Your Delta One upgrade dreams might remain just that: fantasies instead of reality.
Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates — one of the major perks of top-tier Delta Medallion statuses — received significant devaluations this morning.
There are, unofficially, now stricter time limits during which you can redeem your certificates. And when you do, Premium Select might be the best you can do.
But there’s sort of a silver lining in one of the changes.
So with that, let’s check out the enhancements devaluations.
Certificates More Limited to Your Medallion Year
Starting February 1, 2022, your Upgrade Certificates are valid only during the Medallion year for which you earn them.
Delta explains, “…if you reach Diamond Medallion Status on August 1, 2022, then you will be eligible to select Choice Benefits for your 2023 Status and any Upgrade Certificates selected for your 2023 Status will be valid until January 31, 2024, regardless of the date they were selected.”
This is a change from the current policy. Right now, you have a year to redeem your Upgrade Certificates for a reservation and to fly that trip. But if you could find confirmed space beyond the expiration date, you could usually apply the Certificates (then hope there are no big changes that impact you flying on an expired Cert).
For example, a Platinum could get their Regional Upgrade Certificates on January 30. They’d have until the following January 30 to book and fly a confirmed upgrade with them. As mentioned, you could possibly also take a trip sometime within a year after that if you can confirm the upgrade before the cert has hit the expiration date. So, in practice, you kind of had up to two years to fully use the certificates. Even if you downgraded to Gold or Silver, you could use the certificates you earned the prior year. That’s why many wait till the end of January each year to select their RU and GU certs for just this reason.
That all changes next year. You’ll have only the Medallion year (and the year during which you earn your status) to select the certificates, apply them to a reservation, and fly the trip.
If having plenty of time to redeem your certificates is crucial to you, then you’ll likely want to qualify for Platinum or Diamond status as early in a year as possible.
Upgrades Limited to a One Cabin Jump
Right now, you can book a Main Cabin ticket and apply a Global Upgrade Certificate for a confirmed upgrade to Delta One on an international trip (inventory permitting).
That changes on February 1, 2022.
Certificates can be redeemed only for an upgrade to the next cabin.
For example, applying a Global Upgrade Certificate to Main Cabin or Comfort+ bookings may score you a confirmed seat in Premium Select. (Again, inventory permitting.) You’re then waitlisted for Delta One — which will clear upgrades within 24 hours of that flight.
Inventory permitting, of course.
If having a Delta One seat is very important to you, then you’ll want to buy a Premium Select seat and apply your Global Upgrade Certificate for a better shot at Delta One.
Remember, not all international routes have Premium Select (yet). For example, Delta’s 767-300s have only Delta One, Comfort+, and Main Cabin. (Well, and Basic Economy, but why would you do that to yourself?) So if you book a Main Cabin ticket on one of those planes, your chances of getting upgraded to Delta One are better than they would be on, say, a 767-400.
Enjoy that while you can. Delta started adding Premium Select to 767-300s and A330s.
Regional Upgrade Certificates: Not Affected By the One-Cabin Limit?
Both Diamond and Platinum Medallions may earn Regional Upgrade Certificates.
But Delta doesn’t offer Premium Select service on any domestic routes. Yes, some aircraft offer Delta One and feature Premium Select seats. In those instances, the Premium Select seats are considered Comfort+.
So Regional Certificates are still fairly valuable for people trying to get Delta One upgrades on transcontinental flights (i.e., LAX to JFK).
A Good Enhancement: Instant Upgrades to Available First Class and Premium Select Seats?
There is a bit of good news.
“Global Upgrade Certificates will now have access to all First Class and Delta Premium Select seats upon request,” Delta wrote. “This means any First Class and Delta Premium Select seats not yet sold will be available to be cleared immediately upon request.”
That’s a #KeepClimbing move, to be honest. Theoretically, you could apply a Global Upgrade Certificate to a US domestic route equipped with lie-flat beds but doesn’t provide Delta One service. For example, some flights between Alaska and Atlanta have been flown on 767s. In those instances, the Delta One-style seats are considered First Class.
The tradeoff (if you use that option) is that you’re redeeming Global Upgrade Certificates for domestic hops instead of international trips.
Keep in Mind KLM
The Upgrade Certificates changes also affect Air France and KLM trips you purchase. On Air France, you’ll be able to upgrade from coach to Premium Economy — not business
However, you upgrade from coach to business when using a Global Upgrade Certificate on a KLM trip. The Dutch airline currently does not have a Premium Economy cabin. So keep KLM in mind when redeeming your Global Upgrade Certificates.
