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Upgrades to Delta One Biz Class Abroad are Cheaper than Ever

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Frequent Delta flyers are painfully accustomed to seeing sky-high flight prices and insultingly exorbitant award rates using SkyMiles to book business class abroad. But a recent trend is turning that on its head: Upgrades to Delta One business class seem cheaper than ever.

Forget paying $3,000 or more each way to bump up from economy to business class. We've heard from a growing number of Thrifty Traveler Premium members and other travelers in recent months who have scored upgrades to Delta business class to Europe or Asia for just $500 or $600 (or just 50,000 SkyMiles) within weeks – if not days – of departure. In some rare cases, these upgrades are even cheaper…
 

 

Do i win?
byu/christianjackson indelta

 

That's as good as it gets compared to the $5,000-plus fares Delta regularly charges upfront for these seats. And upgrade prices don't get much better than this, considering some lucky travelers are paying the same rates you'll typically see to upgrade to first class on a two- to three-hour domestic flight … but instead, getting a lie-flat seat (or even a snazzy Delta One Suite) that turns into a bed for an eight-plus hour flight overseas.

In some cases, upgrading to business class on these long-haul flights actually costs less than Delta Premium Select seats on the exact same flight!
 

Delta One Suite A330neo 

Read our ranking of Delta One seats from first … to worst – and why so many Delta business class cabins are out of date!

While Delta might initially quote that egregious $3,000 upgrade you're accustomed to seeing, those prices seem to be regularly falling as departure draws closer. A few recent highlights include: 

  • Bumping up to Delta One Suites later this month from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) cost just $499 (or 49,900 SkyMiles) apiece
  • Not one but two travelers flying separately from Atlanta (ATL) to London-Heathrow (LHR) earlier this spring upgraded from economy to Delta One for $499 (or 49,900 SkyMiles) per passenger 
  • Days before making the trip back home, one flyer snagged a Delta One upgrade from Milan (MXP) to Atlanta (ATL) by paying just 44,900 SkyMiles
  • Flying back from Amsterdam (AMS) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), members saw business class upgrades dip as low as $449 each
  • About a week before departure, one traveler just upgraded to Delta One Suites from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Seoul (ICN) for just $599 each

Let's be clear: While all those prices are great, this still is not a slam dunk. You're still probably more likely to see upgrade prices north of $1,000 or more. These better deals likely hinge on there being plenty of empty business class seats leading up to departure, and that's never a sure thing.

Still, it's an undeniable trend with low upgrade rates on Delta more prevalent than in recent memory. And that means it's worth double-, triple-, quadruple-, and even quintuple-checking your Delta flights in the weeks and days before a trip overseas. While you might initially see eye-popping prices, the odds that the cost to upgrade falls below $1,000 (or half that) seem greater than ever.

And it's not just us who have picked up on it. The dedicated Delta forum on Reddit has been abuzz lately with flyers benefitting from similar – if not identical – cheap upgrades to Delta One. This is one of the dozens of accounts we've seen throughout the spring and even the early summer.
 

 

Time to upgrade.
byu/Playful-Reflection12 indelta

 

Again: You still can't count on seeing prices this low … but your odds seem better than ever – particularly when heading over to Europe and back. 

Cheap prices like these fly in the face of our usual advice regarding upgrades: It's rarely a safe bet, as most airlines make it exorbitantly expensive (if not outright impossible) to upgrade after the fact. And it contradicts recent trends with Delta itself: Soaring flight prices at many of its hubs and laughably high award rates to book business class using SkyMiles.

So what's going on here?

From American to Delta to United and even many major international carriers, airlines routinely sell upgrades to business class – just rarely at prices this low. But in the U.S., Delta has taken selling off seats at the front of the plane to an extreme … much to the chagrin of loyal Medallion members hoping for a complimentary upgrade.

Now, it seems like the airline is flirting with the same approach for its widebody planes heading abroad. It's still hit-or-miss, but the trend is undeniable. 

