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Delta Redcoat would not let me give up my seat! What is more important? Time or travelers?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Stock photo from Delta Air Lines

Let me set the stage for you so you can see the turn of events. Last week on my PWM test, the last flight home from Detroit to South Bend was oversold all day long by one. That was convenient since I am only one. I got to the gate very early. So early that they were just pushing the previous flight. I waited for the very friendly gate agent (GA) to finish and happily offered up my seat should they need me saying I know the drill and am happy to board last to see if they need me.

Jumping forward in time we are nearing departure and are delayed a little, but this is a short flight and Delta does pad the times a bit for the DTW – SBN flights so we would likely make up some of this time.

I hovered around the gate area and jokingly asked both the GA and Redcoat if they wanted to bump me early, put me in the Westin (right there at the airport) to save them some time. They smiled but said no as if they did that, and the flight went out with an empty seat, they would be in big trouble. I said I know and was just kidding.

The only one that was not smiling at all this was this lady, whose name I did not get, who was also by the counter and was clearly distraught. As it turned out, this woman was a standby. More on this in a bit.

The GA announces boarding and tells me to get on the plane because they are not going to need me. I said, “Really?” followed by, “fine I will board, but please you come get me if you need me.”

I was the only one who boarded when they called for Diamonds to board the jet.

When the plane was full, I noticed the distraught passenger had not boarded. I asked the GA when she came on, about to send the flight off, what happened. She said the woman was standby and was trying to get to see a sick and dying relative. As it turns out I misunderstood and it was the other way round and she was going HOME from this sad situation.

But I did not hesitate. I stood up and went to grab my stuff to get off the jet.

The GA said, “You will not get any compensation.”

I said, “Fine! Let’s put this person on this flight.”

I walked to the end of the jet bridge and stopped at the now closed door into the airport.

I was told later that while I was waiting the GA announced to the passengers onboard just what was going on and why I got off the jet. Apparently applause broke out.

The GA then comes up the jetway and opens the door. The GA yells over to the Redcoat, who was comforting the standby passenger trying to get on (who was apparently crying at this point) and says:

“Mr. de Lambert is willing to get off for NO compensation. Let’s put her onboard.”

The Redcoat, said, “NO. I have already closed the flight. You can get on, or not, but I have closed the flight.”

I could not believe what I was hearing. Really?

I again repeated, “I don’t want anything just get her on this flight.” Redcoat again repeated NO.

I angrily said, as I walked through the door at the gate, “THIS IS JUST WRONG!”

I boarded, took my seat, the boarding door was closed and we pushed back and were on our way to SBN.

Looking back on this, to me this was one of those situations where a Delta Redcoat could have lived up to their reputation of going above and beyond. To “Keep Climbing” rather than Keep Descending.

I reached out to Delta about this event and was told that the distraught flyer was accommodated and taken care of by Delta. They even spoke with the GA, Redcoat and flyer involved and looked at this as a learning experience, but feel that it was handled correctly.

While I completely understand the need to get a delayed flight out ASAP (we were already almost half an hour late), I think stepping up and helping someone like this passenger outweighs a slightly longer delay. My fellow passengers seemed to agree. Plus, SBN was where everyone was going so no one was going to miss-connect for a 5-10 minute longer delay.

I am still upset over this one but you tell me. What would you have done? Did everyone involved make the right call? – René

Did the Delta Redcoat make the right call?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. That is a bump I’d be willing to take for zero compensation, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t let you off the plane to do the right thing!

  2. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    Here’s how I take it:

    1) I’m sure lots of people these days — sadly — claim sob stories. You hear it all the time. Many are true, but sadly many are lies. Just saying.

    2) You probably shouldn’t have joked with gate agent and red coat. They probably thought you wanted to scam them for compensation. I volunteer and then get lost. They always page me.

  3. This is very upsetting considering DTW is my second home airport (other being MBS). The GA had full opportunity to “make it right”. Even though DL basically owns DTW, I made an effort to start flying with other carriers (AS, AA, UA, and US all coming in the next 12 months). So glad DL switched to revenue base; it gave me no reason to keep my loyalty there.

  4. You should take down the picture. I don’t think the Redcoat wants to be identified.

    • @Mitch – Uh, notice under photo – “stock Delta Air Lines photo” 😉

    • @Santastico – Actually the Redcoat was a woman in this case. And I expected much more.

  5. Unbelievable. They should use their heads and heart and do the right thing.

  6. Rene! I am confused!!!

    When did you find out the passenger had already seen the sick relative and was only going back home!

    • @Greg – A few days later when Delta contacted the passenger and had talked to the GA & Redcoat. I waited to post until I had some feedback on this situation from Delta.

