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Delta Air Lines

Delta Brings Back Complimentary Upgrades

Delta Brings Back Complimentary Upgrades
Jennifer Billock

Complimentary upgrades for frequent flyers are back at Delta, but it’s not to make the customers happy.

Frequent flyers probably remember the recent change to Delta Air Lines’ upgrade policy, when the company decided it would no longer give complimentary upgrades on most premium transcontinental routes. But there’s good news now! The complimentary upgrades are back, and now even apply to the lie-flat seats.

There’s a catch, though. The upgrades will go to high-tier Diamond Elite SkyMiles members first, so those just getting started in the program likely won’t see an upgrade. And, the upgrades will only happen on the actual day of travel and won’t advance-clear. The goal, it seems, is to have every premium cabin seat full with either a passenger who paid for it, or with an Elite member who earned it.

It’s good news for the customers, showing that Delta is looking to bring more perks back to its loyalty program members – perks that were once reduced in order to raise profits. But it also shows that Delta might be motivated by competition among other airlines rather than straight-out attempts to make customers happy.

The return of free upgrades, Skift surmises, gives Delta an edge over other airlines like JetBlue and UnitedAmerican already gives free upgrades to loyalty members, but it prioritizes the passengers who spend more over ones at the same tier with less of a financial investment in past or current flights. Skift’s Grant Martin thinks that once the competitor airlines ante up and meet Delta on the complimentary upgrades level, the airline will continue with another new or resurfaced perk to keep just above the competition.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. PTahCha

    December 5, 2017 at 9:44 am

    JetBlue does not offer free Mint upgrades to loyalty members. You can only buy into Mint.

  2. KevAZ

    December 5, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Same day means they have tapped out paid upgrades and now we’re selling that economy seat from the free upgrade.

  3. kdrew

    December 5, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Makes sense. Fly a flight from BOS to SFO about 4 months ago and they had open seats in First Class (Delta One) and did not upgrade anyone. Fortunately, I was using my upgrade certificate. Sadly, on the way back, the upgrade certificate did not go through so no upgrade for me. Such is life…..and an expired upgrade certificate….

  4. owiawo11

    December 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I have been a Diamond or Platinum member of Delta for about 10 years. They have treated me well and continued to improve their service over the years. Their lounges have seen the most improvement of all US airlines. I travel about 16 international segments most years, most of which are on Delta.

    But Delta has a policy of zero upgrades on international routes. In 10 years, I have received just one (and that was because economy was overbooked} But I have received multiple complimentary upgrades on other airlines where I am not an elite member.

  5. milohoss

    December 5, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Tullo! Tullo!

    This is still very good news. Clearly a silver member is unlikely to get an upgrade but that’s the case anyway. Who cares about the motivation, it’s VERY rare that something beneficial to the passenger actually happens these days.

  6. PapaJack

    December 6, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Good to hear. All my international flights and only a few upgrades at the time, now with D status, hopefully there’s more seating for me up front. Company doesn’t see a way to pay for FC but an upgrade is mine, all mine.

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