Much like those SkyMiles rates, upgrade prices on Delta are all over the map and constantly changing as Delta tries to fill seats and maximize revenue on each flight. At these prices, this is the best way to book Delta business class right now … by far. And that's true whether you're OK paying cash or forking over some SkyMiles for the upgrade.

Consider this: Delta regularly charges $4,000 or more for a roundtrip in long-haul business class. SkyMiles rates of 400,000-plus for a one-way to Europe in business class have become the norm.

In fact, these cheap upgrades look even better now after the best way to book Delta One to Europe – for just 50,000 points each way! – finally met its demise. Virgin Atlantic killed off that workaround last week by raising award rates and tacking on more than $1,000 in fees.

But if you can upgrade a (hopefully cheap) economy ticket for just $500 or so to fly in business class instead? That's tough to beat.
 

thrifty traveler fb group comments 

Using SkyMiles to upgrade instead, it's tied directly to the cash cost – and you'll almost always get a flat 1 cent for each mile. That means a $500 upgrade costs you 50,000 SkyMiles while a $449 upgrade will be 44,900 SkyMiles each.

Is that the best way to redeem SkyMiles for top dollar? Hardly. But as Delta has obliterated sweet spots and repeatedly raised award rates, the avenues to get more value out of your SkyMiles keep shrinking.

And when it gets you a lie-flat seat at a time when that's increasingly harder to do with SkyMiles, who cares? 

 

How to Upgrade with Delta & Tips

For a third and (possibly) final time: There's no guarantee Delta will cut you a bargain on an upgrade to business class. 

Now, as always, upgrade prices are all over the map. You might check your Delta flight to Madrid (MAD) or Seoul (ICN) hoping for a $500 upgrade offer only to see something closer to $5,000. So it goes.

But now more than ever, it's worth repeatedly checking your upcoming Delta flight to see if that price has dropped. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Prices for upgrades seem to bottom out within three weeks of departure – and especially within the final week or two. Set yourself some calendar reminders to check, double check, and check one more time.
  • If you don't see a price you like, look hard at the seat map in Delta One. If it's fairly full, don't count on a bargain. But if there are plenty of open seats, it's easily worth checking back again.
  • There's no question this trend is most pronounced on flights to and from Europe, but we've seen some great upgrade deals between the U.S. and Asian cities like Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and Seoul (ICN), too.  
  • These excellent upgrade offers are getting extended whether you booked a standard main cabin economy seat, Delta Comfort Plus, or Delta Premium Select – though higher-paying customers may see the lowest upgrade rates
  • There's one exception: Delta basic economy fares are ineligible for these cabin upgrades, period. 

To check yours, boot up your Fly Delta app and navigate to your next international flight under “My Trips.” You should automatically see any available upgrade offers once you pull up your reservation. The same goes for logging in at Delta.com on desktop. 

Otherwise, check out the seat map for your flight and scroll up to the Delta One cabin. Just as with a simple domestic trip, you should see the price to upgrade.
 

upgrade chart with Delta 

Not seeing a price you like? Or is the entire Delta One cabin blocked off, period? Check back later – that could easily change in a matter of days.

 

Bottom Line

It's still far from a sure thing, but upgrade prices to Delta business class are looking better than we've ever seen them. 

Check your upcoming long-haul Delta flights to see if you, too, have lucked out with a $500 or so upgrade to Delta One business class this summer or fall. It's hit or miss – and, most importantly, these prices are regularly changing. You may need to check repeatedly to get a good deal … and still could come up empty-handed.

But at a time when booking a Delta One business class seat might cost thousands of dollars or millions of SkyMiles, it's worth the extra effort. 

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

18 Responses

  • Unless there are many empty business seat, this will not fly. What is the percentage of this happening?

    If the opportunity presents itself, I would either book main seat with option to cancel or main seat with points and this would only be as a backup flight.

    This is interesting Kyle. Great article!

  • Lots of “May”, “Might”, “could”, few and far,. Do you have dates when these flights were upgraded?
    Maybe try more crowd sourcing from your source – Facebook.

