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Rookie Wednesday: Are you TENACIOUS in working for your Delta upgrades? I am!

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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.

RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

my cleared 1st class 1a seat RenesPoints blog from SEA to DTW on a Monday AM
It takes work to fly 1A on a Monday morning!

That is my boarding pass returning from Seattle and the really fun FTU weekend. Not only were the sessions I sat in on fascinating, but the events before the FTU with a number of readers were a blast as well. As an added perk, FTU paid to fly me out to speak but on a really cheap ticket. We all should know that fare class is one of the big parts that determines if you can get an upgrade after your status (oh, the Delta AMEX Reserve card and spending 25k as well). I had to work this trip to keep my 100% upgrade streak going for 2017 and this ties in to an e-mail I got this week from a reader. Let’s call him “Bob”:

Coffee stained 6MM thank you card Delta? How about more upgrades instead (just an idea)!

“Consider yourself very fortunate. I follow your blog/emails and am continually amazed at how many upgrades you get.

I have flown over 6 million miles and still get the opportunity to sit in main coach on the majority of my trips. Added benefit: an obligatory thank-you card and a smashed Milky Way bar. My alliance with DL diminishes daily!”

Bob, I feel your pain. I also understand your frustration and let me tell you it is going to get much worse if Delta does push for their “20 by 2020” as my good friend @laptoptravl blogged about recently – that is, Delta wants to push FCM to one way or another (think cheap sells) get 80% of 1st class sold before they upgrade loyal frequent flyers to 1st class. First off I think it is funny even Delta thinks only 1st class counts as an upgrade to sell, but that is a bit off topic for today.

Now keep in mind I am targeting a “rookie” post at folks who are, like me, million milers. One would think they know it all. And honestly and in all likelihood, they do know all of this but they may not be driven to do what it takes i.e. be tenacious enough to try to always sit up front. When Delta is pushing to keep you out of 1st class we have to push back to make sure we DO sit in first. That is what I did on this last trip and had I not, two of my segments (at least) would have been in coach. Let me explain.

As already mentioned I had booked this trip cheap and from AZO-DTW-MSP-SEA and the same on the way back in reverse. I did the extra leg to get a few extra MQMs as I always, even when flying for work, try to get MAX MQMs on every trip. When the “Mighty Schedule Change” hit I looked for a better route with better seat choices and ended up with AZO-DTW-LAX-SEA-ATL-DTW-AZO. The result was almost 2k more MQMs for the trip I was flying all day for anyway and much better chances for upgrades and even a shot at full flat seats on the way back (via Atlanta). But it took work.

At the 6 day window my outbound LAX to SEA cleared but no joy on the one I really wanted, the long 5-ish hour flight to LAX. As I took off from Kalamazoo I was #1 with 2 seats open with only a few hours to go before departure. As I landed after the 20-ish minute flight I opened the Fly Delta App and was #2 with 1 seat open. Ruh roh, time to call the medallion line. With heroic work from an outstanding rep I was, with the help from an RU or regional upgrade cert, #1 on the list and cleared a few minutes later into the final seat.

Rene and Greg the Frequent Miler in Delta One seats from SEA to DTW RenesPoints blog
Me and Greg “THE” Frequent Miler!

On the way back I did not want to burn another RU cert, but I did check for space. You see, the wide open internationally configured SEA-ATL flight had gone to ZERO open seats. I was, as a Diamond on a Monday morning on a cheap fare, #7 with no seats open. For grins I tested to see if I would go to 1st with an RU and went to #2 – I then had Delta remove the cert again. Time for plan B. First things first the flight was oversold by 3. I had myself added to the volunteer list in the Sky Club since neither online or kiosk would add me. But I did not stop there. I checked and called on other options but none had SDC space without ridiculous fees. Again, I did not give up. I asked the very helpful reps at the Sky Club if they wanted to remove me from the oversold flight saving them from having to bump someone from SEA-ATL and they agreed. The result was 1A on the SEA-DTW flight and a longer layover in DTW! #Winning

Now yes I did give up some MQMs flying the shorter route and I did give up the chance to bump but as they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and I am always happy to fly a Delta One full flat seat whenever I can.

What to take from this. Never give up until you are onboard. Even one reader who did fly coach on my SEA-DTW flight I suggested to try #TeamBoardLast. The reader chose not to but I can promise you had it been me, and I was not already in 1st class, I would have been the last one on the plane. Notice what another reader, we will also call “Bob”, e-mailed me who flew home Sunday night after the FTU:

“It was a pleasure meeting you this weekend in FTU Seattle.

