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Delta Air Lines Upgrades: How to Get Upgraded to Delta First Class

Delta Air Lines Upgrades: How to Get Upgraded to Delta First Class

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Like many other carriers, Delta Air Lines offers travelers the ability to upgrade their travel to a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Everyone wants to be sitting in a comfortable seat, champagne in hand, while watching the rest of the passengers shuffle back to the economy cabin. From complimentary upgrades offered to their Medallion members to business class upgrades using SkyMiles, there are several ways to score an upgrade with Delta Air Lines.

Delta Air Lines is one of the few airlines that chooses not to publish upgrade availability, which makes it difficult to understand the odds of receiving an upgrade.

This makes it difficult to confirm an upgrade in advance. But don't think that Delta business class and first class upgrades are impossible. With an understanding of how Delta upgrades work, you'll greatly increase your chances of receiving one. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about being upgraded when flying Delta, including how to get on the upgrade list and tips to increase your chances of sitting up front.

Types of Delta upgrades

Delta offers upgrades into Comfort+®, Premium Select, First Class, and even domestic Delta One business class. We'll cover all the ways you can upgrade, both paid and complimentary, including how to get on the Delta upgrade list and the cost to upgrade a Delta flight. Here are five different types of Delta upgrades.

All Delta Medallion members are eligible for upgrades to Delta First Class, Delta Comfort+®, and Delta One® (business class) within the 50 states. Medallion members can also enjoy upgrades when flying Delta partner Aeromexico. There’s no limit to the number of upgrades a member can receive. Your Medallion status tier is the primary factor that determines your priority on the upgrade list, with other factors determining priority for passengers within a particular tier. We'll cover Delta complimentary upgrades in detail later.

Global upgrade certificates are a benefit exclusive to Delta Diamond Medallion members and are one of the most highly prized benefits. You can select Delta Global Upgrade Certificates as part of the Choice Benefits program. These upgrade certificates let you upgrade into Delta Premium Select or Delta One on long haul flights. They can also be used to upgrade on select flights with KLM, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air and Aeromexico.

Regional upgrade certificates are a benefit exclusive to Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members. These certificates are redeemable on Delta routes that offer complimentary upgrades but receive first priority, greatly increasing your chance of an upgrade. They can even be applied to domestic routes where Delta operates their Delta One business class cabin.

Any passenger, whether they have status or not, can choose to upgrade their existing seating class by using Delta SkyMiles. You can use your SkyMiles during the booking process to upgrade to Delta One, Delta Premium Select (available only on select long haul flights), first class or Delta Comfort+, provided there’s availability on your selected flight. You can also upgrade with SkyMiles after booking through delta.com or using the Fly Delta app.

Same-day standby upgrades are typically available for purchase after checking in for your flight. Pricing can be significantly discounted depending on the popularity of your flight route. Eligible tickets on most North American routes may have this option, although some specific routes (e.g. JFK-LAX) are excluded. If you don’t see the option on Delta’s app, check in with the gate attendant to see if there’s any same-day standby upgrade availability.

Should I use SkyMiles for Delta upgrades?

Ultimately, whether you should use Delta SkyMiles to upgrade your seating class will depend on the value of the upgrade. It’s fairly typical for Delta to value upgrades at $0.01 per mile. For example, if a cabin upgrade to Delta Comfort+ costs $30, then Delta will typically charge customers around 3,000 SkyMiles.

While every situation will be different, there are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure you’re receiving a good deal in exchange for your Delta SkyMiles: Delta SkyMiles are generally valued around 1.3 cents per point.

Don’t utilize Delta SkyMiles for upgrades if you’re receiving a value of less than 1 cent per mile; aim to use Delta SkyMiles for upgrades when the value of each mile exceeds 2 cents.

At that point, it’s safe to say you’re receiving a great value for your Delta SkyMiles.

How to get on the Delta upgrade list

All Delta Medallion members are eligible for upgrades on first class, Delta One® (business class) and Delta Comfort+® seating. There’s no limit to the number of upgrades a member can receive.

