrades on award tickets 24 hours in advance. Alaska MVP Golds are eligible only at the gate.

Starwood Platinum elites are eligible for upgrades at the gate as well, behind KLM, Air France, and Alaska elites.

Upgrading Delta Silvers on awards when the check-in window opens puts them ahead of Alaska and Starwood elites, so those are the losers out of this change.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I see that you are blocking all comments now. That’s great, Gary – [Partial comment removed. This commenter who has shown up under a variety of names has only had graphic racist and sexual content removed -Gary]

  2. Gary: I’m a Marriott Lifetime Plat, which has given me Starwood Plat status since the merger.

    Does this mean that I get Sky Priority benefits from Delta for the foreseeable future? If so, how will Delta know when I go to check in? And where do I stand in the upgrade pecking order?

    Thanks for your continuing timely news.

  3. Good to know, but with Delta’s more aggressive first class pricing policy reducing upgrade avails, this is almost entirely a moot point.

  4. Gary, wondering if Delta would upgrade a Silver (or any) Medallion on an award ticket booked with Korean Miles (FF# changed to Delta) or other Skyteam Partner.

  5. One thing I’d like to point out to all the Elite’ist snobs out there that think Delta Silver is meaningless. Well, I’ve flown 1.5 million miles with Delta which gives me lifetime Silver status. Now that I’m not flying much these days, I really appreciate some of the Silver perks. We STILL DO get priority check in, a dedicated phone line, access to priority seats at booking and Zone 1 boarding. An occasional upgrade to Comfort + or First is always appreciated.

    But let me review the math for our Elite’ist friends out there. One Million Miles = 20 years’ as a Gold, 13.3 years qualifying for Platinum, and 8 years equivalent of Diamond status. So to the Elite’ists out there, stop bragging about your annual status; I’ll cop the Million Miler math. And to sniveling Silvers, get a grip and appreciate what you’re getting.

  6. This was one of those no-brainers — it doesn’t cost delta anything to do, it makes benefits on award tickets equal to paid ticket benefits for supposedly loyal people, and for the most part, silvers who want the upgrade will pay anyway given the low likelihood of upgrade. The added benefit of the Alasksa devaluation I’m sure wasn’t lost on anyone in Atlanta, and might have even been the reason for it.

    These days, silver is the same as a credit card holder or someone who buys comfort+. To not get Sky Priority is still a gaping hole for people who travel regularly when comfort seats get it. Perhaps entry elite is the next battleground as Jetblue’s Mosaic and AA Gold are both better programs…

  7. Awesome, even though I’m no longer a Delta silver, this was one of the policies that used to annoy me to no end. Nothing is more aggravating then seeing empty FC seats knowing that the only reason I’m not being upgraded is the currency used to pay for the ticket. Might have to jump on one of those 70k Amex Delta Plat cards now to get some easy MQMs.

  8. This costs Delta nothing because Silver medallions will never get upgraded! The simple math is that the upgrades are now sold or given to Diamond medallions. I get you can count on one hand the number of Silver medallions that get upgraded on award tickets in one day. Smart marketing move! Tout the benefits of something you never give out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.