Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Shena. Say what? Shena, is code for shenanigans. Specifically we are talking about Delta medallion upgrade shenanigans. What is that you ask? There is a lengthy thread at FT about it if you wish to make your head hurt to the point of exploding. But on to my point from my recent trip.
As I talked about on my positioning flights to LAX, I gate cleared as a Diamond Medallion to business class on a 777. Delta’s herringbone business elite international seat is not the best of the bunch but a very nice ride compared to anything coach. What I did not share in the review post was this little tidbit as I wanted to break it out as a post of it’s own. I saw a Shena moment up close and personal it really made me upset.
You see, seat 12C, was empty all through the boarding process. At the very last moment a flyer takes his seat. I smiled at him and then the conversation went like this:
Me – Nice, you got the last upgrade spot.
Him – No employee.
Me – Oh wow!
Him – Well not employee, spouse of an employee.
Me – Ah, enjoy (I say as he smiles back at me)!
So our beloved airline’s gate folks decided to put a NON-REV i.e. a non paying passenger in the big seat rather than coming on board and pulling who should have been the next medallion in line for the upgrade and assigning the non-rev the coach seat. Hello Shena.
Is this wrong? The gate agents control the boarding process until the door is closed. The CAN and DO anything they want to. If they want to, say on an international flight, they can move people into the first class cabin. When it comes to bumps they can decide to use the “paper list” at the gate and totally ignore the digital one or the other way around. They can offer a little or a lot when it comes to bump compensation (your status does play a roll btw). They can choose to give you a hotel voucher or not. Redcoats who can still print food vouchers do often tell you they cannot do this anymore! I could go on and on all day (at least the Delta AMEX Reserve card upgrade help is automated).
So you get the point here, a GA (gate agent) doesn’t HAVE to come on-board and “pull” a medallion up from coach into business class. Does a GA ever do this? You bet! It has happened to me several times over the years. In the past, if I have a bunch of carry-ons, I have boarded so as to not lose out on overhead space and have to have my bag at my feet for a long flight. But what I really should always do, and my advice to you, if you don’t clear wait to board for FINAL BOARDING CALL and ask if 1st class has BOARDED FULL not if it has “checked in full”. There is a huge difference. They may still say YES but I would then ask: “So if there are any BE seats open I can take them?” and check for reaction from the GA.
The only thing good I can say about all this is balancing the need to get a flight out on time vs the time to pull someone from coach. I mean, if 199 are delayed so 1 can get an upgrade I can see the point of putting whoever is waiting into that LAST seat and many times the only folks waiting THAT long are non-rev flyers hoping for any seat that they can fly in.
The bottom line in all this is control. Medallions have EARNED the right at a shot at an upgrade and if you want to avoid meeting Shena face to face you need to know just what can and DOES happen along the way. Oh, and lastly, don’t do anything as a medallion to mess-up your upgrade chances on your own – René
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