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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