How To Purchase A Delta Upgrade At Gate

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Most frequent flyers are aware of Delta’s generous domestic complimentary upgrades for elite members. These complimentary upgrades are often reserved for Medallion Diamond, Platinum, Gold and sometimes even Silver members. But even if you don’t have status there is still a chance to upgrade to First Class at the gate.

How To Purchase A Gate Upgrade

The first thing to consider is that not all flights will offer the same-day upgrade for purchase. These are dependent on availability and routing. In addition, you have to be on a fare higher than K class. This means if your fare is a Y, B, M, H, Q, or K, you can purchase the same-day upgrade if the availability is there.

Your best chance is on a North America route that doesn’t have a lot of elite members on the flight, think non-peak routes and times.

The same-day standby upgrade option allows you to upgrade your flight for a small fee, provided space is available and your ticket is eligible. Eligible tickets are those ticket booked in K-class (or higher). For travel to/from Hawaii only, eligible fares include those booked in L, U and T classes. This option applies to specific flights and routings:

  • Within North America
  • To/from Aruba, Bermuda, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), Montego Bay (Jamaica), Nassau (Bahamas), Providenciales (Turks and Caicos), Los Cabos (Mexico), San Juan (Puerto Rico), and St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands)
  • Between Atlanta and Costa Rica, St. Maarten and St. Lucia
  • Between Cancun (Mexico)and Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis and Minneapolis


The second thing you should consider is price. Does it really make sense to pay for the upgrade on short flights? It depends.

The same-day upgrade is priced by distance. You can see the cost breakdown in the picture below.


Does Availability Really Exist For These Upgrades?

Yes. On my flight to Dallas, there were 2 upgrades available and no one left on the upgrade list. Coach was another story. There were only 42 seats assigned at time of boarding. This means there were a ton of coach seats available for the non-revenue flyers stand by list and 2 seats available to the general public to upgrade to at the gate. This flight was non-peak travel time. As a result, the plane was wide open.


Breakfast was served as the sun rose.


The breakfast included cereal, fruit, yogurt and a muffin top.


Bottom Line

If you are a non-elite SkyMiles Medallion member, there is still a chance fr an upgrade, but you’ll have to hand over some cash to purchase the same-day upgrade.

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The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. Wonder how often this is possible? In my former life as a non elite Delta flyer I never thought there would be space avail. Then again out of Atlanta those upfront seats are hard to come by.

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