Given that this blog is about maximizing miles and points, I suppose “Delta” and “systemwide upgrades” in the same sentence really have no place here. When it comes to systemwide upgrades for top tier elites you have American on one end of the spectrum, which offers eight to their top tier elites annually with no fare class restrictions. Yeah, that $600 ticket to Europe or $700 ticket to Asia is upgradable to business class.
On the other end of the spectrum you have Delta, which offers their Platinum and Diamond Medallion members up to 12 systemwide upgrades per year. The catch is that they’re heavily restricted. In order to use them for international travel on Delta you have to book a Y, B, or M fare, which are near full fare tickets. For a ticket to Europe that typically translates to around $2,500, while it can translate to around $4,000 for a ticket to Asia. Obviously there are exceptions, though in general the prices are very similar to what you would pay for a discounted business class ticket.
The one legitimate enhancement to these systemwide upgrades as of about a year ago is that they could be used for upgrades on Air France from more reasonable fare classes. For example, if you booked any premium economy fare you could upgrade to business class, assuming there was business class award space. That included “A,” “S,” and “W” fares. “A” fares were typically somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 for travel from the east coast to Europe. Again, it’s not great, though it’s better than the alternative.
Well, as of June 1, 2011 “A” class on Air France is no longer upgradable. That means the lowest Air France fare class that can be upgraded to business class now is “S,” which is pretty similar in price to an “M” fare on Delta. Along the same lines, Air France “K” fares can no longer be upgraded from economy to premium economy using systemwide upgrades.
Another loss for SkyMiles…