Delta To Offer “Pay With Miles” Upgrades

A few years ago, Delta announced its intention to “sell” 75% of the seats in first class. The airline didn’t actually think that it would get cash for those seats, but it wanted to get something, such as a payment in the form of miles. So here we go.

Delta Expands Upgrading with Miles

delta, upgrade

Just because you can upgrade doesn’t mean that it’s cheap to do so.

Delta has just announced that it is expanding its “upgrade with miles” feature, allowing passengers to upgrade their seats with miles or cash after they have booked a ticket. That’s a big step up from the previous  process, which tries to upsell you as you’re booking the ticket, but doesn’t offer you the ability to go back and do so.*

Under the new program, you won’t have to buy the upgrade at the time of booking. Instead, you can upgrade at a later point. The advantage is two-fold. First, it doesn’t set a time restriction around when the purchase has to be made. Second, it makes it easier for corporate travelers who want to upgrade. Many companies force passengers to fly coach and pay for their upgrades themselves. But when booking on a corporate site, there’s rarely a way to pay with a personal credit card for a portion of the fare. The new system will allow passengers to do so through Delta’s site.

Goodbye, Even More Free Upgrades

If the winners are people who want to buy upgrades, the losers are passengers who are used to getting them for free because of their elite status. To be clear, nobody is entitled to a free upgrade. Airlines are private companies who seek to make a profit. The airline needs to be careful, though. SkyMiles is extraordinarily profitable for Delta. If they destroy the value in the program, that money could end up going somewhere else.


*There are still mileage upgrade awards.. Based on the fare class of your ticket (which usually correlates to how much the ticket cost and the restrictions), you can upgrade one-way, for between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. That award also requires availability in the upgrade bucket.


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