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On a mostly empty Delta flight, should you get FREE C+ or exit row? Yes or No?

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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.

should you get free C+

This has been an interesting twitter discussion this morning (see what you are missing out on if you do not follow me on twitter?)! Randy tweeted me that he was displeased that a mostly empty flight resulted in the FAs not allowing passengers to change their seats. I responded that I was in agreement with the FAs.

After all, if we look at the terms and conditions about C+ seats on we will find in black and white that:

Complimentary Delta Comfort+ seats are not available for selection by any passenger while onboard the aircraft regardless of status or fare class. Basic Economy fares are not eligible for paid or complimentary Delta Comfort+, regardless of Medallion or other elite status. If the Medallion or partner airline elite member is no longer traveling on their original reservation, any companions traveling on the original reservation will no longer be eligible for complimentary Delta Comfort+ seating, and their Delta Comfort+ seat assignment may be removed.” – BOLD MINE

Now that is Delta’s stand and I agree with it. After all, many nowadays either pay for this perk or have earned it via elite status by flying or my making MQMs via Delta AMEX card spending. I do dislike the fact that you cannot change free “IF” you do qualify pre-flight but for whatever reasons cannot get the change done before boarding. I would like as Randy later points out to be able to switch if you would have got if free had you been able to select it on the ground!

tweet back

Reader Ben agrees that only those who have either paid for it or have earned the privilege of getting it free should be in those seats.

toss them a bone for C+

But reader Wes feels that the FAs should, on such an empty flight, offer up a “freebie” to make a flyer a more loyal repeat customer.

Now I am all about giving respect to the FAs. I know for a fact and have seen when something goes very wrong, say a broken seat (or worse – yuck) and the Flight Leader or Head Purser moves a passenger for free to another seat (sometimes even 1st class) that is 100% OK in my book as they are fixing a bad situation. That is NOT the same as a passenger just jumping over to a C+ or 1st class seat. After all, the perks of C+ and 1st are MUCH better than the rest of the seats including free drinks, Delta Studio movies and more.

I guess I would love your input. Should, on a mostly empty flight, passengers be allowed to move to C+ or exit or 1st class seats? – René

On a mostly empty Delta flight, passengers should:

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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. Alors René,
    I would think if the flight is empty and there are seats available in C+ that wouldn’t bother neighbours… no harm, no foul!

  2. Charlie H. Reply

    The FAs are not free to move passengers around because the seat assignments go into the weight and balance calculations for the airplane.

    If 10 people move from the back of the plane to the front, it can really mess with the flight characteristics of the plane.

  3. No. Absolutely not. You HAVE to get what you pay for. Unique circumstances, special occasions, etc… fine, but if it becomes common for those seats to be filled just because they’re empty, not only does the product lose value to those who paid for it, others will start to feel entitled to it, which…no.

  4. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    I think not having a medallion C+ request system is so Southwest. I’d rather see my seat moved to C+ at T-24 (GM) than to set a timed reminder to be first to check in for better seat positioning…where have I heard of that before…..hmmm

  5. Santastico Reply

    It is all about customer service. Last year I was on a Hawaiian flight from Honolulu to Kauai (a maybe 15-20 minute flight) and the flight was pretty empty and I was seating on a window. I had my camera on and wanted to take some pictures while approaching Kauai but my seat was located after the wing so most of the pictures were getting the wing on it. I moved couple rows to the front and sat by the window so I could have a clear view for my pictures when the FA came to me and said I was not allowed to seat there since I was not an elite member. I explained to her that we would be landing in 10 minutes and all I wanted was to take some good pictures. She got mad and told me to go back to my seat immediately. That is what I call “customer service”!!!!

    • @Santastico it wasn’t poor customer service…you shouldn’t have done that. The fact that you were landing in 10 minutes in no way entitles you to move to a seat which you didn’t reserve/didn’t pay for/aren’t entitled to. I don’t understand how you could be upset about that.

  6. Mike from DC Reply

    People get what they pay for. As a Medallion, I make an effort to fly DL when I can, use the co-branded CC etc. Now just because our flight is empty on a Wednesday morning, Joe Smith from 37B wants to come to the front?, absolutely not. Want to sit in C+? Pay for it or start flying more.

  7. Santastico Reply

    @Garrett: You probably never went to Hawaii and flew inter island flights but let me make it very clear: The seat belt signs were OFF and people were moving around the cabin to go to the bathroom. Flight attendants were serving complimentary drinks. The entire duration of the flight is probably 30 minutes but yes you still have time to get up from your seat without breaking any rules. Thus for your understanding, the only rule I was basically “breaking” was that I did not know that to seat couple rows in front of me on an almost empty plane I needed to be Hawaiian elite member. Also to clarify, the seat I tried to get was an exit row seat (right in front of the wing) and that is what probably trigger her behavior since I believe they reserve exit row seats to elite members which were clearly not on board of that flight since all exit rows were completely empty.

