No Surprise, Delta Announces Huge Profit from Purchased Upgrades for Business Travelers

Much to the chagrin of Delta Medallions, Delta’s Q417 earnings call on Thursday revealed just how profitable those purchased upgrades are. Delta president Glen Hauenstein bragged that the domestic upgrade revenue stream is “extremely strong and growing fast”. Not only that, he hypothesized that the majority of growth is coming from business travelers who are using their own personal dollars to upgrade when their companies purchase them economy seats. The airline even allows them to print two separate receipts, one for reimbursement of the business expense (the economy ticket) and one for the upgrade. Sadly, it was noted that many of these travelers are already Delta elites, but don’t want to risk not securing the upgrade and are willing to spend out of pocket!

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  1. I am a United 1K member and I pay to upgrade my flights a lot. I typically fly ORD-EWR and can usually score upgrades for $99 each way at the time of booking. I’m happy to shell out a few bucks of my own to secure a better travel experience. The complimentary upgrades have largely gone away and I’ve become accustomed to this new way of doing business with United. I appreciate the increased Premier Qualifying Mileage earned on my upgrades as well when I pay the upgrade cost. It helps me re-qualify a lot faster for next year by upgrading this way!

    • Same here. I buy these out of my own pocket on work trips because my company only pays for economy’ and happy to do so. There really aren’t many benefits to loyalty anymore.

  2. Why do people act like airlines are wrong for charging money for something people want to buy? Stealing people’s money through unannounced serial devaluations is criminal, but this is smart business.

  3. As a Delta elite, I have a formula based on the duration of the flight and the cost of the upgrade. If it makes sense I buy it. That has been very rare because on short flights like EWR-MSP or EWR-ATL etc. I find I don’t need first class, especially given the lack of a meal.

    Unfortunately the flights I would be most interested are transcons and those are quite a bit more than I am interested to pay.

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