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Now that Delta is “back to full operations” – What about protecting 1st & C+ Upgrades?

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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.

Delta mainline FA in comfort plus seat on Delta regional jet renespoints blog
Delta person sitting in Comfort Plus seat

What a difference a week makes! Last week, at this time, the Delta CPU meltdown was just a few hours old. Delta then began, day by day, rolling waivers for changes that finally ended on Thursday the 11th as by Friday things were more or less back to normal. For those affected for more than 3 hours you got a $200 credit voucher (or you should have). They later put in a disclaimer in the wording that you had to have purchased your ticket before the 8th to qualify. They also were rather generous spreading around SkyMiles in varying amounts to frequent flyers. Again, what a week.

delta-com home page says back to full operations and thank you for your patience and support

A number of readers mentioned things to me on the blog as well as RenesPoints twitter followers that some Delta people were riding in 1st class or in C+ (Comfort Plus). My response was, for last week, Delta gets a pass on just about anything crew related as delayed crews getting back to where they should be could affect an entire aircraft, that is, Delta could possibly have to cancel a full flight due to lack of crew. But that was last week.

I have noticed over the past many weeks something of a trend that is, at the very last minute (think #TeamBoardLast) Delta dressed folks sitting in either the last open 1st class seat or the last C+ seat. Were there really no more medallions on the entire jet, not even a silver, to upgrade to this seat? When it comes to 1st class this really bothers me. As to C+, well, I really don’t consider that much of an upgrade even an aisle C+ seat.

At this point you may be saying something like: But I have seen gate agents (GA) coming on board a bit more lately to pull folks from coach to 1st. I cannot personally say I have seen it “more” but I too have seen it happen both recently and in the past. I have been told a memo went out that a GA can, if there is time, with the blessing of the mothership, go on-board and upgrade to 1st class the person who was #1 on the upgrade list when boarding began. But the most important part of this is time.

Time of departure clearly matters. I had a captain brag over the intercom this past week week: “Another EARLY departure“. Really? I can see about bragging about departing on time but is Delta pushing now for early departures? I mean they already, to me, seem to pad the schedule enough that even when taking a short delay they can make it up and land early or on time. And this may be why you and I may be seeing more crew in 1st class and C+.

The bottom line of all of this is we are back to the simple equation of whether you are willing to do what it takes to score that last open seat by waiting at the gate to board last or, as I call it, join #TeamBoardLast because it still matters. Delta is clearly not going to protect or make it a rule to always go on-board and upgrade the person who was #1 on the list.

Whenever I talk about this topic I always get comment about the risk of having to check your bag as if you are the last one on board there is great risk overhead space will be gone for any kind of roll-aboard bag. I get that, but it seems when the Delta folks that are the last ones on-board, they come on-board with their bags. I guess it is up to you if it is worth the risk of either having to politely ask the GA to call down and ask if there is room for one last bag for a loyal medallion who was waiting for an upgrade or to have to go to luggage claim after you land.

Here is what I would like to see happen. I would like Delta to make the policy official. Delta is clearly saying BOTH the 1st class and C+ experience is an upgrade (even a middle seat). Most times and on most flights we are talking maybe 1 or 2 seats in total. How hard would it be to always have a GA come on-board and ask the loyal Delta flyer if they would want to sit in whatever open seat there is. If they say no then the Delta person can take that last open seat, but give them the choice and if they say yes the Delta person, waiting at the boarding door, takes the seat they were in.

To me, the risk of a minute or two (possible) delay to preserve the integrity of the 1st class, and C+, upgrade perk is worth it. At this point Delta clearly does not and you may feel the same way. For now, I will take the risk of having to check a bag if need be to score that last 1st class upgrade, that is, when 1st class has “checked in full” but has not “boarded full” (a big difference). As far as an open C+ seat, well, I personally really don’t care that much about C+ and will be happy in the main cabin seat and board. You? – René

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. There’s also the SHENA that causes people to lose upgrades. I witnessed one first hand last month on a Delta AMS flight. The spouse (most likely, but could have been a girlfriend) of the pilot was told by one gate agent that there were 3 other people ahead of her on the first class upgrade list. He said you’d have to talk to the other agent who was standing next to him. The other agent said, hold on a minute and then a couple of minutes later handed her a first class seat. She ended up putting the spouse/girlfriend up front [I’m presuming] ahead of paying customers!!!