  1. To get on the Delta upgrade list as a Medallion member, you'll need to add your SkyMiles number to your reservation during the booking process. This will happen automatically if you log into your SkyMiles account before booking and select yourself as one of the travelers.
  2. Once your SkyMiles number is added, you'll automatically be added to the upgrade list.
  3. Any travel companions who are Medallion members should add their SkyMiles number to the reservation to be added to the upgrade list.

You may also be added to the upgrade list when you use a Global or Regional Upgrade Certificate. The good news is that if upgrade space is available, your upgrade will be confirmed ahead of time. Delta does display upgrade availability by cabin to Platinum or Diamond Medallion members using Upgrade Certificates, which you can see when searching at delta.com. However, if your upgrade can't be confirmed ahead of time, you can request to be added to the upgrade waitlist for your flight. Upgrade certificates have priority over complimentary upgrades.

Keep in mind that eligibility doesn’t guarantee an upgrade. Delta Air Lines does not publish inventory for complimentary upgrades, meaning there’s no way to tell if you’ll receive an upgrade on a flight before you book. See further below for how to get an idea of how much upgrade space exists.

How Medallion status can get you an upgrade on Delta

Delta offers complimentary upgrades on routes where Delta Comfort+ and First Class are offered, and on domestic Delta One Routes. Medallion status with Delta is the primary factor in determining the complimentary upgrade hierarchy. For example, a Diamond Medallion member will likely take precedence over Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion and Platinum Medallion members. After Medallion status, Delta considers these other factors for organizing the upgrade hierarchy.

Priority
Complimentary upgrade hierarchy
1Medallion status
2Fare class
3Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardholders
4Delta corporate travelers
5Card members who earned an MQD waiver in the current calendar year
6Million Miler Status
7Date and time of upgrade request

Upgrades are also available sooner for those with higher Medallion status. Below, you’ll find details on when upgrades are available by each Medallion tier.

Flight type
Silver Medallion
Gold Medallion
Platinum Medallion
Diamond Medallion
Delta One U.S. 50Day of departureDay of departureDay of departureDay of departure
First classOne day before departureThree days before departureFive days before departureFive days before departure
Comfort+One day before departureThree days before departureImmediately after ticketingImmediately after ticketing
Aeromexico Clase PremierOne day before departureThree days before departureFive days before departureFive days before departure

Exclusions for complimentary upgrades

As with anything, Delta has some fine print you need to know regarding their complimentary upgrades:

  • Basic Economy fares are not eligible for either complimentary Medallion or paid upgrades.
  • Only Delta One flights within the 50 U.S. states are eligible for complimentary upgrades.
  • You cannot be upgraded into Delta Premium Select, even if an aircraft with the cabin operates a route where complimentary upgrades are available.
  • To upgrade a companion, both passengers must be ticketed and upgrades requested at least three hours before departure.
  • Companions who change their itinerary and are no longer traveling with a Medallion member are no longer eligible for a complimentary upgrade. If an upgrade was already confirmed, their ticket will be changed to the original class of service.
  • Except for award tickets and Pay with Miles tickets, upgrades are not available on fares that do not earn miles.
  • Flight cancellations, equipment swaps or irregular operations may impact upgrades. Delta's liability for canceled upgrades in these cases is governed by their contract of carriage.

How a credit card can get you an upgrade on Delta

One of the more unique benefits of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (as well as the business version of the card), is that it will place you on the upgrade list even if you don't have Delta Medallion status.

By simply holding either of these cards, you’ll be in the running for upgrades on all Delta flights. The downside is that upgrades are still processed by Medallion tier, so cardholders without Medallion status are last in line after all Delta elites, which means an upgrade is very unlikely.

However, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card holders enjoy a greater likelihood of an upgrade within a Medallion tier. They are "third" in line, behind higher Medallion status flyers and same-tier flyers with higher fare class groupings (those who paid more for their airfare). The bump in upgrade priority is an excellent benefit of these Delta credit cards.

Credit Card
Welcome offer
Annual fee
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.$550
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Read Review

Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.$550

How to check for upgrade space

As we’ve mentioned, Delta doesn’t publish upgrade availability, online or anywhere else. To complicate matters, travelers are also unable to access seat availability for other cabin classes. For example, if you book an economy ticket, you won’t be able to see Comfort+, business or first class cabin seating.

