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Today will be a nice post for rookies and every day Delta flyers alike. Free upgrades are always nice, but there is a ton that can affect your ability to score these coveted seats. Some of this is very simple to understand; some of it take a bit to wrap you head around and I will try to make it as simple as possible to follow.
The basic rule is that if you are any level of medallion, on most paid for tickets (will touch more on free tickets later) you are eligible to be on the upgrade list. Once you check-in for a trip, you will be able to see on the phone app, or on Delta.com, or on the screens at the gate, where you are on the upgrade list and how many seats are open in 1st class. Watching where you are on this list can be like seeing a football, after just having kicked the ball, and seeing if the pig skin will just clear the uprights for the game winning points. The worst thing is the ball hitting the upright and just missing the goal wide. Same thing when you are say #5 on the list with 5 seats open when at the last second you move to #6. Grrrr we all hate that.
Then what are the basics that can affect your chance for an upgrade? The biggest trump card is status. Diamonds are top of the heap. Then you work your way down to PM, GM & FO’s. Now it is not JUST status, but what class of service you are in. CWSI.net has a perfect tool HERE you can plug in and see just how much it will affect your move up and over others. To keep this simple, LUT, the lowest and most common discounted coach class tickets, get you the worst chance for an upgrade. Just moving to K, one step above LUT, will have a HUGE impact on your ability to upgrade over those with the same status as you. The higher your fare class the better your chance. Then there is also the ultimate tiebreaker, the DELTA AMEX Reserve card. If you and I both have say an “L” class ticket, both are Platinum Medallion, and I have my Reserve card, I get the upgrade and you get coach! If all else is totally equal, it is whoever purchased the ticket first that gets the upgrade.
What about if you are say a Gold Medallion and you book a ticket for you and your wife on the same itinerary. Can you both get an upgrade? Yes, but the first thing that MUST happen is she must also have a Skymiles number. Never, ever, fly Delta without having a Skymiles number! Period. As a GOLD, normally you could clear 3 days out. With a companion, you drop down to 1 day or at the gate. If you are NOT on the same itinerary, you can ask at the airport for you both to be upgraded (on the same itinerary you can just do it on Delta.com).
Upgrades are also processed differently depending on your status level. DM & PM 5+ days out. GM 3 and FO is 1 day. If you fail to get the upgrade e-mail notice, gosh I love those, you will have to wait and hope to get it at the gate. There is a common myth that you lose your place on the upgrade list if you board the plane. I can tell you from personal experience, a good GA will come onboard to upgrade you if an upgrade clears and you are #1 on the list.
Skymiles upgrades, can you get them, sure but not for companions unless you both are GM+ then you will clear at the lowest level of medallion status. So a DM would clear at the lower level. Also keep in mind FO’s do not get skymiles upgrades so keep that in mind as well (time to work on upgrading your status).
So these are the basics about upgrades. There is more, but these are the questions I get asked the most. You can read a bunch more HERE at the Delta website. – René