If Delta GUCs Were Better for Asia, I Might Miss Diamond Status More

The headline Delta Diamond Medallion benefits is the option to select 4 Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs) as one of 3 Choice Benefits. Choice Benefits can be selected as soon as the status is earned or as late as January 31 of the program year.

Choice Benefits can be selected as soon as the status is earned or as late as January 31 of the program year. From date of Choice Benefit selection, the certificates are valid for one year. Combined there is wide flexibility of when to attempt to use them. The challenge is when you can use them.

With Delta announcing yesterday that the credit card MQD waiver for Diamond status will go up to $250,000, it is time reconsider Diamond.

American SWUs

American Airlines Executive Platinum status was long widely argued as the best top-tier status among US airlines for its Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs). You can use them on most paid fares (exclusions like basic economy, codeshares, and government or military fares). You can use them for anyone, whether or not you are traveling together. Then American reduced the number given to members AND there has been a precipitous drop in confirmable availability at booking, even on modest domestic routes. Many once loyal American flyers are hot and bothered, more than usual.

United GPUs

United Airlines 1K status holders get Global Premier Upgrades that also can be used on anyone. The catch here is for many regions you need to buy up to more expensive fares to be eligible to use them. You can use United Expert Mode to see the often paltry award availability. My brief stint as a 1K produced GPUs that expired in January. Finding mid-January availability for US East Coast where there was a great fare deal was no easy matter, and giving away to readers my other GPUs and RPUs was not much more successful. In favor of United is they allow same-day change benefits on international itineraries: I was able to change EWR-CDG to IAD-CDG when it was clear my EWR upgrade would not clear and IAD would.

Delta GPUs

Back to Delta, GUCs mirror American in allowing all typical economy fares (again with exclusions like basic economy) but can only be used for yourself or companions traveling together. Companions should be on the same ticket, though I have gotten Delta to apply GUCs to companions on the same flight. Delta does not extend same-day change benefits to international itineraries.

I have had good success with GUCs to Europe and West Africa. Not Asia, where is most of our travel. Blame it on customers buying those tickets. I know from my work in China that Chinese businesspeople typically plan everything last minute and that includes airline ticket purchases.

Blame it on customers buying those tickets. I know from my work in China that Chinese businesspeople typically plan everything last minute. In March I kept having hopes on my Detroit to Shanghai flights, yet both in the last several days went from several seats for sale to none, and I remained in the back of the plane. I was 23rd on the upgrade list for one of those flights, and only one got upgraded.

My wife (also Diamond) and I both have Asia travel this fall. Calling Delta to check every Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles route to Asia for September, October, and November yielded no more than a handful instantly confirmable dates per month per route, at best.

Here’s the seatmap for one of our mid-November Shanghai-Seattle where there are no upgrades available (I realize there can be paid tickets that have not selected seats, but still):

A Delta PVG-SEA seatmap

We might clear the upgrades later or at departure. At least we don’t have to risk a higher fare like United. Still, we are risking fares that we would not book without a belief that we will get upgraded. Without that expectation, we aren’t keen to go to many efforts to keep our Diamond status. Certainly not to drop a quarter mill!

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  • Markj

    GUC’s have been pretty worthless to me as Delta wants to clear so many at the gate and that is a nonstarter for me. The one place I have used them is MSP-HND as they can often upgrade at time of booking.