Delta’s got international upgrades on the cheap

I find the timing of this promotion somewhat ironic as I just finished writing a post about why using miles to upgrade is such a horrible value so often. That post will go live tomorrow, as originally intended, but this one will beat it out of the gates with a sale on upgrades from Delta that is at least worth looking at, though still probably not a great deal. The offer is pretty simple: international upgrade awards are 50% off for travel through August 31, 2011.

And then comes the fine print. Like all of Delta’s BusinessElite upgrade awards you must be booked in a Y, B or M fare to take advantage of this deal. That means that you’re already paying a pretty penny for the flight. quite possibly more than the discounted business class fare would be, assuming you can find one. And finding them isn’t all that hard on many routes as they are being offered for the same reason that the upgrade sale is on – fewer business travelers during the summer holiday period.

Even worse, however, is that the Y/B/M fare requirement for this promotion applies to markets where that is normally not required, namely the service to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean:

SkyMiles members can request a one-way Upgrade Award for 50% OFF for paid tickets purchased in Y, B, or M Economy Class between the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and any international destination (including the Caribbean) that offers either J class fares (BusinessElite) or Business Class where upgrade class of service is available on Delta-operated flights only. SkyMiles members must call a Delta reservations representative for upgrades.

So no matter what you’re paying more for those upgrade opportunities. On the NYC-Cancun route the fare difference between the K and the M fares is about $300. Paying that extra just to save 15,000 points on a return trip would be a pretty bad spending decision in most valuation schemes.

It is great to see Delta trying to make the value proposition work for upgrades. I applaud the effort. But this year’s promo is a far cry from the 1 mile to upgrade deal of a couple years ago and doesn’t really help address the high fare requirements and general bad deals that upgrade awards seem to represent. Come back tomorrow and read more about that.

Hat tip to The Points Guy for the original deal and providing some great tips on booking one of these if my cynicism hasn’t dissuaded you completely.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.