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Delta Airlines changes international business class upgrade algorithm

Delta Airlines changed its upgrade algorithm making it nearly impossible to clear mileage upgrades for purchases less than 14 days from the travel date. Historically, Delta has used the mileage upgrade to fill empty premium cabin seats through the purchase of higher economy fares (M,B,Y class). Upgrade inventory would routinely be available 14, 7, and 3 days prior to departure. Now, Delta has modified its business class upgrade algorithm to block almost any upgrade request made within 14 days of travel regardless of the number of seats sold.

Take the following example to prove our point. Delta # 63 between Boston & London on June 12th has 11 out of 36 business class seats unsold but upgrades seats ARE AVAILABLE despite a 69% load factor. One day earlier (June 11th), the same fight has 23 out of 36 business class seats unsold. With 64% of the business class inventory being AVAILABLE, the upgrade is NOT AVAILABLE.

Delta’s algorithm change blocks the June 11th departure because the departure is less than 14 days from the departure date. These rule changes block business traveler’s access to the mileage upgrade, as this segment normally plans and purchases on short notice. The extreme business class discounting that took place in April & early May (i.e. $474 to Paris) will likely be subsidized by business travelers paying higher fares for last minute travel.

As of May 29th, the upgrade restrictions apply to Delta flights originating in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York & Los Angeles. Travel from & to Philadelphia are currently exempt. As of the time of writing, American Airlines is positioned to follow the Delta rule change.