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Should You Upgrade Your Delta Flight with SkyMiles?

Should You Upgrade Your Delta Flight with SkyMiles?
Should You Upgrade Your Delta Flight with SkyMiles?

Delta Air Lines has introduced a new way for SkyMiles member to use their miles. You can now use them to upgrade your seat after booking a flight online without having to call a reservations desk.

How to Upgrade Your Cabin of Service Using Delta SkyMiles

Using the miles is quite easy. Simply pull up your reservation on My Trips, enter your flight details and check whether a seat is upgradeable. I have an upcoming booking to Tokyo, so I decided to test the option for myself.

The outbound portion of my itinerary includes a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, but the return from Osaka is via Seattle. When I log in to check the status of my future booking, only the return portion of my trip is upgradeable.

The system wants either $178 or 17,800 SkyMiles per passenger for an upgrade to Delta Comfort+ on the Osaka-Seattle leg and either $40.95 or $4,100 SkyMiles on the Seattle-Los Angeles leg. Delta Comfort+ includes more legroom, inflight snacks and priority boarding, but it isn’t worth spending more to me personally.

What I Think of the Option to Use SkyMiles to Upgrade

Having the ability to use your miles for a cabin upgrade is great. However, there is a big problem with this redemption method, and here’s why.

First of all, it’s not possible to upgrade all the way to Delta One on long-haul flights if you book an economy seat. You can upgrade to a cabin class one step above the one you booked only. So, it goes Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, then either First Class on domestic legs or Delta One on international legs, which is business class. In order to being able to pay for an upgrade to Delta One, you must pay for a Comfort+ seat, which can get pricey.

Delta has been selling cash upgrades to Delta Comfort+ to economy passengers for years. However, the price in miles is where the problem lies, which brings me to my second point.

If you look at the redemption rates, choosing between 17,800 miles or $178 brings the value of each SkyMiles to 1 cent each. It is clear that the loyalty program execs have been working tirelessly to bring down the value of its currency to roughly 1 cent apiece, or less, by allowing members to use their miles to pay for flights, gift cards, Sky Club memberships and even Amazon purchases.

Related: Should You Redeem Delta SkyMiles for Delta Gift Cards?

It is no secret that certain redemptions can increase the value of your miles, such as using a (non-existent) award chart to book flights. However, the program is doing everything possible to make it a secret. As a program member, you want to get as much as possible out of your loyalty, not less, and using your miles at a rate of 1 cent apiece is settling for less.

What do you think of being able to upgrade your flight with miles at a rate of 1 cent each?

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