Today we learned that Delta’s regional and global upgrade certificates have become more valuable. The biggest news: upgrade certificates can now be used on award flights. Almost as exciting: we can now see upgrade availability directly in Delta’s search results. Delta’s announcement about these changes and more can be found here.
Delta offers four levels of elite status: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Platinum elites earn an annual Choice Benefit where they can choose 4 regional upgrade certificates (RUCs). Diamond elites can pick both the single Platinum Choice Benefit and three Diamond Choice Benefits. The best of these Diamond Choice Benefits, in my opinion, is to pick upgrade certificates: 4 Global, or 8 Regional, or 2 Global and 4 Regional. I’ve always picked 4 Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs).
Previously, RUCs and GUCs could only be applied to cash tickets. The fact that we can now apply them to award tickets means that we take advantage of one of the best uses of Delta miles (Skymiles Flash Sales) and still upgrade to first class in advance.
Previously, the only way to find out if upgrade space was available on a given flight was to call Delta and ask. Now, we can see for ourselves online. That’s huge. We can now pick flights not just based on price and convenience, but also based on upgrade availability. For example, one of the most sought after routes for upgrades is the flight between New York and Los Angeles which features lie-flat seats in Delta One. It took a few searches to find a flight with confirmable upgrade space, but I did find it. In the example here, you could book this flight for only 10,500 miles and apply a RUC (regional upgrade certificate) to fly Delta One. That’s a savings of 34,500 miles compared to paying 45,000 miles for the same seat:
Platinum and Diamond status increase in value
Late last year Delta announced that award flights originating in North America can be changed and cancelled for free. Before that announcement, one of the best features of Platinum status was the ability to change and cancel Delta awards for free. Now, that same feature is available to everyone, as long as their award flights originate in North America. As a result of that change, I re-evaluated the value of Delta elite status. Platinum and Diamond status became less valuable because Delta was now giving away a perk that was previously reserved for top tier elites. See: What is Delta elite status worth?
Todays news, though, takes things in the opposite direction. Enhancements to RUCs and GUCs are benefits only to those who earn Platinum and Diamond elite status. While I haven’t done so yet, I now need to update my Delta elite status valuations yet again. RUCs and GUCs have become more valuable and so Platinum and Diamond elite status are now more valuable as a result.
Delta miles increase in value (for top tier elites)
In my post “Delta Miles are Worth Less” I discussed the devaluation of Delta miles specifically for booking partner awards. And in my post, Best uses for Delta miles, I noted that there are still some great uses for those miles. Now, for top tier elites, that’s more true than ever. We can now book the best value economy award flights we can find (excluding basic economy), and use our RUCs or GUCs to upgrade. That’s awesome.
Delta got a lot of bad press recently for drastically increasing partner award prices. And, as a result, people began to question the value of chasing Delta elite status. In the post “Ouch – Big Delta devaluation on partner awards,” Nick wrote “Delta is devaluing business class awards big time at a time when few people are looking at international business class awards… Sorry Greg, I just can’t see spending for Delta Diamond as a winning proposition moving forward.” Now, though, Delta has greatly upped the ante. I’d argue that spending one’s way to Delta elite status may make more sense now than ever before.
For details about spending towards elite status, see: How to earn Delta elite status through credit card spend.