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Delta half fixes C+ Middle seat “upgrade” issue & more thoughts on leg by leg FCM changes.

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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.

This seat is NO upgrade folks – EVER!

If you are an elite and fly Alaska Airlines and are a single flyer you will simply NOT be upgraded to a middle seat. Simple – quick – smart. Why? Well, cuz it’s a middle seat (Hello – McFly)! This is brilliant on Alaska’s part.

But with Delta it has been different. I have recommended for years that customers simply “opt out” of C+ “upgrades” (not an upgraded seat, just maybe a few upgraded perks) for any number of reasons including the possibility it could keep you from getting a real 1st class upgrade as well as the real chance of you ending up in a middle seat in C+ and almost no one ever wants that. If I were forced to fly a middle seat I would skip it and take the next one – no way I am flying middle seat ever (unless it is business class).

Well today we learn Delta is allowing us (under most circumstances – but not all) to “downgrade” from C+ to C- seats without having to involve either a Delta phone rep or an @Delta twitter rep to get the change done. Notice what Delta tells us on the News Hub:

“Delta has also developed another way for SkyMiles Medallion Members to take control of their complimentary upgrades. In addition to the current automatic upgrade clearing process, Medallion Members may choose, instead, to self-select upgrade seats from the seat map once their eligibility window opens. The seat map will also allow a Medallion Member to choose to revert back to Main Cabin with one touch if they aren’t happy with their upgrade seat assignment, for example, to a middle seat. This improvement is designed for customers who value exact seat selection more than the ease of automation.” – Delta News Hub – (bold mine)

I love how Delta always calls C+ an upgrade but when it comes to moving back to C- it is not called a downgrade but to “revert back” to coach. Now there are issues. First the big one. As this latest “enhancement” rolled out last week, as I blogged about before, it had an unintended random consequence of blocking the seat map for all but the cabin you were seated in. Not good. I asked Delta about this and was told:

“As a result of a number of variables, customers may see fewer seats available for purchase in the post-purchase upgrade environment than were visible in the original shopping path.” – Delta Air Lines representative.

Well that is less than a thorough answer. I have 14 current reservations with Delta. A few of them are perfect and I can see all the cabins as to what seats are open. But on most either all the cabins other than the one I am in are blocked (mostly award tickets). While others it is just random that some have 1st class blocked and others 1st and coach.

I have also been chatting with another person in Delta IT and I have received a much more satisfying explanation that makes me feel better that this is a bug still no matter what the PR folks say. My feeling is this bug will go away over time as the new FCM or First Class Monitization or leg by leg upsell rolls out to new reservations. This is only a guess but an educated one based on what I am seeing and what I have been told by those who know more than the PR folks.

Next let’s talk a bit more about the leg by leg upsells. Delta’s Vice President – Global Distribution & Digital Strategy say “This is all about consumer choice” when it comes to selling these “Branded Fares”. I am not buying it – literally – I am not buying it. That is, I am not buying 1st class upgrades leg by leg or one-way or round trip unless it is super dirt cheap and the bonus MQMs make it worth it me to help me keep my status. If not, I am happy in C- or C+ or whatever I have paid for.

Clearly this will, as I talked about in the post before, have a negative impact on Medallion upgrades as more will click “buy” if the price is cheap enough. It will be interesting to see how cheap Delta goes with these new upsells. Personally I think the biggest impacts will be on C+ seats as Delta begins to block more and more of these seats for up-sells and Platinums and Diamonds see less of the “instant” free C+ upgrades.

What do you think about the C+ middle seat downgrade fix? Do you think your old perfect seat will still be there when you realize you are not in the seat you want to be? Do you like the fix and what do you think about the new leg by leg upgrades – are you buying? 😉 – Rene


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. The thing that isn’t clear is will an upsell via the website move you to a premium SDC fare or is this some middle ground that gives you the MQM bonus but not the SDC privileges? Not clear in the terms and conditions versus how I’ve done it by calling in and buying a new ticket in FC and therefore having all the SDC advantages of a premium fare.

    • @Joe – This is not an “upgrade” like a RU or Medallion UG so yes you will 100% be able to SDC once ticket is reissued in 1st class under current 1st class SDC rules. That, other than MQMs, could be yet 1 more reason to buy a UG. However, I expect you will ONLY be able to free SDC the one segment you are in 1st class not the others you are not in 1st class.

  2. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    I’ve had a middle-seat “sidegrade” a couple of times, but a quick call to the Delta diamond desk solved the issue. I do, however, take issue with the seat map display.