  7. Santastico Reply

    @Rene: Problem here is that Delta not only killed the Skymiles program but they are killing customer service as well. They never go the extra mile. They are “by the book”. I’ve seen many Delta employees working at airport gates that I wanted to ask “Why are you working here?” because their face expression and attitude was clearly saying they hate what they do. A smile goes a long way and Delta’s CEO has probably issued a fine for any employee that smiles.

  8. I agree with the way you felt the entire time but as I think about the events I have changed how I would have acted for the final part. I cannot help but to think as I read this about what would happen once you exited the plane and proceeded up the ramp. Had this GA and Redcoat been like the more power hungry “angry at the world” types it could have escalated into a pilot involved security issue … even though you were acting honorably. The result would be inclusion on a list you do not want to be on and the loss of your Trusted Traveller and Global Entry privileges. Fortunately that did not happen.

    Also as you found out later the passenger denied boarding was on the way home from a sad situation which even at that was not as dramatic as perhaps missing a last visit with the potential death of a relative.

    Not to undermine your honorable gesture and actions perhaps it ended ok. I think you are genuine and do not have a bad bone in your body even though Delta may not think that!

    But i agree that the Redcoat saying No the flight is closed would have set me off. “What do you mean closed? You are the Redcoat and the authority?” I am amazes at people who say “no” and “can’t be done” when we know it is possible to get things done.

    Sure would not want to be that Redcoat when you cross paths again! (Stay calm)

    • @Dave Bob – There was little TT risk as GA was 100% onboard with me to help out. I will be nothing but smiles to the Redcoat when I see her next time. As mentioned, I think this was a learning experience for the Redcoat and all involved.

  9. A lot of my return trips are on days where I don’t need to be anywhere. I’ve given my seat up for someone who needs it. One time it was a simple “she needs to get to a party, and she hasn’t been able to get on the last two flights.” It’s an easy enough decision, and I hope that if one day I really need to be somewhere, someone would return the favor.

  10. Richard Anderson tells us (over…and over…and over again) in the pre-flight video that “Dal-ta people are tha best at whut they dooo!” If this is an example of that — seeing as how it “was handled correctly” — then maybe my company will permanently give up the seats it has booked on six trips in the next five weeks and fly someone else.

  11. Thanks for holding posting this until Delta had an opportunity to advise you about the outcome. I think you did the right thing (actions at gate) and the Redcoat could have made Richard Anderson proud but didn’t. You mention Delta is treating this as a learning experience and that’s the best thing that could have happened in my opinion (as long as that’s what actually happens). Stinks that the standby pax didn’t get your seat but if the Redcoat gets improved training and is more old school Delta in this type situation in the future we all win. But that’s the optimist in me typing and that part of me never flies.

  12. How do you know that every single passenger applauded or were supportive of your action? Fact is you misunderstood the situation of the lady and you did not know what type of situation your other 49 fellow passengers were in. Some people may have a tight connection. Maybe someone on the flight is actually on the way to a dying relative and your action may have caused them to miss their connection flight. Maybe the 5 or whatever minute it takes to re-do the paperwork / passenger list will lead your flight from missing a departure / landing slot leading to another hour of delay.

    Also as you’ve realized later, you’ve misunderstood the situation. She was traveling home in which case I don’t think it warrants any special treatment that could not only end up to be costly to Delta but all of the passengers.

    • @Paul – Did you even read the post? I was told by seatmate those on board applauded (I did not ask how many as I was blushing). No one makes a connection in SBN (also noted in post). There are no landing slot issues in SBN. As to having fellow feeling for another passenger, you have made your stand clear! I hope I never have to ask you for a kindness. 🙁

  13. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    It’s unfortunate that the GA and Redcoat weren’t a bit more savvy, due to their own human sensitivities. Would have been one glorious moment if Shena had been on duty. Point is they missed an opportunity to still do things by the book, be noble, compassionate. Even encouraging the standby to solicit someone’s seat since they could not. Or since you asked about later boarding, reminding you that you have the benefit of changing flights sameday without a fee….and leaving the rest of to you. Basically for the gate team to wait until close of boarding to attempt to accommodate the standby’s situation and then talk about it after there was little within their power/and the rules to do, was silly. Nothing wrong with being insensitive to protect your employment, but then don’t try to be noble after the fact. I get it I’m just sayin I wish people had more faith in doing good.
    Shame people don’t bend the rules for more when most of us have seen them be contorted for way (morally) less.

    @Garrett preach! I’ve done the same for as much as I travel NRSB I know karma stays in motion.

    @Dave bob honestly a victory in a situation like that would make going through regular security much more fulfilling than all the times skating passed in GE or Pre✓®

  14. Jamie Stratford Reply

    They probably had just already printed the flight manifest. After that’s done, according to DOT rules, they can’t board someone else.

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