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How to Get Upgraded on Delta Air Lines [2019 New Strategies and Tips]

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How to Get a Delta Upgrade

Receiving a flight upgrade has to be one of the most enjoyable travel experiences. Unfortunately, as the industry becomes more competitive, airlines have started becoming more thoughtful about who receives upgrades and the requirements for getting one.

Delta Air Lines is one of the few airlines that chooses not to publish upgrade availability. Even then, it's helpful to understand the many different types of upgrades available to Delta Air Lines customers. Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about receiving an upgrade when traveling on Delta Air Lines.

Delta Air Lines: Types of Upgrades

There are many ways to get an upgrade with Delta. Below, we lay out the most common upgrade types and ways to achieve each one. If you're not sure where to start, we recommend going in the order laid out in this article.

Complimentary Delta Air Lines Upgrades

In order to receive a complimentary upgrade with Delta Air Lines, you must be a Medallion member. 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.

Your Medallion status with Delta will ultimately determine the order in which you're upgraded. For example, a Diamond Medallion member will likely take precedence over Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion and Platinum Medallion members. Upgrades are also available sooner for those with higher Medallion status. Below, you'll find details on when upgrades are available by status.

Silver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum MedallionDiamond Medallion
Delta One upgradesDay of departureDay of departureDay of departureDay of departure
First class upgradesBegins 24 hours before departureBegins 72 hours before departureBegins 120 hours before departureBegins 120 hours before departure
Comfort+ upgradesBegins 24 hours before departureBegins 72 hours before departureShortly after ticketingShortly after ticketing

Platinum and Diamond Medallion members have a very good chance of getting an automatic upgrade to Comfort+ seating as soon as they book. Silver and Gold Medallion members must wait 24 to 72 hours before departure to see if they'll be upgraded to Comfort+. Generally, Comfort+ is typically filled to capacity on popular routes before Silver or Gold Medallion members get a chance to receive an upgrade.

Keep in mind that eligibility doesn't guarantee an upgrade. Delta Air Lines does not publish availability inventory, meaning there's no way to tell if you'll receive an upgrade on a flight before you book.

Global and Regional Delta Air Lines Upgrade Certificates

Global and Regional upgrade certificates allow users to redeem said certificates for Delta Air Lines upgrades. They are quite exclusive since the only way to earn them is to become a Delta Platinum or Diamond Medallion member and to select the certificates through the choice benefits program. Due to their exclusivity, upgrade requests for travelers with global and regional upgrade certificates are prioritized over complimentary upgrades.

Global upgrade certificates: This type of certificate is only available for Diamond Medallion members and offers upgrades on international and domestic flights with Delta Air Lines. The certificate can also be redeemed with KLM, Air France, 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.

How do Platinum and Diamond Medallion members earn upgrade certificates? As a Platinum or Diamond Medallion member, you get access to choice benefits, which is a Delta Air Lines program that allows you to select the benefits you receive. Upgrade certificates are available to both Platinum and Diamond Medallion members.

Delta Air Lines Upgrade Certificates

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

On what Delta Air Lines flights can I use upgrade certificates? Both regional and global upgrade certificates can only be used for one-way airline tickets. Both types of certificates can be applied to paid tickets, pay with miles tickets and companion tickets. Unfortunately, upgrade certificates can't be used for a basic economy (E fare) ticket.

The following shows cabin availability based on the type of upgrade certificate you plan to use:

Delta Air Lines Upgrade Certificates

Regional and global upgrade certificates are also restricted by region:

Delta Air Lines Upgrade Certificates Region Availability

Can I transfer upgrade certificates?

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

Do upgrade certificates expire?

Yes, Delta's upgrade certificates expire one year from the date of issuance. The flight you plan to use the upgrade certificate on must be completed before the one-year mark. In other words, you can't redeem the certificate on a flight scheduled to depart one year and one day after the issuance date, even if you purchased the ticket prior to the one-year mark.

What happens if I have to change or cancel my reservation?

Thankfully, Delta Air Lines allows users to change or cancel travel plans even if they utilized an upgrade certificate. In order to do so, you will have to call the reservations department.

How do you use Delta upgrade certificates?

Currently, the only way to use Delta's upgrade certificates is to call Delta. You can either dial the number associated with your Medallion status or you can call Delta's general inquiry line at 800-323-2323. We recommend you attempt to apply your upgrade certificate at least one day before departing for your trip.

If you're offered a waitlist position, be aware there's no guarantee you'll be able to use your upgrade certificate unless you've been explicitly told so. Therefore, we don't suggest getting onto the waitlist if you can help it.

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

No. You can't utilize an upgrade certificate on more than one leg of a flight. Therefore, we recommend communicating to Delta's representatives that you want to use your upgrade certificate for the longest leg of your flight. If you don't specify, you risk getting upgraded on a relatively short flight.

Use SkyMiles to Upgrade on Delta Air Lines

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, first class or Delta Comfort+, provided there's availability on your selected flight. You'll be given the option to upgrade with points whether you choose to book your reservation online or via phone.

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 1 cent per mile. For example, if a cabin upgrade to Delta Comfort+ costs $50, then Delta will typically charge users 5,000 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. 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 miles.

