Have you flown Delta this year? You know we have a bit of an issue. That is, our gates are a total mess when it comes to boarding. Delta has been, at different stations (or airports) experimenting with ways to make it somewhat better with the given space at each gate but there are physical limitations to what can be accomplished.
This gate area mess does not tend to result in a “calm” and organized final minutes before boarding. Then we have the other obvious 500 pound gorilla in the room, that is, the carry-on luggage mess. I don’t think I have been on a flight this year (well over 40 of them) that has not included gate agents FORCEFULLY instructing folks that they will run out of overhead space for bags after or by Zone 1 and they will be happy to check your bag to your final destination for free if you bring it up (and can get past the mass of people ready to board).
But now we have a new mess for the stressed and harried gate agents to deal with thanks to the mothership. We now have dual upgrade lists. One of them can “SideGrade” you to a Comfort Plus or C+ seat (often to a middle seat at that) and then the next list that can truly upgrade you to a business class seat (called 1st class, but it is not).
Now here is the deal about today’s post. It is not nice what I am suggesting to these fine folks who work the gates at Delta but it is not like Delta consulted us about these changes and if we would enjoy the chance to “upgrade” to a middle C+ seat. I am reasonably sure Delta has just informed the gate agents of their new responsibilities they have to enjoy.
So on to our options to get the most out of the situation for us. The first thing to consider is if you want to even go for C+ at all. Depending on the length of the flight it just may not be worth it and the risk. What risk? Well the system is supposed to work so that you could, as an elite, upgrade to C+ and then to 1st class and all of this could happen at the gate. In practice, I see issues with this. So it is one thing to already be in C+ when you get to the gate but another to hope for a “double” upgrade at the gate. See the difference? So what is my plan from here on out?
I will take a C+ seat if I can secure it up to 7 days before flight. I do NOT want to have C+ “upgrades” check marked in my reservation once we start to hit the real 1st class upgrade windows of 6/5/3&1. I see too many chances to end up in a middle seat or to have some kind of IT bug prevent me from a real upgrade that I want.
Well that is not really gaming anything this is just smart planning. But what if you are still stuck back in your exit seat in coach at the time of boarding but have not yet upgraded to 1st? As before, #TeamBoardLast for the win and even more so now that gate agents have so much more to deal with. I have been told they are to “protect” if you will the “sanctity” of the C+ cabin and not just put Delta people in these upgraded seats as they have in the past. No, these are such a great perk it is for elites to enjoy the upgrades. So, there may be some remaining at the end (granted mostly middle ones elites do not want). But if all these seats are being preserved it could be an aisle or window opens up that was filled with someone who did not make the flight for whatever reason.
In other words, much like the hope that 1st class has checked-in full but has not boarded full can mean the last man (or woman) standing can snag that last 1st class upgrade at the gate and the chance to grab a decent C+ seat also exists and you do not risk losing a very good exit (or other) seat you had before.
Are there any risks with this seat “game”? Oh sure and the obvious one is this once kind and now stressed out gate agent can get nasty with you and force you to gate check your bag because space ran out 50 people ago. I get this but normally there is always room for one bag somewhere and if you don’t have a steamer trunk you can press them to ask the lead flight attendant to check if there is space before you go to that step (btw the gate agent will NOT like this suggestion).
The bottom line from all of this today is Delta has created layer upon layer of mess. They are gaming us by offering upgrade sales for under $10 and we have proven that day after day they “play” with the price to upgrade to first class often dropping it in half. They have created an entire new cabin class and now we have to deal with dual-upgrade zones. It is all too much when you stand back and look at it. But when there is chaos for others – if we are smart and careful – we can use that to our upgrade advantage. I know I will! – René