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Using Delta miles to upgrade to Business Class on the way to Europe can be very expensive. It costs 60,000 – 80,000 miles one way to upgrade from Economy to Business Class on Delta flights.
But there is a way to get into Business Class using a lot fewer miles by booking an Air France Premium Economy fare and upgrading to Business Class with your Delta miles.
Here is the rundown of what you need to know, with step by step instructions below:
1. Search for Air France flights that have ‘O’ inventory
‘O’ is the fare bucket that upgraded seats get booked into, and you’ll want to buy your ticket on a flight that has seats open in this fare class so you can upgrade right away. You can go to Delta.com and search for award seats in Business Class on Air France to identify those with ‘O’ seats available.
Alternatively, you can pay to use ExpertFlyer.com which will let you look for Air France ‘O’ class more precisely. The space ExpertFlyer.com shows is the space Air France releases to partners like Delta.
2. Figure out the price by searching for Air France flights with ‘S’ class
Now that you’ve found flights you can upgrade on, you’ll need to buy a Premium Economy ticket. Air France has 3 Premium Economy fares, ‘W’, ‘S’, and ‘A’. Only ‘W’ and ‘S’ are eligible for upgrades and ‘S’ is the lower of the two fares. Usually from the East Coast to Europe it runs about $2,000 – $2,500 roundtrip.
The easiest way to check the fare is to call on the phone and ask for an Air France ‘S’ fare. But if you are shy or want to check all dates, you can go to the site ITASoftware.com, which has a powerful airfare search engine. There, enter your destination and click on the ‘Advanced routing codes’ link:
Then, copy and paste this line into the routing codes box:
/ f bc=s; airlines AF
That will tell ITASoftware to look only for fares in ‘S’ class on Air France so you can see exactly how much it will cost you.
3. Book the flight on Delta.com or on the phone
You can’t buy a ticket on AirFrance.com or any other location besides Delta if you want to upgrade your flight. The key is having a Delta ticket number so Delta can access your ticket to upgrade it, and the only way to guarantee that is to book on Delta.com or on the phone with Delta.
The simplest way to do this is to just call Delta.
You know what the price will be. So just say you want to buy an Air France flight with an Air France flight number so you can upgrade.
Tell the agent to use the ‘S’ booking class in Premium Economy with Air France flight numbers, not Delta flight numbers.
Otherwise, you can buy an Air France Premium Economy ticket on Delta.com, but it will assigned a Delta flight number and you’ll have to get it manually changed over.
This is what your Delta itinerary email should look like if you’re booked in ‘S’ class on Air France:
4. If you bought on Delta.com, call Delta and ask to change your ticket to display Air France marketed and coded flights.
You can skip this step if you buy your ticket over the phone.
By default Delta sells Air France flights with Delta flight numbers. For example, the flight above Air France 9, is sold by Delta as DELTA 1017 – OPERATED BY DELTA CODESHARE PARTNER, AIR FRANCE AS AIR FRANCE 9.
This step is necessary because if you are on an Air France flight but with a Delta flight number, Delta won’t be able to see upgrade space.
This step tends to confuse some agents, but when you call just say you want to change your flight to an Air France marketed flight number so that you can then upgrade.
It’s terribly confusing for everyone involved, and you can get around it by booking on the phone the right way first.
Ask them to confirm a new ticket has been issued.
5. Request the upgrade
Some agents aren’t even aware upgrading Air France flights is possible. If they aren’t, tell them to look up award code ‘FM 01’ in their system, and they’ll see all the instructions.
If they say no space is available, double check that your ticket has Air France flight numbers, not Delta flight numbers, and have them check again.
Once it’s set, they’ll re-ticket it and deduct 15,000 miles each way for your upgrade.
Here’s what it will look like when you look at your itinerary on Delta.com:
What else should you know?
For intra-Europe flights like Paris to Milan you won’t be upgraded to Business, but you will be seated in Premium Economy which is basically the same on those short flights. You sit right behind Business Class in the same kind of seats (which are the same as coach on these short flights), and while the middle seat isn’t blocked, it’s less likely to be filled than in coach.
Once you get it down, the process is quick, but Delta needs to do a better job of streamlining it and educating their agents.
Getting rid of the confusion of Delta flight numbers not showing upgrade space would go a long way to eliminating the confusion, but don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
And while the tickets aren’t cheap at $2,000+ roundtrip, this is still a decent value.
You’re paying 40,000 miles for a roundtrip upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class, versus 120,000 – 160,000 miles roundtrip to upgrade Economy to Business if you booked Delta’s own flights.
You also get a 50% Medallion Qualifying Miles boost for booking Premium Economy, which you don’t get for booking the lowest upgradable Economy fare on Delta flights. And you get full Medallion Qualifying Dollars because you’re buying your ticket directly from Delta.
Air France upgrade availability is sometimes more generous than Delta’s, and it’s even possible to find a few seats on really long flights from the West Coast like San Francisco and Los Angeles to Paris.
With Business Class awards getting tougher to find thanks to this stronger economy, you need every angle you can to save money on the big seats to Europe, and this is one of them if you’re willing to pay up. And starting next Summer, Air France will be rolling out new lie-flat seats that will be among the best in the world for Business Class.
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