Delta Improving Diamond Upgrade Benefits In 2017

Delta Air Lines certainly gets is share of rightful flak around these parts for making “innovative changes” to (read: gutting) its SkyMiles program. Even as a Delta loyalist, I can’t help but anticipate any changes to the SkyMiles or elite Medallion program with dread.

When American announced an alignment of its AAdvantage program to more closely resemble SkyMiles, Ben pointed out one catastrophic change to AAdvantage: where 2015 Executive Platinums receive a total of 8 Systemwide Upgrades (with more upgrades given out to hyperfrequent flyers), Executive Platinums who qualify in 2016 will receive 4 Systemwide Upgrades. That’s a truly devastating change to the AAdvantage program.

This morning I logged onto my SkyMiles account because I’m considering cashing in one of my Diamond Medallion “choice benefits” to get 4 Global Upgrade Certificates (basically, Delta’s version of systemwides), and I noticed a change in wording that immediately made my heart sink.

Until I read it again. And again. And realized it was actually a good thing.

Per Delta’s Choice Benefits webpage, in 2017 Diamond Medallions (that is, flyers who qualify for Diamond Medallion status in 2016) will receive 4 Global Upgrades or 8 Regional Upgrades or 2 Global Upgrades + 4 Regional Upgrades.


I initially read that, with anxiety, to mean that in 2017 Diamond Medallions would choose between 2 Global Upgrades (instead of 4) or 4 Regional Upgrades (instead of 8), but clearly that’s not the case. It’s just an additional option.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that Diamond Medallions also receive Platinum Medallion choice benefits as well. So ultimately, a Diamond Medallion in 2017 could choose:

  • 4 Regional Upgrades + 4 Global Upgrades; or
  • 8 Regional Upgrades + 2 Global Upgrades; or
  • 12 Regional Upgrades

Keep in mind that the way upgrade certificates work on Delta as “Choice Benefits” is that they have to be selected at some point during your Medallion membership, and they’re good for one full calendar year after selection. So if I wanted to, I could sit on my Choice Benefits and choose them in February 2017 (the last month of my Diamond Medallion status, at least until/if I re-qualify) — and those upgrade certificates would be good through February 2018.

The Delta One business class cabin - now with more upgrade options
The Delta One business class cabin – now with more upgrade options

Bottom Line

This is a positive change to the Delta Medallion program — and because it was a stealth one (I only noticed it on my own SkyMiles account page, and hadn’t read anything about it elsewhere) I initially had a knee-jerk assumption that Delta, like American, was cutting the number of upgrade certificates to its highest elite members by half.

Not so. Delta’s just giving elite flyers another option. In fact, should I re-qualify in 2016 for Diamond Medallion in 2017, I probably would choose 2 Global + 4 Regional + 4 Regional. That’s essentially four roundtrip upgrades from LAX-JFK in Delta One using regional certificates and one roundtrip upgrade anywhere else in the world.

Anyway, none of this is earth-shattering news, but if you’re a Diamond Medallion it’s a tweak to the Choice Benefits program that you might want to take advantage of.


  1. Good find! I am sitting in Delta One on the LAX-JFK 767 today after using one of the 12 RUC’s I took for this year. I found GUC’s were getting hard to use and I had enough carry over miles but next year I would like a couple of GUC’s to try out the new A350.

  2. I know it’s probably just me. But it seems like with all the devaluations going on with airlines, Delta really isn’t that bad of an option anymore. I know Skypesos is the running joke, but with AA’s award chart getting gutted and United not being that great. Delta seems like a pretty legit option nowadays, maybe not the best in some cases but still a good option. I know it depends heavily on each person and where they want to travel, but while Delta was the running joke, they really don’t seem that bad anymore…..

  3. It’s probably worth noting that Diamond Medallions *don’t* necessarily also get Platinum Choice Benefits. Platinum Medallions get Platinum Choice Benefits. Normally, you pass Platinum on the way to Diamond, but if you achieve Diamond by skipping over Platinum, you will NOT get Platinum Choice Benefits (same if you forget to choose your Platinum benefit before reaching Diamond).

    Thus, if you roll over 125,000 MQMs, and hit credit card spend waiver, you’ll instantly be Diamond and will never have an opportunity to choose your Platinum Choice Benefit.

  4. @Kevin: Not true. You can choose your Diamond Choice Benefit before your Platinum Choice Benefit, if you like — and you certainly don’t need to choose your Platinum Choice Benefit before reaching Diamond. For instance, right now, as a Diamond who has not yet chosen his Platinum or Diamond benefits, I can choose either or both on my Delta portal right now, if I like. On what are you basing this misinformation?

    And for the few flyers out there who have rolled over 125,000 MQMs (thus meaning they earned 250,000 MQMs), yes, they would technically be immediately slotted into Diamond — but I also doubt they’d be deprived of a Platinum Choice Benefit if they wanted one (and does anyone have actual evidence that they’re not permitted a Platinum Choice benefit as well or is this all part of a hypothetical?). Particularly, you know, with 250,000 MQMs under their belt.

