I’m a newbie when it comes to doing the legwork to redeem and upgrade using Delta SkyMiles.  I’ve been flying Delta semi-regularly for only 2 years or so, with a recent uptick that will probably see me fly enough to hit Gold Medallion this year.  The test and actual bookings I’ve tried in using SkyMiles for various itineraries haven’t been all that successful.  For me at least, SkyMiles seem a bit more difficult to use than AAdvantage miles.  But I’m starting to pick up on tips and tricks, and I’ll pass those a long as I can.

Today, I had my first opportunity to use SkyMiles to upgrade a domestic itinerary from coach to first class.  Next week, I’m flying to Seattle for a 5 day business trip.  I consider anything over 3 hours a reasonable candidate for a mileage based upgrade, and this trip certainly meets that threshold.  But I don’t really care about the outbound as I have good seats, and I’m connecting in MSP, basically half-way there.  The return however, I care about.  After a long week of working, I really don’t want to sit in 16E for my return flight which will take me from SEA to DTW to DCA, with that SEA to DTW leg being a good bit over 4 hours.

Delta is fairly restrictive on the fares it will allow you to upgrade with miles with only Y, B, and M fares eligible internationally, with the addition of Q, V H, and K fares domestically.  Just so happens, my trip to Seattle is booked in K.  After a quick check of ExpertFlyer, which appeared to show availability in G class (mileage upgrade class for domestic flights) I gave Delta a call at the Special Member Services (SMS) number on the back of my Medallion card.  Minor rant: I was on hold for 10 minutes.  When I finally got through, I explained that I would like to upgrade my flight with miles, and was then transferred to the “mileage desk.”  It would be better if any representative could process the upgrade, but I guess you can’t have everything.  At least I didn’t have to wait any longer as the “mileage desk” picked up the phone immediately.  I again explained that I’d like to upgrade the return portion of my trip.  The very polite representative handled my request in minutes, and soon I was no longer seated in dreadful 16E.  The “price” in miles was 12,500 and there were no dreadful co-pays.

A few observations.  It would be best if mileage upgrades could be processed at the first point of contact (or better yet, online).  Perhaps I called the wrong 800 #.  If any Delta experts out there have any thoughts on that, leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.  Delta is quite restrictive on the fares it allows you to upgrade.  I think a nice enhancement would be to allow Medallion members to upgrade with miles on any fare.  Otherwise, no complaints about the process, except that I think a 10 minute wait to talk to a live person is over the top for the “elite” phone line (or any phone line for that matter).  I’ve tried to call Delta a couple of times recently, only to hang up when I grew tired of waiting.  In any event, I think this was a pretty good spend of SkyMiles, or at least it was for me.