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Which Flights Are Best for Getting an Upgrade?

SmarterTravel

Dear Tim,

I am a Silver Medallion member of the Delta SkyMiles program, and as such I am eligible for first-class upgrades if available. I’ll be traveling from JFK to LAX on a Saturday, returning the following Friday, and want to try to maximize the opportunity for an upgrade. Delta offers nonstop flights from JFK on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m., 2:05 p.m., 4:25 p.m., and 6:40 p.m., and from LAX on Fridays at 7:00 a.m., 9:45 a.m., and 11:08 a.m. Can you suggest which are the heaviest traveled of these and which are the lightest so that I might select the flights with better chances of getting upgraded?

Arthur Z.

Dear Arthur,

In general, elite upgrades are mostly earned and used by business travelers. Given that, we can make some assumptions about when such upgrades are likely to be more and less available.

For example, on your Saturday flight from JFK, your chances of getting an elite upgrade will probably be better later in the day. The reason is business travelers who were not able to conclude their meetings on Friday early enough to fly home before the start of the weekend will want to be on an early flight on Saturday. Therefore, upgrades will be more readily available on flights later in the day.

For the Friday LAX-to-JFK flight, business travelers will again typically gravitate toward the earlier flights, increasing your odds of getting an upgrade on flights later in the day. Generally speaking, upgrades will be more available later in the day than earlier and on weekends rather than weekdays.

But while those considerations will hold more often than not, there may be factors in play on your particular travel days and flights that subvert the normal patterns.

My advice would be to book your flights by phone with a Delta reservations agent. You will pay a service charge, but the agent will be in a position to steer you toward the best upgrade availability. If you are successful in obtaining the upgrades, the booking fee will have been a small price to pay.

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