Delta SkyMiles becomes an even worse program for international upgrades… if that’s possible

As much as I believe Delta is a great airline for domestic travel (in terms of upgrades and their onboard product), their international upgrade policy is the worst of any US airline. You have to book a Y, B, or M fare in order to upgrade, and those are often more expensive than discounted business class tickets. Compare that to American, where I get eight systemwide upgrades valid for any fare just for being an Executive Platinum member. Meanwhile at Delta you’re typically looking at a $2,500+ fare just to have the privilege of upgrading on a transatlantic flight.

One of the last half decent upgrade values for transatlantic travel (be it with Delta miles or systemwide upgrades) was upgrading from Air France premium economy to business class. Last June they already devalued that option by excluding “A” premium economy fares from being upgradable, which was the cheapest premium economy fare. However, it looks like they’ve one upped themselves, and now you can’t upgrade Air France premium economy to business class at all through Delta, be it with miles or systemwide upgrades.

What’s awful about this is that no notice was given. Many people booked Air France premium economy tickets with the intention of upgrading and have been waiting for Air France business class award space to open up (which is required in order to upgrade), though they’re now hosed.

And with that, Delta SkyMiles and systemwide upgrades became even more worthless for international upgrades. I guess they deserve credit for their consistency at least?

(Tip of the hat to Delta Points)


  1. How many Executive Platinum members are there? I almost always end up on the upgrade waitlist when I try to use an eVIP traveling to Europe.

  2. @Zz Yeah, because AA releases very little C inventory far out anymore.

    Have you ever not cleared a SWU though? I haven’t.

  3. @ Tom — I called and got the same answer. It seems like a “legit” memo was sent out.

    @ Zz — While I do sometimes get waitlisted, I’ve always cleared, and over half of my international flights have had empty seats in business class even after all upgrades cleared.

  4. Lucky – How long do you think AA will continue their best in class eVIP/SWU system?

    They are clearly offering much more than their competitors (UA with W, DL just sucks).

    Which makes me think that AA’s customer friendly approach could be a casualty of their exit from BK or merger.

  5. @ Lark — It’s something I’ve speculated about in the past, since clearly the current system doesn’t make sense for them, especially given that they’re introducing a new business class product. So while others disagree, I’m convinced they will eventually change their policy, though it’s anyone’s guess when.

  6. American travellers are to discover what we in europe been subject to fir years,you cant upgrade unless you are booked on the lower flexible class which is usually quite stupid to pay for,the cheaper our flight fare is the lesser we earn miles even some fares gives you no miles as fir american traveller elite unlimited upgrade we cant dare dream of that,you dont know how lucky and easy your travelling life is as for delta and skyteam they are the rubbish of airlines.

  7. @ mohamed b — I don’t think that’s going to happen, though I could be wrong. At the end of the day airlines in the US are a different beast. In Europe airlines operate for profitability. In the US airlines operate for credit card companies. So I don’t think the markets can be compared fairly. That’s part of the reason most discounted fares still accrue full miles.

  8. You also have to look at costs for just a non-elite too. Your analysis mixed in AA elite upgrades to compare with Delta. This is referring to upgrading a cash paid economy ticket to business with miles. Not sure about AA, though Delta requires Y/B/M, UA requires Y/B or a sizable co-pay which can be as much as $1000 RT per person plus the miles. Not saying one is better than another as in this case it will depend heavily on the segment and fare.

  9. “their international upgrade policy is the worst of any US airline.” <- I just realized that (after trying to up ATL-DBX flight) and now I hate Delta even more. Combines with their low availability, Delta miles are just useless, useless, useless, useless!!!

  10. All,
    I am an Exec Plat with AA on almost always get to use EVIP upgrades internationally, it does require work to know which flights are likley to be avail, hint: try Miami to Europe instead of JFK,ORD, usually have upgrades avail. I was considering switching to Delta, but will not now if the Upgrade program is not competitive

  11. Delta would rather have their own personnel fly in Business Class then let a Diamond Medallion Member, with over 4,000,000 actual flight miles, get upgraded on an economy fare ticket. I have also traveled across the Pond on numerous occasions where there were empty seats in Business Class, yet I was relegated to Economy class because of my fare. Ever since Northwest bought Delta (at least it seems that way), this airline has gone down the toilet in my opinion.

  12. Is this actually still true? Delta’s website regarding SWUs says you can:

    – Valid on most transatlantic flights operated by Air France. (1)
    – One-way upgrade from Economy when booked in Y, B, or M class to Premium Voyageur class.
    – One-way upgrade from Premium Voyageur when booked in S or W class to Business class.

  13. @ Shaun — Yes, it sure is. You can still use systemwide upgrades to upgrade on Air France, though it’s rather restrictive.

  14. I have flown over 1,000,000 miles on Delta, I’m a Diamond Medallion, and I can guarantee that Delta has the worst upgrade policy of any airline on international flights. They promote their upgrades as a perk (I don’t even ask for them anymore – they are unusable), but in reality, the price for a fare which works for them is essentially the same as a flat business class fare. Unlike American and United who have real upgrades. Delta’s service stinks, they are a ‘commodity’ carrier with no regard for their highest level customers. I’ve switched to American on about 90% of my flights. I hate Delta.

  15. Doing POR-AMS route today … Confirmed that the upgrade.
    So be it! Last flight on Delta for me today. Farewell Delta

  16. Doing POR-AMS route today … Confirmed that I am not eligible for upgrade (sigh).
    So be it! Last flight on Delta for me today. Farewell Delta

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