Best Way to Earn Delta SkyMiles

Currently, Delta and American Express have a partnership in which cardholders can earn Delta SkyMiles when making purchases. The co-branded credit cards provide welcome offers in the form of SkyMiles when users spend a certain amount within a certain time frame. These cards are the best option for travelers looking to accrue Delta SkyMiles quickly.

Below, we highlight some of our favorite Delta co-branded cards, but we've also put together a more comprehensive overview of the best Delta credit cards for those interested.

On American Express' Secure Website

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website
  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good, Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On American Express' Secure Website

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good, Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On American Express' Secure Website

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag for free and save up to $60 on a round trip Delta flight.
  • Find room for your carry-on and settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag for free and save up to $60 on a round trip Delta flight.
  • Find room for your carry-on and settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$195
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good, Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On American Express' Secure Website

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Enjoy a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
  • Enter Delta Sky Club® at no cost and bring up to two guests for an exclusive rate of $29 per person per visit.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights -that's a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • $450 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Enjoy a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
  • Enter Delta Sky Club® at no cost and bring up to two guests for an exclusive rate of $29 per person per visit.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights -that's a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • $450 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$450
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good, Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Use Mileage Upgrade Awards with Delta Air Lines

This upgrade option was discontinued in February 2019.

This option was different from using SkyMiles to upgrade while booking. It was only available after purchasing an airline ticket and often yielded superior value compared to upgrading during the booking process. One major limitation of Mileage upgrade awards is that they were only available over the phone, which translated to a lot of legwork for people who actually wanted to use them.

Mileage upgrade awards were redeemed for constant mileage amounts, as opposed to the dynamic pricing that is available during the booking process. The number of miles required for each upgrade depended on the area of travel. Delta never published a rate chart, but typically one-way upgrades ranged from 20,000 to 80,000 SkyMiles depending on the price of the original fare.

Complimentary Companion Upgrades on Delta Air Lines

Delta is excellent about upgrading traveling companions. If a Medallion status member is traveling with a companion, 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. However, the companion must be a SkyMiles member, which is free, and the companion must request the upgrade. Companion upgrades are available on paid tickets as well as award tickets.

Same-Day Standby Upgrades

Upgrades are typically also available for purchase after checking in for your flight. Pricing can be significantly discounted depending on the popularity of your flight route. If you don't see the option on Delta's app, check in with the gate attendant to see if there's any availability.

How to Know if Delta Has Available Upgrades

As we've mentioned, Delta doesn't publish upgrade availability online or anywhere else. To complicate matters, travelers also can't 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.

Delta Dummy Booking

The best way to get around these limitations is to go through a fake booking for the cabin class you'd like to see. 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 by no means fool-proof. As a way to increase the accuracy of results, we recommend checking options 24 hours before you're scheduled to depart. Just be aware that ticket prices typically increase as the departure date approaches.

Who Gets Upgraded First on Delta Air Lines?

Delta Air Lines prioritizes upgrades as follows:

PriorityComplimentary upgrade hierarchy
1Medallion status
2Fare price
3Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express members
4Delta corporate travelers
5Card members who earned a MQD waiver in the current calendar year
6Date and time of upgrade request

What's an MQD Waiver?

A Medallion qualification dollars waiver is a special shortcut through which Delta SkyMiles credit card holders can achieve a Medallion status. If users spend a certain amount on their Delta SkyMiles credit card, the MQDs requirement to reach a certain Medallion status is waived.

Why Having Status With Delta Matters

As shown above, having status with Delta is the single most important factor when it comes to determining upgrade priority. As such, improving your status with Delta greatly increases your chances of being upgraded. Here are details on when your upgrade will clear, based on Medallion status and seating class:

Flight typeSilver MedallionGold MedallionPlatinum MedallionDiamond Medallion
First class1 day before departure3 days before departure5 days before departure5 days before departure
Comfort+1 day before departure3 days before departureImmediatelyImmediately
Delta One U.S. 501 day before departure3 days before departure5 days before departure5 days before departure
Air France/KLMDay of departureDay of departureDay of departureDay of departure

FAQs About Delta Air Lines Upgrades

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.

Can you upgrade to Delta Comfort+ after purchase?

Yes, travelers can upgrade to Delta Comfort+ as long as the ticket fare they booked was not a basic economy fare.

What are the main differences between economy and Comfort+?

For starters, Comfort+ has more legroom than the standard economy class. Deplaning is also a bit easier for travelers in Comfort+, as seats are located closer to the front of the plane. Comfort+ customers also receive priority boarding, which means there's less of a chance you'll be forced to check your bag due to inadequate overhead space.

How do I request an upgrade?

Add your SkyMiles number to your flight reservation, and you'll automatically be considered for flight upgrades. For travel companions to be considered for upgrades, they too will need to add their SkyMiles number to their flight reservations.

Is having a Delta credit card worth it?

Whether a credit card is worth it or not depends on the user. That said, Delta has credit cards that come with benefits for any traveler and no annual fee. If you frequently travel with Delta Air Lines, it might even make sense to opt for a card with better perks in exchange for a higher annual fee.

If you're interested in reading more about which Delta credit card is best for certain travelers, you can read our comprehensive breakdown.

How many miles does it take to upgrade on Delta?

The number of miles it takes to receive an upgrade depends on your flight and the seating class. Given the variance between the number of miles it takes to upgrade, we recommend executing a dummy booking to gauge what you can expect.

Can I Upgrade an Economy Ticket?

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

Comments and Questions

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).