Did Delta Just Save The Future Of My American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades?

I don’t cover the Delta SkyMiles program very much, mostly because they don’t have much to offer to me.  My home airport, Washington Dulles (IAD) is not an airport with much service from them.  And, frankly, their mileage program is pretty bad.  Today, they made it much less bad.

View From The Wing has very detailed coverage here.

Plus, there’s a discussion on Milepoint you can join.


  • Delta is introducing two new products for elites, Regional Upgrades and Global Upgrades.  Names sound familiar? (Hello, United Airlines)
  • Regional Upgrades are essentially confirmable upgrades for domestic US flights.  Platinum members will be able to select 4 of these as one of their “choices” each year, thus foresaking something else (though likely something less valuable, IMO).  Diamond members can choose an additional 8 Regional Upgrades on top of the 4 they get when they achieve Platinum each year.
  • Global Upgrades are a Diamond choice only.  Diamond members can choose 4 Global Upgrades that are redeemable on virtually every fare class (E is the only exception, a bargain basement fare that most folks don’t buy).  This is a huge change, essentially removing the much higher fare requirements of Delta’s existing international upgrade options.  Diamond members only get 4 of these upgrades as opposed to the 6 they previously got, yet most folks will see this as a “win” with the fare class requirement going away.

So, why is this a big deal for me as an American Airlines Executive Platinum member?

American Airlines is certainly the most generous with their version (Systemwide Upgrades, or SWUs).  Executive Platinum members earn 8 of these certificates each year, and they have virtually no fare restrictions.

United offers their members 6 per year, but with a fare restriction to W class and above (not as bad as Delta’s old requirement).

US Airways offers 2 on a somewhat narrow group of fares.

The domestic US legacy carriers are copycats.  With everyone having a significantly less valuable benefit than American Airlines here, this benefit seemed ripe for the new American to enhance.  This announcement by Delta is certainly no guarantee, but now there’s someone else offering a good premium product and offering a solid international upgrade benefit besides American.  It doesn’t mean United steps up it’s game, but it does mean, IMO, it’s significantly less likely today than it was yesterday that American makes changes to this benefit in the near future.

I’ve been dismayed frequently by the legacy carriers copying each other on fee increases and other customer-unfriendly behavior.  I’m certainly happy to see Delta moving more to American’s way of thinking on SWUs. Now, if Doug would just leave the domestic upgrade system at American intact…..

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