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Are International Delta Upgrades Getting Harder to Secure?

FlyerTalkers report getting an upgrade from Main Economy to Comfort+ on Delta trans-Atlantic flights is getting harder, after a customer service agent denied one flyer’s requests to move up with SkyMiles. When FlyerTalk called Delta, we got a completely different response.

FlyerTalkers say getting an upgrade on a trans-Atlantic Delta Air Lines flight from the main cabin to Comfort+ is becoming extremely difficult, based on their interactions with the airline’s phone booking agents. In one of the more popular threads, a flyer tells a story about how he wasn’t able to make an upgrade using SkyMiles for an international flight.

The experience began when the flyer called Delta to upgrade an international flight from main cabin economy to Comfort+ with his SkyMiles. During the call, the phone agent allegedly told the flyer this was no longer an option with an explanation. Other FlyerTalkers immediately chimed in, noting Delta changed their product to a separate fare class and the move was in alignment with some of their key SkyTeam partners.

To find out the truth, we called Delta’s reservations line twice: once asking about upgrades from the United States to Amsterdam, followed by another call asking about upgrades from America to Paris – both aboard Delta flights. In the calls, we asked the same three questions:

  • If I purchase a trans-Atlantic flight, is it possible to upgrade from a main cabin fare to Comfort+ with SkyMiles?
  • How soon can I request an upgrade after booking my flight?
  • Will I have to pay additional fees for making the upgrade?

In the first call, we told our customer service agent we wanted to book a flight from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), and upgrade with SkyMiles. She told us that it would be possible, but we would need to make the request over the phone after booking our flight. She could not tell us how much it would cost because of Delta’s dynamic award chart, nor was she sure how long we would have to make the upgrade request.

When we made our second call, we went down the menu in a different direction, telling the automated voice system we were ready to book a flight from CLT to Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG). When we spoke to the phone agent, they went over all of our details before we could ask the question about upgrades.

Although it took a few moments to clearly convey the question, the second phone agent told us upgrading with SkyMiles was possible with a main cabin ticket, but not with a Basic Economy ticket. Additionally, an upgrade could only be made if Comfort+ seats were available. If a flight either sold out of Comfort+ seats or did not offer any for the flight, the upgrade couldn’t go through.

Once again, the second phone agent wouldn’t give us a price in SkyMiles or cash because of the dynamic award chart. They did note that we could request an upgrade up to 72 hours prior to departure.

In both situations, the phone agents gave us congruent information confirming upgrades from main cabin tickets to Comfort+ on international flights could happen, but only if everything aligned. We reached out to a Delta spokesperson to get a definitive answer, but have not received a response as of press time.

If you are having difficulties securing an upgrade, we suggest taking the following steps to ensure you can move up the cabin:

  • Check for availability early: By checking for Comfort+ availability during booking, you can ensure that space may be available to upgrade into.
  • Make your request as soon as possible: Although you can request your upgrade up to 72 hours ahead of your trip, making your request sooner rather than later gives the best chance of getting an upgrade.
  • Hang up, call again: If all else fails, don’t be afraid to hang up and try another customer service agent. A fresh set of ears may be able to help you resolve your situation.

In the end, the flyer was able to talk to a different agent, who was able to help him resolve his upgrade. But FlyerTalkers are predicting from their own experiences that getting upgraded with SkyMiles is going to be much more difficult in the future – especially on international flights.

Comments are Closed.
nloperations January 19, 2018

I guess this has to do with the changes delta made mid march. according to KLM's platinum line, Delta made "some" changes, and one of them is that FB-Platinum members no longer get "free" upgrades to comfor+ as of mid jan. (this is delta operated, and delta ticketed). In my case i was borderline as i flew ams-msp 6jan, and 19 jan sfo-ams (kl operated ) :)

thesaints January 19, 2018

It seems like people are confusing different issues. 1) Medallions will be upgraded to C+ at their level relative time windows without using miles and for free. 2) There is no way to buy an upgrade to C+, either with money or with miles. Paying (money) to upgrade from C to C+ was eliminated more than two years ago and it was never possible to do it with miles. 3) It is possible to upgrade to First, DeltaOne, Premium Select with miles and with the upgrade certificates Diamonds and Platinums can obtain. 4) On Virgin Atlantic flights it is possible to upgrade to Premium Economy and Upper Class with delta miles (recent addition). Furthermore, Diamonds and Platinums can select Extra Legroom Seats in the Economy cabin for free. All others have to pay.

wco81 January 18, 2018

I was a Gold Medallion for years. I don't even recall that there was a way to get international upgrades on DL or SkyTeam. Once I got an op upgrade at the gate. I think the gate agent must have been feeling generous. I think that was my last year earning status on DL though, probably around 2010. I'm only Gold on UA but I've upgraded a few times using miles and copayment for TATL. I don't recall a similar option for DL or SkyTeam TATL upgrades from Y to J, IIRC.

clegmir January 18, 2018

I'm not sure I follow... I received complimentary upgrades to Comfort+ for my flights to CDG from economy at the time of booking following standard upgrade rules, just as rainerweller observed. CarmenOM seems to have observed the same thing? https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/29282274-post7.html

thesaints January 18, 2018

The whole story is rather odd, since there is no mileage upgrade from Economy to Comfort+. Reading the SkyMiles bylaws would have clarified that immediately.