How often does a Delta medallion get an upgrade? Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver & SPG Platinum?

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my personal results for Delta upgrads at a Delta medallion flyer delta points blog

One of the most common questions I get from readers, after how many medallions does Delta have, is how often does a medallion get an upgrade. The first question is a VERY closely guarded question Delta will not tell anyone (but if any insiders who read the blog wants to tell me I am all ears) :-) ! Anyway about the other questions, that I can shed some light on.

Now the chart you see above is my personal experience (other than the SPG one that is an extrapolation from my 100+ segments a year on Delta). I fly all kinds of routes from heavy medallion ones to medallion “lite” ones. This is an average from what I have seen and others have shared with me.

Now before you yell yourself hoarse at the screen you are staring at and are saying something like:

“These numbers are total junk as I NEVER get upgraded on my routes”

I understand your feelings and I did mention that these numbers are my experience and not what all will find. Plus, there is just SO much that does go into the equation as to just who get the upgrade (including holding the Delta AMEX Reserve card). But I want to talk about basics not nuances today.

So what do I think and feel about upgrades? Simple. From my experience on mixed routes I have found that as a Diamond I expect upgrades. I consistently, while buying the cheapest tickets, as a Diamond get a 90%+ upgrades each year. When I was a Platinum it was in the 70%-ish range. The short time I was Gold was 50-50 and as a Silver max 20%. I was never “just” an SPG Platinum Delta elite but of the 100+ segments I have flown my guess is about 5% upgrade success.

Those are my numbers. Time for you to chime in. Am I spot on or way off base? Please comment so I can have a base line to see how near we are to correct medallion upgrade numbers! – René

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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31 comments

  1. Unfortunately my experience is quite different. As a GM I have never gotten an upgrade. The only time I got upgraded was two years ago as a Silver). I live in the ATL, so I guess I have a lot of ‘higher ranking medallion competition’.

  2. Mine’s been much lower over the last 5 years: DM (2 years), 64%; PM (1 year), 33%; GM (1.5 year), 15%; SM (0.5 year), 0%.

    I do a lot of M/F hub-to-hub legs. T/W/Th is much better percentage, and weekends are close to your 90%. Last-minute tix (after the DMs and PMs clear) knock down the percentage as well.

  3. I think this is about right. I would say I’m in the 90% range based in IAH and flying through most hubs. I do try to avoid ATL if possible since that is generally a harder upgrade.

  4. My hubs is diamond with the reserve Amex. He says he gets upgrades about 80% of the time. We live in Nashville which means lots of flights in and out of ATL, which severely limits your upgrade chances. He also flies DCA to ATL which will have 60 people on the upgrade list easily, so he pretty much never clears that one! Most other flights he’s good on though.

    I’m a gifted gold and probably do less than 50% upgrades. Usually though I fly with my husband and he gives me his first class seat. ;)

  5. I too live in the ATL and have only received 1 upgrade (ATL to MKE) in the past 4 years (fly between 8 to 10 flights per year on avg.) as SILVER WITH the AMEX Reserve card. I’m heading to ORD this weekend and it does not even look like I’ll get a “complementary” EC upgrade. Maybe the last year I pay the $450 for my Reserve Card!
    As a side note, my CEO is Diamond and he too has the AMEX Res. Card and he estimates about 80% out of ATL and maybe 65% coming back home to ATL for upgrades.

  6. As a silver for the last 2 years, I get upgraded about 60% of the time including award tickets. Yes, I know silvers are not supposed to be upgraded on awards, but asking nicely always works.

    As a college student, I always fly on Saturdays, Sunday mornings and Tuesdays so my chances are good.

  7. As a Gold flying out of RDU, I was once #108 on the upgrade list on a Monday morning flight to ATL.

  8. It entirely depends if you’re flying out of a hub or not, and how busy routes are on connections from a hub.
    I’m based in ATL. I am a silver medallion
    For flying out of ATL, I get upgraded around 5% of the time as silver medallion. I rarely make connections.
    If I have to make a connection in MSP or SLC, and I’m going to a large market, I get upgraded 10% of the time.
    if I’m in MSP or SLC and going to a small market, I get upgraded 50% of the time.

    The worst was LAX-SLC-ATL. In SLC, I was 138 on the upgrade list.

  9. I was Silver for last two years and mostly fly between NYC and Miami/FLL either early morning or late evening flights and was upgraded 9 out of 10 on this route. It was a bit harder to get an upgrade flying between Miami and West coast but mostly buying last minute tickets I always try to find routes with as many empty First Class seats available as possible (often thru Detroit but never thru Atlanta even if it is the quickest). On coast to coast fights (with connections) my upgrade rate was about 60% even when I was Silver. And I already forgot how to fly regular Economy, there are always Economy Comfort seats available 24 hours before departure when elites are moved to First class

  10. I’m also GM based in ATL. Don’t see many upgrades anymore but it’s very route dependent. FLRP ATL-RIC monthly and get upgraded there about 25% of the time. Today I’m flying into IAD instead of DCA. Upgrades to and from actually cleared in advance! doesn’t happen often.

  11. I am a Chicago based Platinum Medallion who flies between Chicago and Atlanta each week, and I get upgraded 99% of the time…the only times I wasn’t upgraded were when I did same day confirm onto a flight in which first class was full! It’s great being a non-hub flyer (there aren’t very many Medallions in Chicago)!

  12. As a Diamond this year I have currently flown 78 legs, of which 13 where international so not upgradeable. Of the remaining 65 legs, I have been upgraded 62 times including a very rare “pulled from the back of the plane” upgrade. Of the 3 I didn’t get upgraded on, 2 of the legs where the same trip, booked the day before the flight so they had already cleared most of the seats.