    The other thing that really I just don’t get is is when they fly international first class with empty seats. There were two empty seats on my return flight from Manchester. I know that technically unless you bought a super high fare, you don’t qualify for upgrades on international. However, why Delta seems to have no clue as to how much good will and return loyalty they would get form giving Platinum and Diamond passengers one of those seats rather than flying them empty is beyond me. The long international flights are the ones were Platinum and Diamonds would appreciate that they most.

  2. Grover Thomas Reply

    I was caught along with probably most of your readers in the mess last week. My plane to DC from Atlanta was 4 hours late and my flight home (Atlanta) on Tuesday was over 4 hours late. They did give me the $200 for each flight credit which, since I used coach miles rather than cash I was happy. I (obviously had to book in coach but they upgraded me to FC (the only upgrade there is-c+ is not an upgrade) the five days ahead.

    On the return flight they did have a GA come on board and bring up three flyers who were in coach to join us in FC .


  3. Rene,
    At what point does the gate agent release the “checked in full” versus the “boarded full”? I can’t get a standard answer. Thanks.

    • @John – At GA discretion to some degree. Now at “final boarding” that is you must be on-board 20 minutes before departure they should release the seat to you clearly.

  4. Having failed to get an early upgrade you never know how things will turn out. I say smile a lot, be nice, and board last with your fingers crossed that the #Teamboardlast Angel has your back and will protect you from Shena.

  5. I don’t begrudge the occasional pilot or FA sitting in a FC seat at the expense of a Medallion Member. But the day I’m told I have to sit at the back of the bus or in a middle seat because I lost my bulkhead seat to a fake service dog and its fake handler is the day I will refuse to board.

  6. Rene,
    First I want to say I love the blog –the place for REAL Delta information.
    I just enrolled in CLEAR at SEATAC. Free with DM status, but I hate the idea. Security should be painless for everybody. It is bad enough that the government will extort $ money from the public (PRECHECK) for anything better than tortured waits at security. How does a private company get to sell premium access to government services? I have some experience with bio-metrics, and their kiosks will not be faster than an agent with a black light looking at IDs. But with no line at all and a helpful agent just waiting to escort me to the front of the line –it is very nice, while it lasts. I might add, at SEATAC when the security line is crushingly long, the premium lane is much faster than PRECHECK.
    A few days ago, I sat next to A330 captain in C+ on his way to SEA-HKG flight. I think the middle seats in C+ do go begging. I wouldn’t give-up an isle or a window for one. I have also been pulled from the back of the plane and ungraded after the door has close on a few occasions (I will make a point of giving FAs a “Job well done”-coupon in the future when they do this), but I have also seen crew, sometimes from other carriers, taking the front seats.
    My message to Delta. I make a significant sacrifice in both money and convenience, to be slavishly loyal to Delta. The main reason I do so is for the upgrades. Every time I see crew taking my upgrades, I question my loyalty.

  7. Back in the NWA days, I was on a Gold upgrade (top level at that time) while my Bronze (remember those) was in her original seat. A non-rev pilot salt next to me at end of boarding. I remarked casually that it seemed unfair that he would feet FC while my wife did not. He immediately got up, aksked me her seat #, and exchanged seats with her. God, I miss those days.

  8. dotti cahill Reply

    i’M HAVING A LARGE PROBLEM WITH ALLOF THE F A K E SERVICE DOGS THEY ARE EVERYWHERE AND USUALLY NEXT TO ME. What is wrong with their people ?? These dogs get stressed travelling and trying to fit at the feet of their owner or the customer(me) next to them… Also having them sit on the furniture in the SKY lounges is not very nice either??? who want dog hair all over them

    • @dotti – I get the issue but the real problem is how much Delta is charging to bring a dog onboard. This is the main reason folks are doing this vs just paying a fair price.

  9. Ana from Atlanta Reply

    Idea – Purchase the seat and not complain when you don’t get it for free. Crew either take seats as a perk of the job, or, if they’re in uniform, because it’s in their contracts. They put in hard work to keep the airline running. Do you also complain about not getting a retail discount at Target because the employees get one? Apply for a job at Delta or purchase the seat.

    • @Ana from Atlanta – Thanks for your comment. Allow me to explain how the Medallion program works. Those who are elites get, as a perk of flying a massive amount with Delta and spending a massive amount each year with Delta, complimentary upgrades to 1st class and C+
      While I clearly UBER respect Delta folks they are not, when flying in uniform, entitled to paying customers upgrades. They get any open seat.
      If you read the blog a bit you will learn more. 😉

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