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Delta just opened up upgrades for some of its elite members traveling on award tickets. While a great perk for travelers, it also may be an indication of Delta's willingness to bury the hatchet with SkyMiles members.

It’s a small victory for members of Delta’s SkyMiles, but it’s a step in the right direction.

This week, Delta Air Lines announced that it is making a significant improvement to the benefits for Silver elite members in its SkyMiles loyalty program: starting on Monday, Silver members traveling on award tickets started to qualify for complimentary upgrades on domestic routes.

Delta’s complimentary upgrade policy on award tickets is unique to a legacy carrier — neither American nor United allow elite passengers traveling on award tickets to qualify for upgrades — but so far, the perk has excluded Silver elite members. With the change, Delta is drawing a significant value proposition over low-tier elite status on its competitors.

Silver elite status within the SkyMiles program comes after flying 25,000 miles and spending $3,000 in a calendar year, and triggers a range of perks, including complimentary upgrades, preferred seating and waived baggage fees. Qualification criteria and most of the perks that come along with Silver elite status are mirrored by both American and United.

Lest the legion of Silver elites get too excited, the upgrades also come with a range of caveats. All complimentary upgrades are predicated on available space in the business class cabin, and priority for each seat cascades down from Diamond elite at the highest tier through Platinum, Gold and eventually Silver. Those traveling on revenue tickets also have priority over those on award tickets.

Still, on some routes and in some situations, Silver elites may be able to enjoy a free upgrade into business class.

Beyond the new benefits for SkyMiles members, though, SkyMiles flyers may be most excited about the direction that Delta has taken. Over the last several years, Delta has taken a lot of flak from its community for excoriating elite benefits — particularly around mileage and elite status earning. For many, to have the airline give something back to the community may be cathartic.

More on the new upgrade benefits is available on

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Tags: delta air lines, loyalty, skymiles

Photo credit: Delta is giving flyers with Silver status additional upgrade options above what competitors including American Airlines and Untied Airlines are offering. Pictured is the Delta app. Skift

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