    Considering 90% of my flights connect through ATL I consider myself very lucky!

  13. I’ve been a PM for 3 years without the Reserve card and am mostly a leisure flyer on low fares.

    My upgrade percentage has ranged between 85% & 93% each year.

    Personally, I don’t believe the Reserve card makes a difference in that many upgrade situations — the fact that Delta now has 13 different coach fare classes (not counting awards!) slices and dices elites into many different buckets before a credit card would come into play.

  14. Moving up through the ranks this year. 26% as FO, 59% as GM, and 73% so far as PM out of MSN with connections mostly in DTW/MSP. Mix of Mon./Thurs. and weekend travel, high fare class during the week, low on the weekend, no Reserve card.

  15. I concur with most others. As a DM with AMEX Reserve out of DTW, my domestic upgrades, unless flying with GM spouse, is 100%. Two years ago, when I complained to a gate agent about how few upgrades I was getting as a DM, she explained that without the AMEX Reserve, you can just about forget the upgrades in DTW. I got the card and that solved the problem. Is the $450 worth it? We’ll see how the 2015 SkyMiles program works with fare-based points.

  16. As a PM I am at 23% of my eligible flights upgraded this year. Wish I had the 70% rate you got as PM, Rene, but I have to fly through ATL on Fridays and Mondays, so upgrades are rare for me. I see lots of DMs in the back on Monday morning out of ATL.

  17. I broke my down into two numbers…one includes all Delta flights (even those without first class) and the other is the true upgrade percentage for flights I am upgrade eligble on:

    2012 – Silver 24%/26% Gold 50%/50%
    2013 – Gold 38%/43%
    2014 – Gold 32%/37%

    Has anyone else seen a downward trend for their upgrades?

    I am based out of PHX so a lot of my flights route through the hubs.

  18. further detail, have the reserve card, flights are booked about 9+ months out on avg.
    connect through ATL and MSP generally
    90% fly with wife on same reservation

  19. As a Los Angeles-based platinum, I have been upgraded on all but one of my flights this year. This is likely to change from now through the end of 2014, as a lot of my travel up to this point has been LAX-SFO on the shuttle. The frequency of those flights has a lot to do with why there’s typically they’re medallion light. My international flights are all on KLM. I start to get heavy on the transcons now, so we’ll see…

  20. As a silver, my FC upgrades was 0%, but my EC “upgrade” was 95%. Being able to book exit rows and consistently get EC seats at t-24 is a huge reason that even casual travelers should consider getting minimal status.

  21. NYC – SLC Midweek R/T travel 8-9 times a year

    GOLD – last 2 years 5% upgrade at best. (None this year)
    usually #15-25 on upgrade list with only 6-8 seats in First (usually only 1-2 Available)

    GOLD in NYC only good for EC seats at booking.
    Beyond that WORTHLESS

  22. For many years as PM & GM my wife and I were 50/50 for double upgrades, but when I was and she wasn’t I turned it down. We finally arrived at the point where it’s simply easier to book FC & reserve adjacent seats

  23. As a GM this year until July I had like 4 upgrades total since January, now I am PM and have been upgraded on all routes EXCEPT ATL to LAX, hard to get an upgrade, one time I was # 4 and another # 5, close as I got. I did a 7 leg MR last week from ATL to SEA and was upgraded on all 7 segments, I have 10 more flight between now and the end of OCT, by then I’ll be DM I hope….gotta say upgrades are really nice.

  24. Rene. for me your numbers seems pretty accurate. I fly out of either TPA, MCO, or JAX as well as my hometown airport (TLH) when the fares aren’t ridiculous (which isn’t often). Anyway, I was only FO for a short period of time but it was about 25% and for the last year I have been GM and it’s been right at 50%. I don’t have any experience with PM or DM, but I just became PM about a week ago so I’m looking forward to a few more upgrades in the future. My plan is to just come in under DM stage with about 122K MQMs and stay at PM letting 47K rollover to next year rather than just crossing over into DM and then having a longer road to get back to PM or DM the next year.

  25. I got an insert at the beginning of the year saying “welcome to Platinum Medallion”, that said less than 2% of Sky Miles Members flew 75,000+ miles last year.

    What did it say for DM? What did it say for Gold?

  26. I have not actually tracked my upgrades, but I would guess as a GM I get upgraded somewhere between 30-40% of my flights. I am based in ATL. I’m almost always in the top 5 of the upgrade list though, unless I’m going cross-country.

    Now I’m going to start tracking my numbers!

  27. I notice in the last few weeks delta is very reluctant to give any upgrades on 3-4 hours flights cross country. Even one flight, 6 days out, had 18 empty first class seats and no immediate upgrade, although on 5 days out they triggered a few. Returning flight had 11 empty seats 6 days out, and no upgrades. Instead, banners keep popping up with how much Extra I could pay to get upgraded, and this price has dropped twice. They will do anything to get revenue for the empty seats, which is good business, but not so good if you are promoting complimentary upgrades. Frustrating.

  28. I switched from UAL to Delta Jan this year and was awarded Gold status based on Delta’s matching program. I have flown 100K MQM’s in the last 10 months and have noticed little to no difference in upgrade % when I moved from Gold to Platinum (~10%). I usually fly BOS-MSP and recently BOS-SLC and usually 10 or so on the upgrade list. The only time I do get an upgrade is on short hauls like BOS-LGA or SLC-PDX where the benefit is minimal.

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