    • @Santastico First, I don’t mean to sound like an [edit]–I reread my comment and it kind of did. It’s just my belief that you sit in your seat. Move around the cabin all you want, but by moving to a seat that isn’t yours–empty flight or not–you’re not fulfilling your end of the arrangement you entered into with the airline when you bought the ticket. I know that it’s kind of a cut and dry way to look at things, but to avoid gray areas that’s how I feel things should be done.

  8. Santastico Reply

    @Rene: Agree with your point that it is very annoying they won’t allow you to switch seats once you boarded the plane even if you are an eligible Medallion member that could have got that seat for free. There are couple times you cannot select a C+ seat before check in because the seat is occupied but suddenly that seat is empty because the passenger was either upgraded or missed the connection. As a Platinum Medallion I should be allowed to take that seat. As for reader Wes, tell him to fly many many BIS miles with Delta and he will earn his “freebie”. Heck no that FA should allow non eligible passengers to occupy those seats. How about them allowing people to fill up the international business class seats if they are empty after the plane door is closed? :)))))

  9. What is a mostly empty Delta flight?

    Flying out of SRQ or through ATL, I have never seen one.

  10. Santastico Reply

    @Garrett: So you are saying that if you are on a 15+ hours international flight and you are the only passenger seating on a 5 seat row in coach you WILL NOT use the entire row to get some sleep? You said it very clear: “if you move to a seat that isn’t yours you are not fulfilling your end of the arrangement you entered into with the airline when you bought the ticket”. Thus, I assume you will seat straight on your purchased seat for 15 hours so you fulfill your arrangement with the airline and leave all the other 4 empty seats next to you untouched.

    • @Santastico–well, see that’s the thing. I don’t really take long international flights in economy because of how I feel. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable in economy on a 15+ hour flight, so the only way that I would do that is if I could make arrangements to do it comfortably. I won’t get on a plane in economy and be upset that I’m not comfortable. I know that will be the case, so I don’t do it. That sounds INCREDIBLY pretentious, but I don’t mean it to be (since we all know there are ways to get into premium cabins without paying the full price for them). The last time I flew long-haul economy the seat next to me was empty, and outside of my knee leaning into what would have been that passenger’s knee, I just…sat there…discomfort and all. Well, I got drunk too…

  11. Elites eligible for C+ seats on the ground should be able to move to empty C+ seats, but non-elites shouldn’t.

    FAs get a list of every elite, so it shouldn’t be much of a burden on them.

  12. For C+ seats it should NOT be allowed to have people move into the seats. I had a flight late last year where I paid out of pocket for an EconPlus seat (I have status, but didn’t want to risk it disappearing) and before the flight took off, my seatmate was bumped to first, leaving me with a comfortable row of seats to myself…until the FAs allowed someone to take one of the seats…not cool….

  13. I’ve had an empty seat next to me on numerous long flights before and someone moved up and took the seat that would have been empty. If you are not Elite or didn’t pay for a C+ seat, then you should not be allowed to move to C+.

    The other thing that is not cool with how seating is handled, but I’m not sure how Delta would fix, is as Jeremy pointed out, it is often a C+ seat that is the last one that is available because it is a Elite person that was sitting there and got upgraded. If the flight is completely full it is often a non Elite person that ends up sitting in C+ for free because that’s the only seat that is left. This happened on my last trip to London a few weeks ago. A non-status person was in C+ for an international flight because that was the last seat.

    The worst part is that I’m Diamond and since Delta would rather leave seats open up front for International flights than make medallion members super happy with a complimentary upgrade, I was in C+ while there were empty seats up front. I get that you have to have a certain [astronomical] fare class to be eligible for upgrades, but if there are seats up front that are open, IMO, Delta should still upgrade people rather than leaving open seats up front for a 8+ hour flight.

  14. The passenger manifest has your name and seat number for the flight on which you are booked. With all of the crazies and terrorists interested in flights these days, it makes sense to me that the airlines and Feds would want to keep people in their assigned seats to track them in case a situation happens during the flight.

  15. DK Mashino Reply

    On the weekly flight I take from HNL-SEA, empty C+ seats are now announced onboard after the 10k ft. “ding” as available for sale. And empty flight or not, stay in your assigned seat! 🙂

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