The best way to get around these limitations is to go through a fake booking for the cabin class you prefer.

How to check for upgrade space

For example, if you want to be upgraded to Comfort+ and there are plenty of seats available, there’s a good chance travelers will be upgraded — of course, this is not fool-proof.

delta comfort

As a way to increase the accuracy of results, we recommend checking options 24 hours before your departure — just be aware that ticket prices typically increase as the departure date approaches.

Other ways to get upgraded on Delta

Besides complimentary upgrades for Delta Medallion members and Delta Reserve American Express Card holders, Delta Air Lines offers several other ways to upgrade your flight.

Use an upgrade certificate

Global and Regional upgrade certificates are redeemable for Delta Air Lines upgrades. These certificates are only available to Platinum or Diamond Medallion members through the Choice Benefits program.

Global upgrade certificates: Referred to online as "GUC," this type of certificate is only available for Diamond Medallion members and offers upgrades on domestic and international flights with Delta Air Lines. The certificate can also be redeemed with KLM, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Korean Air and Aeromexico. However, these airlines limit the flights in which you can redeem these certificates.

Regional upgrade certificates: This type of certificate is available for both Diamond and Platinum Medallion members and can be used on any flight that offers a Medallion status upgrade.

Platinum Medallion members can choose to receive four regional upgrade certificates as their choice benefit. Diamond Medallion members can choose one of these three options:

  • Four global upgrade certificates
  • Eight regional upgrade certificates
  • Two global upgrade certificates plus four regional upgrade certificates

To find upgrade certificate availability, log in to delta.com and search for your desired flight. If you're a Platinum or Diamond Medallion member, you'll be presented with upgrade certificate availability.

To use upgrade certificates, call Delta Reservations at 800-323-2323 and have your certificate number handy. You can apply your upgrade certificate if space is immediately available. Otherwise, you can request to be added to the upgrade waitlist.

One upgrade certificate can put you on multiple waitlists. Once an upgrade clears, however, the certificate will be considered used and you will no longer be waitlisted for other flights.

Due to the certificates’ exclusivity, upgrade requests for travelers with global and regional upgrade certificates are prioritized over complimentary upgrades. Upgrades will clear automatically based on Medallion tier as seats become available. If multiple passengers with upgrade requests for the same flight waitlist are the same Medallion tier, upgrades will clear based on the date and time of the request.

Upgrade with miles

Delta allows travelers to upgrade their class of service using SkyMiles both during and after booking. You can upgrade with miles on nearly all Delta flights.

To upgrade while booking domestic flights, you'll need to do the following:

  • Log in to delta.com and select the flight you want
  • For eligible reservations, the option to Upgrade with Miles will show. It may also include a cash price, which will let you determine the value you're getting for your SkyMiles.
  • Select an upgrade option using SkyMiles. This will apply to all passengers in your reservation.

To upgrade after booking, the process is similar:

  • Bring up your reservation at delta.com or in the Fly Delta app
  • Look for an option to "Select Seats" using either money or miles
  • Pick the upgraded seat you want and pay in SkyMiles

If you don't see the option to upgrade, don't worry. You can contact a SkyMiles representative who will be able to provide prices and availability for a Mileage Upgrade Award. Unlike some other carriers, Delta does not publish a chart with how much SkyMiles upgrades costs. The number of miles needed to upgrade is typically tied to the cash price, which means upgrading to Delta One business class using SkyMiles can cost a bundle.

Upgrades purchased with miles after booking are non-refundable and non-changeable. Keep this in mind, as changing your flight could cost you your upgrade.

Upgrade a companion

Delta is excellent about upgrading traveling companions. If a Medallion status member is traveling with a companion on the same reservation, the companion receives the same status. For example, if a Platinum Medallion status member is upgraded to Comfort+, then the companion will receive Platinum Medallion status consideration for an upgrade as well.