Cash in Your Upgrade Certificates for SkyMiles?
“Your continued loyalty means the world to us,” said Delta.
To quote Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch Movie: “Sure, Jan.”
Don’t like the Upgrade Certificate changes? Don’t want to bother with your unused Certificates? Don’t worry! Delta lets you redeem them for SkyMiles.
I literally laughed out loud when I saw the exchange rates. Each unused Global Upgrade Certificate is eligible for 8,000 SkyMiles. Regional Upgrades receive 4,000.
So if we use the SkyMiles-Are-Worth-a-Penny-Each valuation (which is fair), your GUC are each worth $80 in Delta travel. RUC are worth $40.
Oh, only Certificates selected before November 15, 2021, are eligible. So as of this posting, you have about a week to decide what you want to do.
Granted, at least Delta offers something for the unused Certificates. But does that mean Delta One cash prices will only be $80 than Comfort+ or Premium Select? Or Delta One award bookings just 8,000 SkyMiles higher than a cabin below? (Hint: no.)
For the most part, Delta devalued its Choice Benefit Upgrade Certificates. There’s now a shorter window during which they may be redeemed and fully used. And when you do redeem them for a flight, it’s only a cabin higher. The days of buying Main Cabin and upgrading right away to Delta One will soon end.
But it appears First Class and Premium Select upgrade inventory restrictions were slashed. So that’s nice?
And if you’re really opposed to the changes, you can cash in your unused Certificates for a pittance of SkyMiles.
More commentary to come…
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I hope everyone sends a complaint to CEO Ed Bastian at ed(dot)bastian(at)delta(dot)com
Lol, I just got the email from Delta, read it…. Had my Delta Diamond heart sink..Then waited for your response. You did not disappoint!!! ( that was fast!)
Wow, I was pretty stoked about my GUC’s and RUC’s that I stocked up for my and my spouses “traveling pleasure” for the end of this year and next. But, I’m starting to wonder if going out of my way to travel with Delta is worth it anymore. Most times with Delta I have to take indirect flights to get where I want to go and I pay a little more as well. I’m not a hub captive. I can fly out of SFO, SMF, OAK, or SJC… I’m starting to get a little soured on loyalty….on top of that..the fact that other airlines have hot meals to the same destination as Delta. Yet, Delta is still serving 1st class cabin box lunches and dinners.
And just like that Delta makes it easier for me to not care about keeping Diamond and going with the cheaper more confident competitor out of my home airport
“If having plenty of time to redeem your certificates is crucial to you, then you’ll likely want to qualify for Platinum or Diamond status as early in a year as possible.”
You’re right on with this point! JuicyMiles would love to help your readers with early 2022 Mileage Runs to help take the ‘sting’ out of this recent #downgrade
Redeeming early isn’t going to help if We left selecting our 2021 certificates until now, and qualified for 2022, meaning we have just over a year to use 8 certificates. I could have used the 2021 certificates this year if I’d known about these changes.
The most obnoxious change is the change in validity, especially with COVID still changing people’s plans (and I don’t mean because of our wishes, but rather because of restrictions that are imposed on us, like vaccination eligibility and booster requirements that don’t accommodate clinical trial participants or teenagers not being able to get the boosters yet, or conferences being canceled, etc).
Hopefully, when it says “Effective February 1, 2022 all newly selected Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates will expire at the end of the Medallion Year associated with that Choice Benefit selection”, the word “newly” means that if I select my 2021 GUCs on January 31st 2021, they will be valid for a year, not until the end of 2021! But then that means that I also have to use my certificates by the end of 2022, rather than by January 31st 2023.
Last sentence should read “But then that means that I also have to use my 2022 certificates by the end of 2022, rather than by January 31st 2024.
Question: does anyone know if you buy a Premium Select seat outright, whether there will be seats available to immediately upgrade to Delta One from a paid Premium ‘Select seat at the time of booking ……. or whether, even in this case, you have to wait until 24 hours prior to departure to get the upgrade. This makes all the difference in the world to me in whether I continue my Diamond status. I am retired, don’t have to be anywhere on a given day or flight, and will not play the upgrade lotto game with GUC’s.
@Don in ATL – If you buy PS and D1 is open (you can check on Delta.dumb) you can clear instantly with GU cert yes.
Think of this as a way for Delta to extract more $$$ and more SkyRubles from us to fly D1 on a GU.
@Rene. Thanks. For me it may be worth it to pay for PS from ATL to HND and get D1 using a GU.
