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WARNING! Your Delta Comfort+ Upgrade CAN Exclude you from First Class Upgrades – by Christine Krzyszton

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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 check the boxes for comfort plus upgrades
Is it smart to check ALL these boxes? Maybe not!

We’ve cringed at the “you’ve been upgraded” emails that joyfully inform us that we’re in the same Comfort+ seats we selected when we purchased our tickets. But now, and I can’t say René didn’t warn us, Delta’s systems indeed are recognizing Comfort+ “upgrades” as “real” upgrades and not automatically adding us to the standby list for First Class (real) upgrades.

Let me illustrate the issue with a description of my recent experience. Standing by for an earlier flight from DTW-ORD, I cleared easily and received a Comfort+ seat about one hour before the flight departure. Since there were plenty of seats in First, and I hold Diamond status with Delta, I had a really good chance of getting the upgrade. Or so I thought.

Delta upgrade
Thanks for the sidegrade ONLY Delta!

Then I noticed that I was not on the upgrade list. The gate agent assured me I should be there but could not override the system (think SNAPP) to put me on the list. She was apologetic but quite baffled.

“This isn’t right”, she offered; “you should write in and tell them about this.”

It was a short flight so I didn’t really care about the upgrade. The implications of what I just experienced, however, were far greater than just this missed opportunity. Perhaps I could have been flying on a much longer flight and the same scenario happened? I’d be annoyed but more importantly, it would be evidence of a change in Delta’s policy of which we were not informed. And certainly, it should not happen to others.

So with René’s encouragement (“people need to know” he said), I wrote to Delta and described the system problem.

My first email resulted in a response from Delta that basically told me I could not be added to the First Class standby list if I were standing by for a flight. OK, I knew this already. I wrote again telling them that they had not addressed the issue I was complaining about and I received a more appropriate response:

Thank you for your additional email describing the problem you
experienced on August 31st on your connection flight out of Detroit.

Ms. Krzyszton, I apologize for your frustration. I have reviewed the
history of your flight and have noted that there was an issue regarding
the automated processing system placing you on the complimentary upgrade
list to first class following the changing of the second leg of your
flight mid-travel. The automated upgrade processor is programmed to
place you on the first class upgrade list but did not likely as a
result of the mid-travel change. However, as noted in Ms. [name removed]
response, if this occurs in the future, please contact the Diamond
Medallion Desk to have your ticket reissued and the upgrade processor
“reset”. As well, I discussed this with my teamlead who indicated that
we do not anticipate that this will be an ongoing issue. I have also
forwarded your email to our IT department for internal review.

Again, our apologies, and thank you for your Two Million Miler, Diamond
Medallion loyalty and we look forward to seeing you on your September
20th flight.

[Delta rep’s name removed]

So, I rest my case. The Delta IT system failed me for an upgrade and it can fail for you. It doesn’t matter the level of your elite status, you could be robbed of your chance for a First Class domestic upgrade if the system recognizes your Comfort+ upgrade as a “real” upgrade and subsequently does not add you to the upgrade list.

While Delta notes in the response that they don’t see this as an ongoing problem, they are forwarding the issue to IT and I applaud them for that. They also reminded me that I should contact the Diamond Desk if this happens again. It was not that important to me at the time but I will certainly do that if it happens again.

Maybe it is time, for now, to rethink Comfort+ upgrades. – Christine

My book: How to see the World in a Weekend is now available on both in print and for KINDLE.  Read my new articles every Monday and Wednesday at Travel the World at prices you can afford with Frugal Travel Guy. Follow me on Twitter @CKaway


[From René. I really appreciate this guest post by my friend, Christine from the FTG while I am away on vacation this week. I have to tell you I am more and more staying away from C+ upgrades and this post just scares the living daylights out of me. No way I want to risk a 1st class UG for a C+ “sidegrade”. How about you?]

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. Quick solution: Choose exit row at booking, check only F upgrade box.

  2. I still say this is no IT accident. They are already placing mechanisms in place to have a tiered upgrade system and are testing the waters. They are getting people used to thinking that Comfort+ is an acceptable upgrade and they are seeing how many people don’t complain after they are only upgraded to Comfort+ and not First. I still think that eventually we will see the lower Medallion levels will only be able to upgrade one class econ>comfort+.

  3. And aside from my tinfoil hat predictions as to future changes to the program what is in place right now has everything to do with First Class Monitization. Why I say? Because each time I check my upcoming flights I get offered to upgrade to First for sometimes a crazy low number. I recently upgraded MSP-SEA round trip for under $150. Until each premium cabin is full, most everyone in coach is getting offered a varying sum to upgrade.

    What people should say when they write in is that as a Plat or Diamond they want to first be offered First, then if not available then Comfort+ and that it should be automatic and not in the hands of the gate agent, which many times only slows everything down and decreases the flying experience by having your highest members waiting until the last minute to confirm the upgrade.

  4. @Ken, you mean if you can remove the request for upgrade to [first, c+]?
    Sure you can. Just go to My Trips, select the trip you want to review/edit and then go to “Manage My Upgrades”. There you can check/uncheck your options.
    @Geoff, your quick solution wouldn’t work for me, since I don’t like sitting in an exit row for some historic reasons (I once was placed into an exit row and had a very uncomfortable flight due to the restrictions in an exit row). I guess, today I wouldn’t have the problems I had back then. But still, I remember the unpleasanty …

  5. SNAPP prevented my traveling companion from being upgraded on a recent flight. Thankfully I had an AMAZING Delta agent in LAX who fought on the phone for me for a sold 10 minutes and eventually scored the upgrades.This after an agent in SJC told me companions were not eligible for upgrade at all, weird because my companion WAS upgraded on our first flight and she still wouldn’t believe me even when I showed her the fare class on her ticket was RU! I sure hope this is an issue that is fixed sooner rather than later.

  6. I’m a Plat and have experienced the same Comfort++ experience as you describe in your article. It seems even more prevalent to me when making regional hops vs coast-coast flights. That said- the coast-coast legs are generally booked further ahead by experienced flyers which may skew an apples to apples assessment by default.

  7. This is a new one UG story at least for me. I am traveling with my wife. I am Diamond and I gifted her gold. We bought 2 tickets with her points using Pay with Miles. We got the fake UG (middle seats) so I had the twitter team put us back in our exit row seats.

    I checked the UG list last night when I checked in. Lo and behold #1 on the UG is my wife and I am #2. Obviously everything about our reservations are the same — except she bought the tickets.

    I don’t know how that works. If there is only one UG — I hope she gets it.

  8. Tachyon_OGG-SBA-IAD Reply

    Yet another reason to avoid Delta. They will never stop gaming their customers—- THESE ARE NOT “UPGRADES”!

  9. Just boarded a flight where I had purchased a comfort+ seat in advance and was also mysteriously not on the first class upgrade list. The boarding door just closed and there are 4-5 unoccupied first class seats. So this is obviously still a problem.

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