  3. I think this shows that medallion status is becoming less and less valuable. I stopped chasing status, because it no longer has the value it used to have. I recently flew JetBlue recently without status, and I was very impressed with everything. I got more benefits and service flying JetBlue without status than I’ve gotten flying one of the US3 airlines with status. Sounds like Delta is continuing to make the “benefits” of medallion status less and less valuable with giving people more options to pay for those benefits. As they continue to monetize upgrades, it will continue to make less space available for free upgrades.

  4. Wayne Horne Reply

    So with this change do you now suggest one “opt in” for C+ and just “revert” back if you are stuck with a middle seat?

    • @Wayne – Up to you. If you do that, only do it when you can instantly change back. Problem is what is equipment swap. The Alaska system is so much better. Wish we could have that!

    • @John – A confused and frustrated flyer is one who makes Delta more $$$ so yes! 🙁

  5. The American system is better than Alaska or Delta. On American there are no fake upgrades to Main Cabin Extra (the equivalent of C+). As an Executive Platinum, I can select MCE if I want when I purchase a ticket.

  6. Phil in ATL Reply

    I got the email from Delta and it’s written so poorly with corporate speak, I honestly couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say! If not for your description of what they are doing here I’d be clueless.

  7. Last week Delta “upgraded” me to a C+ middle seat without any input from me. I received the upgrade email, then immediately looked at the app. No C+ check mark.

    At that point I couldn’t see any of the open seats in coach on the seat map. So I didn’t know if my exit row aisle was still available.

    The agent I spoke with on the phone couldn’t tell me how I ended up in C+ or why I couldn’t see open seats on the seat map. Ultimately, I was able to get my original exit row seat, and later the FC upgrade.

    Delta always seems to take a two steps back before taking one step forward.

  8. Same issue, Kevin. I was “upgraded” to a middle seat which is partially my fault because I forgot to uncheck the c+ box. Unfortunately, when I called, because the seat map was blocked, my exit row seat was gone. So, I took an aisle seat in the loser section. All these ridiculous names for a simple airline seat . . .ugh!

  9. Any idea how “self-selecting” a C+ upgrade might impact a potential FC upgrade?

  10. Knowledge is power!! Thanks Renee and all you who comment, i learn with every issue!!
    I just called Diamond desk to complain about the blocked seating for an upcoming trip to Manila, im using GUs and waitlisted as usual. But it is soooo frustrating now that I cant even see how many open seats there are to judge my chances…the agent gave a bull story that made no sense so they are obviously uninformed!! I just dont trust Delta anymore, with the hidden award charts and now the hidden open seats, I have that feeling im getting screwed and not the good kind!!!

    • @Alex – It does. Delta is fighting the FAA on the ruling to give it another look and on top of that they have 5 years to get it done. If they can push this most of the MDs will be parked by the time they have to do it. The 717 they will likely have to fix and the regional partners will be also on the hook.

  11. Peter Masella Reply

    I am a Silver Medallion. I always book the exit row, and request upgrade to First ONLY. I never request the upgrade to Comfort +. On my fight yesterday, as I was boarding, I got an upgrade to Comfort+ and on my flight tomororw I already got the upgrade to Comfort +. I never requested it for either flight. The good news is that both flights are on regional jets but I really wanted to just keep the exit row seat that I had if I did not get the First Class upgrade. Why all of a sudden am I getting upgraded to Comfort + when I did not request it?

  12. Barry Graham Reply

    I’d still rather fly in a middle C+ seat than a window or aisle regular seat, especially if it’s front row C+. Actually I prefer middle C+ front row to any seat that’s not front row, exit row or first class.

  13. David Chase Reply

    I just got off a flight from ATL to CLE. I had my isle exit row all sorted out. When I got to the airport, lucky me, I was “upgraded” to a middle C+ seat. I was not given the opportunity to revert back to my original seat, it was gone. Plane was full. This isn’t the first time. Only way I’ve seen to control it is to not consent to C+ upgrade. It is simple, the computer thinks moving to C+ is always better than being in C-. Luckily I slept thru it.

    • David Chase –

      I think Ann Coulter would agree with you! 😉
      Delta just gives you “what [they think] you should want” not what is truly better for you. Hence the hidden award charts for the “Award Calendar” since you really do not want to see a hypothetical chart, you want to see the ‘live’ cost in SkyMiles right?


  14. YES to this article and all the comments. This has happened to me so many times with Delta. What’s the point of building toward gold status when you’re just as screwed as everyone else. They might be making money off the process, but they’re giving frequent fliers a bad experience. Seems like an obvious bad idea but… here we are.

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