  5. @Nick – Ah my mistake. For some reason, I thought I had read that that was the case awhile ago. Thanks for setting the record straight.

  6. I still wish Delta let you choose the same choice benefit twice, so you could get a total of 8 GUCs. Or at the very least let you choose 4 GUCs for one Diamond benefit and 8 RUCs for the second. I value the upgrades a lot (and they don’t actually cost Delta much at all), but value the other choice benefits quite a bit less.

  7. Didn’t Delta change their membership year to end January 31st? That would mean you’d have until the end of January 2017 to make the choice and the certain would be valid through January 2018.

  8. As someone who probably will never make such lofty tiered status, I was just wondering, are the Upgrade certificates good for the entire one-way reservation or only just one segment?

  9. @Rene @Adam: I apologize! I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical and I did Google it but clearly didn’t do a deep dive of research — thank you for covering this first!

    @Jake: changed again; LAX/SFO-JFK are regional upgrade certs now.

  10. Anyone else see what Delta just did with complimentary Delta Comfort upgrades? As of 5/16 they have been eliminated when you make your booking, and now only available if you pay for them or just like First Class, on an availability basis. After several emails back and forth with Delta, they said they are getting a lot of heat and negative feedback from Diamonds. I asked them bluntly, where’s the loyalty? Told them it’s now painfully obvious it’s all about what you pay that day, period.

  11. It’s also an acknowledgment that top-level elites won’t be receiving courtesy upgrades at nearly the rate they are now come 2017.

  12. The problem with these “choice benefit” certificates is that they can have 90% of the business class cabin available, yet refuse to upgrade you using the certificate. They reason is that they designate a very limited number (“inventory”) of the seats for the upgrades, so again and again you can be left with unused certificates, unless the seats are available on the day of the flight. In effect it only serves to put you ahead of other passengers in the queue for complimentary upgrades. This is a sham. The way the benefit is described on their site, it should be a sure way to guarantee your upgrade when you make the travel decision. All their site says (after much searching), is that seats are subject to availability – which sounds like it means if there are unsold seats.

  13. I am going on my 4th year as a diamond. I incur big air travel charges personally and for my business. The toll air travel takes on my spirituality and my health is difficult to quantify but it is significant. Is there a diamond club of sort that I can join? It would be great if we could organize a Delta Diamond Flyers Club (DDFC). We are 1% of flyers and in my estimation drive over 20% of revenue easily. We have leverage! I am stating the obvious. I really want to know who I give my feedback to at Delta? And is it possible to do that collectively? I would gladly use my personal resources and time to get it set up, if it is not there? We can help Delta help us and other customers create a better flying experience. I am in Johannesburg now, sweating where I am in line for the last 6 business class seats open on my flight. I leave again 3 days later for another long flight and sweating that one as well. We should at least know what our place in line is, so that I can at least pony up the extra cash to put myself in business class, its a big number!

  14. I have achieved Diamond medallion several times with Delta and for me the greatest value by far would to able to get 4 global upgrades. But the question is: can you ever use the upgrades?? As I have learned in the past and as I so painfully learned recently however is that Delta makes it almost impossible for you to use the upgrade at the time of booking. When I ask about the the availability of the upgrade they always say “sorry, no seats available on that flight”. Likewise, when you ask for global upgrade availability up to one week before my preferred travel date or one week after, the answer is the same “sorry no seats for global upgrades on any of those days either”. United on the other hand gives 6 global upgrades for reaching 1K and here is the great part. You can check on line and in every case I have been able to book an economy flight (transpacific) and use my upgrade at the time of booking. Business class every time for the price of economy on United. I’m basically planning on never trying to achieve any medallion status again on Delta.

  15. Manny, don’t wait in line for those upgrades ever again. It’s not right that you get global upgrades for the 125,000 mile you fly with Delta and then have to sweat it out waiting in line at the last minute to see if you get to fly in business for your 12 hour flight or if you get to sit in a tin can for 12 hours. Simply fly United. I have been a 1 K for the last 5 years and they give, not four, but SIX global upgrades. And…you simply book these upgrades yourself AT THE TIME OF BOOKING! Why anyone sweats as a Delta Diamond and puts up with this is beyond me. United’s global upgrades are much, much better.

  16. I am sick of Delta taking away perks. No family in the sky club anymore, upgrade certificates that don’t work (leaving me with wasted benefits), fewer complimentary upgrades, paying more for last min fare while being jammed into middle seats ( happening more and more), less ability to get economy comfort upgrades, snooty attitude in the sky club… As an exclusive flyer spending bw 25k and 30k a year with only Delta I just don’t see the point of working so hard to stay Diamond. They just don’t care about my loyalty like they used to. Used to feel appreciated , now I feel like I’m just a number.

  17. Agree fully with ease of United 1k & UA Platinum upgrades over Delta. I decided to give up & return to United after reaching DL Platinum, but never successfully getting the upgrades to clear. Most UA planes are much more comfortable & crews are getting better. Still not always on time, but improving.

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