    • Lots of “may, “might,” and “could” because there’s still no guarantee, and we need to be upfront about that. As we noted throughout the story, the Delta flyers who are benefitting from these cheap upgrade rates are seeing them within three weeks of departure.

  • Please note, that it has been shown that those with lower or no status, get better offers than those who have many flights already booked in advance. -A Silver and Diamond on same flight, and usually the Silver gets a much better price offer for upgrade, especially if the Diamond member has 4 or more flights booked for future travel. -It has happened to me when traveling with another person on same int’l flight and same fare, and the other person being lower status. Not sure if any way for you to confirm this with your DL connections?

  • I have a flight to LHR in June that I was able to snag a $499 upgrade on last week. I checked the app daily. I noticed a few weeks ago the upgrade price dropped and I waited to make a decision and the next day the price to upgrade was back up to $3000+. I kept checking the app and when the price dropped again I jumped on it. I’m sure there’s no way to guarantee you will ever get the offer but diligence just may pay off!

    • Great tip Kit! I read the article so checked an upcoming flight to SYD in June and it shows a price of $3800 to upgrade from Premium Select to biz (that’s crazy). I’ll keep checking the App as you suggested. Thanks…

  • Great article! Yes, the upgrade for a great price is the “new” game to play. Just like with award seats we need to check daily to see if a great upgrade offer pops up. Twice I was able to get this with the European airlines too.

  • I flew Delta One from JFK to MUC last Thursday and was very disappointed with the narrow coffin-like hard product. Service was OK but too familiar for my liking after decades of flying more formal carriers like Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian. I have a RT ticket so flying them back to JFK on Tuesday but so far this is a Never Again situation. Also immigration in Munich took an hour…. Another reason why I fly foreign carriers… Because few Americans do and we can normally sail through immigration as a result.

  • I have seen similar ones in United and Qatar airways also. Upgraded from Premium to Polaris class from Frankfurt to Newark for around $700 last November

  • United has done these same upgrade offers for years, even before Covid. Since United often copies Delta, I think it is amazing that the reverse is happening.

    I seriously doubt many offers will be available this summer, but like another poster stated, keep checking. You never know…

  • I see a $799 upgrade offer on my JFK to KEF flight late Aug. It’s only a 5 1/2 hour flight so I would maybe consider $499. At the moment though it’s looking promising that I could get poor man’s biz class in the back. Economy isn’t even 1/4 full.

  • I ended up book marking this article since I just booked a Delta flight for March HND. I will be looking out for an upgrade and hoping to score a Delta Suite. Currently, no biz seats are taken. A ways to go, but worth checking!!

    • That particular screenshot is not a deal – just showing the mechanics of how to find your upgrade offer.

  • We were able to upgrade to Premium Select for $300 on an economy flight booked on miles from Omaha to London we took last November. Felt worth it since we had already gotten an amazing miles deal to begin with (I want to say around 35k miles round trip).

    These upgrade prices change so frequently, and I was surprised when Delta worked with us to honor the $300 price we saw when it later jumped to $800 to upgrade. To cover your bases, take a screenshot of the upgrade price when you see a good one but aren’t ready to book yet and they may honor it later if you chat them through customer support. Worst they can say is no!

  • I have been keeping an eye on an ATL-AMS flight I have in early September. I was originally booked on a different flight in Premium Select, but had to change it and am now booked in Economy b/c all PS and C+ were booked. I’ve been checking daily for a PS or C+ seat to open up. Right now there are ten Delta One seats open (all single seats on the outsides) and the upgrade price I’m seeing is $3,975 which is nuts. But thank you for the reminder to keep checking. It seems unlikely that there’d be many seats left on that flight the closer to departure we get, but if they offered one under 1K I’d probably take it. I don’t see the number of miles that upgrade would cost when I check via the app, though.

  • From what I see in Diamond Medallion discussions online, these offers are never made to Diamonds.

    Maybe I missed it, but are these offers only available through the app?

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