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Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Using Expert Flyer to Check Upgrade Availability

As I mentioned the other day, whenever possible, If I am traveling domestically I try to choose flights and times that give me the best shot for an upgrade.

I showed evidence of what days provide the best probability for an upgrade, but how do you really know about specific flights?  That is where ExpertFlyer can be very, very handy.

ExpertFlyer is a web tool that displays fare availability information, award searches, provides seat alerts, and one of my favorite uses-displaying upgrade inventory—including both complimentary elite upgrades and system-wide upgrades, often referred to as upgrade certificates or certs.  And while they charge for using it, it is well worth the fee for the information that it provides.

ExpertFlyer Hompepage

When selecting flights, Expertflyer is helpful at providing the chance of snagging an upgrade via up-to-the-minute information upgrade inventory information.

To utilize this functionally with ExpertFlyer, from the homepage, navigate to the “Awards & Upgrades” link either on the far left menu, or underneath the “ExpertFlyer Tools” header.

Once you have reached the “Award & Upgrade Availability Search” page, you will need to enter the departing airport, the arriving airport, and date(s) of departure, and airline are all required fields, as I have circled them here:

Fortunately, the airport and airline fields are searchable lists, so you can know which ones may or may not be included.  For this example, I am viewing upgrade availability between Los Angeles and Atlanta, on Delta Flight 1654.

Once you have selected the airline codes, you will need to search by specific fare buckets, then hit “Search.”

As I mentioned earlier, ExpertFlyer displays both complimentary elite First Class upgrade availability (V), as well as upgrades to First using miles or upgrade certificates(G).  In addition, the system also can be used to search Business Class upgrade availability.  Why is this important?

Delta has a number of “direct” international flights that include a short domestic layover, and accordingly refers to their premium cabin on these domestic legs as business.  I never said this decision made sense!

Thus, if we only search First class award availability, ExpertFlyer will not show flights with so-called “Business Class” availability for elites (X) or using miles/certs (Z), as you can see here:

As I mentioned earlier, ExpertFlyer displays both complimentary elite First Class upgrade availability (V), as well as upgrades to First using miles or upgrade certificates(G).  In addition, the system also can be used to search Business Class upgrade availability.  Why is this important?

Delta has a number of “direct” international flights that include a short domestic layover, and accordingly refers to their premium cabin on these domestic legs as business.  I never said this decision made sense!

DL 1654 Seat Map

We are told that 0 upgrades, elite (V 0) or otherwise (G 0), are available.  Yet that does not necessarily mean that all First Class seats are occupied.  Instead, it usually implies that the airline plans to sell some of those seats up until the day of departure, then upgrade elites at the gate.

Delta Seat Map

And in fact, if we check Delta’s website, this is exactly the case as we notice there is a nominal difference between Coach and First Class tickets.

Los Angeles to Atlanta Fares

And while most of this post was geared toward elite upgrades, this information is also useful as it pertains to mileage and system-wide upgrades.  If I check I flight I am considering book, and see “G 0,” then chances are pretty good that the upgrade request may very likely go to waste.  If however, I see “G 2” I know can can secure the upgrade right using miles or certs.

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2 thoughts on “Using Expert Flyer to Check Upgrade Availability

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