To be eligible for upgrades, the companion must also be a SkyMiles member (the program is free to join) or partner airline elite member, and the companion must request the upgrade. Companion upgrades are available on paid tickets, award tickets, Miles + Cash tickets and tickets booked using Companion Certificates.

If traveling on a reservation with more than one companion, all members must have Medallion status or partner airline elite status to be eligible for upgrades. If everyone on the reservation is a Medallion member and they all check in together, then the party will be eligible for upgrades according to the lowest Medallion tier among all party members.

You can also upgrade companions using either Regional or Global Upgrade Certificates. In order to upgrade a companion, they must be flying on the same reservation as you, or have their reservation linked to yours. Each companion will require their own certificate. You'll need to call reservations at 1-800-323-2323 to request a companion upgrade using a certificate.

Upgrade on a partner airline

Delta Medallion members enjoy complimentary upgrades to Clase Premier, Aeromexico's business class, on select flights with Aeromexico. One companion traveling on the same flight with the Medallion member who is also a SkyMiles member will also be eligible for complimentary Aeromexico upgrades. Upgrades are available on flights within Mexico and between Mexico and the U.S., Central America, Caribbean, Colombia and Ecuador. All tickets except for Basic Economy are eligible. Aeromexico does not upgrade Delta Medallion members to Aeromexico Plus, the carrier's version of Comfort+.

To upgrade on other Delta partners, you must use a Global Upgrade Certificate. These are available on select flights with partners KLM, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air and Aeromexico. Contact Delta Reservations to apply an upgrade on these partners.

How to request an upgrade on the Delta app

First, make sure you have the latest version of the Fly Delta app downloaded. You can set your SkyMiles account preferences to automatically request a complimentary upgrade every time you make a reservation that includes your SkyMiles number. Delta allows you to set your upgrade seating preferences as well. Find your trip in the Fly Delta app and check either the box "Request upgrade" or "Only upgrade if seat preferences are available" based on your travel needs. If there are multiple segments, you can select "Apply to All Segments of the Trip" if desired.

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What can a Delta upgrade get you?

Typically, at time of booking, Delta will offer you an upgrade to the next class of service, whether that is Comfort+, First Class, or Delta One. A Delta Air Lines upgrade can mean the difference between an uncomfortable flight in economy versus a relaxing experience in Delta First Class or even Delta One. Here's what you can expect in each class of service.

Delta Comfort+ offers up to three extra inches of legroom over Main Cabin seating, which offers quite a bit more comfort if you're especially tall. You'll also board in an earlier group and have access to dedicated overhead bin space. While onboard, Delta Comfort+ passengers enjoy a better selection of snacks and complimentary alcoholic beverages on flights of over 500 miles.

With substantially more space, Delta First Class is a significant step up from Delta Comfort+. These seats offer up to eight inches more legroom than Main Cabin seats, and they are much wider as well. The seats also offer power outlets and 11-inch seatback screens on many Delta aircraft. You'll enjoy complimentary alcoholic beverages and premium snacks. Meal boxes are provided on short flights, and full meal service (either breakfast or dinner) is available on flights of over 2,300 miles. Finally, First Class passengers are invited to board first and their luggage is prioritized when offloaded and sent to baggage claim.
Delta offers their Premium Select product on widebody aircraft on select routes. It is a more comfortable experience than Main Cabin but falls short of the premium seat and service available in Delta One. The product is similar to Delta First Class, as the seats are recliner style and offer additional width and recline. Premium Select seats also offer a foot and leg rest.

Customers flying Premium Select will also receive a Tumi in-flight amenity kit and will enjoy a better meal service while in the air.

Delta One is the highest cabin class offered by Delta Air Lines. It is a premium option operated on select domestic routes and installed on their long-haul aircraft. You can expect to enjoy a 180-degree flat-bed seat with direct aisle access on most flights. The Delta One suites product offers seats featuring full-height doors and privacy dividers between center suites. The chef-curated meal service in Delta One is significantly better than in either economy or Premium Select. You'll also be able to relax before your flight with access to priority check-in lane and Delta Sky Clubs.