FYI my SEA->JFK. #3 out of 35. 1 seat left. #1 guy cleared prior to boarding, #2 boarded, I moved up and scored the 1 no show seat. #TeamBoardLast works.

Thanks Rene!”

Well congrats, Bob and well done. Yes, I know, #TeamBoardLast works many times. One Silver Medallion recently commented he is 50% on upgrades by using just this alone. It seems the rookies may be the rest of us elites who are not willing to fight back and do what it takes to sit up front all we can! – 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. Hi Rene,

    Do you travel with carry-on baggage? Do you have trouble getting overheard storage space if you board last and don’t get the upgrade?

    My fear is that there will not be any space for my bags if I board last.


    • @Ed – Even if I do, to me, it is worth the risk. If overhead matters more, enjoy coach. For me I will PUSH for a loyal elite to have space found. Coat closet maybe. If GA say NO MUST CHECK I will push to have her/him call the lead FA onboard and ASK if there is pace for one bag for a loyal elite. They push – we push back (or sit in coach more)! 😉

  2. Great post! Throw everything you can at the bulkhead between you and the seats at the font of the bus. There’s a good chance something will stick. If all else fails #teamboardlast may save the day.

    I love this game.

    Remember… It ain’t over till the fat lady sits in your seat. And then it’s REALLY over!

  3. Great post for people with flexibility and time to burn.

    I’m at 80% UG this year with all of my missed UG’s due to being SOLD OUT before check in. Unfortunately, when flying for work I don’t get the opportunity to bump or change flights as I have to be somewhere. The last two times I was offered $800 and $700 but I had to leave the next day. Sorry, no can do. Clients can’t wait.

  4. Richarad Wiid Reply

    I switched to Alaska, they matched my status and so far this year 100% FIRST CLASS. After 257,000 freaking MQM’s last year and a Delta Reserve card, my Delta FC Upgrade was at 25% at best and could not even use RU’s. Don’t be fooled- Delta treats Diamonds like “freeloaders”. I’m leaving 140,000 MQMs on the table because this is a game I cannot win (with Delta).

  5. I am heading to SEA tomorrow, and I have a RUC (that expires today) applied to my ATL-SEA flight. I’m #1 with 0 seats avail. My return leg is on Monday riding on a 767, with 13 seats avail. Should I pull the RUC and apply it to the Monday flight and take my chances with my ATL-SEA leg with TeamBoardLast?

  6. Thank you Rene, this post has some great takeaways, even for a Gold Medallion not-yet-million-miler like me.

  7. Barry White Reply

    How do you see where you are on the upgrade list once an RU cert has been applied? I am currently waitlisted for 1 leg and confirmed on the other. I applied the RUC to both after I checked in and saw my upgrade chances were zilch. Neither my app nor delta.dumb shows the upgrade list now. Just stuck on “checkin now,” which I have already done and when I try to check in it says there’s an error. I’d like to pull the first leg if second doesn’t look like it will clear (or is it too late since it confirmed?).
    Thanks for all your helpful info!

    • @Barry – Sounds like not coded right. Call medallion line and have them fix it. Should be #1 or max #2.

  8. Hey Rene- What do you typically say to the GA if they auto reply “yes” to the question has FC boarded full? I’m not a snob but they typically treat people like newbs fairly often, and I’m clearly asking the question for a reason – and always with a giant smile and polite hello after most people have cleared the gate area and boarded.

    • @Justin B – Most are respectful. If they have attitude I often say something like: “So if there is an empty 1st class seat that was missed I can sit in it?”. If they were not being honest then they often tell me I should maybe wait for bit! 😉

  9. Rene,
    I’m always on #TeamBoardLast, however, HOW do you stop SHENA when the “Departure Screen” shows all ZERO’S for all seats, Reserved- Not Checked In, Reserved- Checked In, Comfort+, …… etc and there are several of us that haven’t boarded and they make the dreaded, Mr. “XYZ” this is your last and final boarding call and upon boarding, you notice one open 1st Class seat? How does that happen?

  10. Barry White Reply

    Thanks Rene! You saved me (hopefully). I called. It wasn’t done right. Now #1!
    Why does this kind of thing constantly happen?

  11. Good tip about getting help in the SkyClub! What flight from SEA to DTW had flat-bed seats? Was it a last-minute equipment swap?

    • @blitzcon – Almost last minute. Again, why you never stop working – ever!

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