If this means if there is improved D1 availability and opportunity to confirm the upgrade from PS at booking without complexity (unusual fares, unusual routes, hidden inventory), I suppose this is not so bad. I’m okay if they diminish the potential value if it it increases the expected value (i.e., benefits we can actually use). Between finding available inventory and calling Delta, GUCs were kind of a hassle.
If these GUCs are a hassle, I wish they would just eliminate the benefit and improve the rebate component (e.g., 16x SkyPesos earnings).
My RUC status is that I have 3 remaining 2020 RUCs which got the COVID extension to 1/31/2023, 4 unclaimed 2021 RUCs and 4 unclaimed 2022 RUCS. Am I correct that all 11 of these RUCs must now be used by 1/31/2023?
When you say “unclaimed,” does that mean you haven’t selected them as a Choice Benefit yet?
That’s how I understand it.
I believe you are both correct.
Yes. As usual, I am planning to wait until January 2022 to select my 2021 choice benefit. I always choose the RUCs.
There is actually no benefit to waiting since Delta announced that any UC redeemed up until the end of January will expire at the end of January 2023. Otherwise I would have done the same.
Chris, fast forward to 2/1/22 … I tried to book a flight using a GUC to get into Delta One for a flight to South America and back. I paid for the next class below D1. ( comfy+) Turns out… if there’s no “inventory “ for upgrades your not getting a D1 seat, you will be wait listed… even if there’s 14 seats available for purchase. Did I misunderstand something, or has nothing change about availability for upgrades…. I thought it was supposed to increase availability. I understood, if there’s was a seat available period, you get it immediately… I guess that was just wishful thinking? Have you heard anything different?
Is there Premium Select available on that flight?
Nope, no premium select on the flight. Or I would have gladly paid for that. In fact, I spoke with a Diamond desk agent, and asked had there been a premium select would I be able to upgrade immediately to D1. The Response was… only if there was inventory available for upgrades…. This kind of takes the wind of the sails for a better opportunity for GUC if this is in fact true.
I checked this page on Delta’s website. It says, “Flights with Delta One without Delta Premium Select: If you purchase Main Cabin or Delta Comfort+, and then apply your Upgrade Certificate, you will be upgraded to Delta One, pending upgrade availability.” So I guess it’s still a revenue management control thing. 🙁
That also means that you don’t need to buy Delta Comfort in a situation like this.
OK I read it again carefully. Here is the situation:
Premium Select or First Class without Premium Select: Automatic upgrade if there is a seat
Delta 1: Same as before – upgrade space needed – nothing has changed
I am glad I read that because I am currently upgraded to Premium Select and waitlisted for Delta 1 and I was thinking of canceling and buying a ticket to improve my chances of getting D1. I realize now that it wouldn’t improve my chances at all (other than possibly being in a higher class of service).
You actually are better off then if there were Premium Select. Under the new rules, you would only get the D1 upgrade within 24 hours of the flight. With your scenario you will get the upgrade before that if upgrade space is released.
So too in my situation I could be better off buying Premium Select and using a GUC, as I could get upgraded more than 24 hours before the flight, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra $1000 in cash or pay-with-miles.
When the change was announced, it seemed that it was going to be an easy process to upgrade. Shorten time to us them but… more availablility… If a chair was there it was yours. I like to see the old advertisement selling the program… to see where I miss this detail…
It said the same thing. They said you can upgrade to first class job upon request, not to Delta One. We probably assumed that First Class included Delta One even though later on they say D1 upgrades are upon availability of upgrade. I can’t seem to post a link here.
Here’s a success story. I had been upgraded to Premium Select under the new rules for my trip to and from Tel Aviv. On the way to Tel Aviv I didn’t get D1. On the way back, it looked like the same would happen as there were no empty seats and the flight was completely full with a canceled United flight adding to the demand. There were two of us on the D1 upgrade list. Both of us got last minute upgrades. So it can happen still!
Can you please tell me if I’m understanding the new rules properly?
If I select GUCs for my 2022 choice benefit, will they expire Jan 31, 2023?
Versus selecting GUCs for my 2023 choice benefit, which would expire Jan 31, 2024?
Wish it would show expiry date when selecting the benefit — Just don’t want to end up ones I won’t be able to use up as I still have carry over ones from the last couple of years.
Thank you so much for your help!
As we understand it, yes, that’s correct.
Thanks so much Chris for the reply and for all the work you do on this site — It is much appreciated!
It’s my pleasure.