Tips to increase your chance of an upgrade

  • Routinely check for First Class or Comfort Plus upgrades. You can do this at delta.com or in the Fly Delta app after booking up until three hours before departure. Prices fluctuate and you may come across options that are a better value.
  • Consider booking Premium Select or upgrading to Premium Select using miles. This cabin offers greater comfort than Delta Main Cabin, and the prices are more reasonable than Delta One.
  • Check for reasonable business-class prices if flying Aeromexico. Sometimes you'll come across very reasonable prices on Mexico's flag carrier, a close Delta partner.
  • Ask for an upgrade when you voluntarily offer up your seat when a flight is oversold. This will be at the discretion of the gate agent, but they have the ability to put you in first class.

Frequently asked questions

Can I pay to upgrade to first class on Delta?

Yes, you can pay to upgrade to first class on Delta up until three hours before departure. Check My Trips at delta.com or in the Fly Delta app, or call reservations to upgrades. Paid first-class upgrades are subject to availability.

Can you use miles to upgrade on Delta?

Yes, you can use miles to upgrade a Delta Air Lines ticket at time of booking or after booking. If your reservation is eligible, you'll see this as an option at time of booking. After ticketing, find your reservation in the Fly Delta app or at delta.com and select any seat in the seat map and choose to pay in miles. You can also contact Delta reservations to use miles to upgrade on Delta.

Can I upgrade my Delta flight after purchase?

Yes, you can upgrade your Delta ticket using either cash or miles up until three hours before time of departure. Upgrades are subject to seat availability.

Can you upgrade your Delta companion ticket?

Yes, you can upgrade your Delta companion ticket. Both the paid passenger and companion are eligible for upgrades when traveling on a Companion Certificate. You can also use upgrade certificates on tickets booked using Delta Companion Certificates.

Can you upgrade a basic economy ticket on Delta?

Basic economy tickets can’t be upgraded, with points or with cash. This is one of the major trade-offs of booking basic economy tickets.

When does Delta upgrade seats?

Delta processes complimentary first class upgrades starting as early as 120 hours before departure for Platinum and Diamond Medallion members. Delta Gold Medallion members will clear first class upgrades as early as 72 hours before departure, while Silver Medallion will clear no more than 24 hours before departure. Domestic upgrades to Delta One will only clear the day of departure for all Delta Medallion members.

Does Delta offer upgrades at check-in?

Delta offers first class upgrades for purchase up until three hours prior to check-in. You may see offers for first class buy up at delta.com and in the app. Upgrades purchased this way are an add-on product. Post-purchase upgrades are not possible for Basic Economy tickets.

Do you earn miles when you upgrade using miles?

Yes, even if you choose to use miles to upgrade, you can still earn miles on your flight. The mileage you receive is not affected by whether you upgrade using miles and it is determined by the cash amount of the ticket purchase. MQMs are awarded according to the cabin flown and MQDs awarded according to the cash amount paid.

Can I transfer upgrade certificates?

Delta’s upgrade certificates can’t be transferred between users. However, you can apply your certificate to any guest traveling on the same flight as you.

Do upgrade certificates expire?

Yes, Delta’s upgrade certificates expire on the last day of the Medallion year for which you qualified for status. For example, if you qualified for Delta Diamond Medallion on Sept. 23, 2021 and selected Global Upgrade Certificates as a Choice Benefit, your certificates would expire on Jan. 31, 2024, the last day of that Medallion year.

What happens to my Delta upgrade certificate if I change or cancel my reservation?

Thankfully, Delta Air Lines allows users to change or cancel travel plans even if they utilized an upgrade certificate. Changes need to be processed through the reservations department who must assist in the reissuance of the certificate to the new flight. If a flight using an upgrade certificate is canceled, it may take two to three weeks for the certificate to reappear in your account.

Do Delta upgrades apply to flights with more than one leg?

You can use an upgrade certificate on multi-leg itineraries. However, if your Global Upgrade Certificate clears you for domestic first class but not international Delta One on a connecting itinerary, it will be considered used. Therefore, we recommend communicating to Delta’s representatives that you want to use your upgrade certificate for the longest leg of your flight.

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