Will it be possible to get “free” medallion upgrades to Delta Premium Select (Economy) Seats? Sometimes – due to OP-UPs!

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With no Comfort+ seats on the A350 it means no “free” seat upgrades on international flights as there have been in the past. Now some would argue that C+ seats are not really an upgrade (and I would agree with them) since the seat is exactly the same as the rest of coach. However, you did get a tiny bit more space and recline and that was nice but the “experience”, as Delta likes to tout, was the same as the rest of coach.

Now that Premium Economy seats are on the way, called Premium Select (PS), the days of free upgrades are over. You have to use a Diamond Medallion Choice Benefit called a Global Upgrade to get into either PS or all the way in to Delta One (D1). The catch is if you use it to go just to PS you are then done and can NOT use it to D1. You can say you only want D1 or no upgrade and that is fine you will either clear or be stuck in coach.

So does this really mean no upgrades for Delta Medallions ever? My guess is, on a rather regular basis, you are going to see elites upgraded free to PS seats. Why?

Over Sold Flights (in coach)!

You see, right now, when Delta oversells coach but there are open seats in D1 then they upgrade for free elites to the D1 seat so they don’t have to offer a bump voucher to someone in coach. The elite is happy and Delta is happy to not have to pay out compensation. This is generally called an OP-UP or operational upgrade.

Well with 48 new non-upgrade seats, that I think will go unsold on a number of flights, you will have yet another seat to upgrade for free an elite into to free up space in coach. We could even see someone in PS upgraded to D1 then someone in Coach to PS (or for speed the gate agent may just take the elite direct from coach to D1).

Anyway, this is yet one more reason to reach for top elite status if you travel often on routes where the PS seats will be on the jet as normally Delta will start with Diamonds and work their way down from there. Depending on how bad the oversold situation is in coach you could see a number of elites sitting in a premium cabin for the price of a coach seat!

Lastly, the few times the jets with PS seats fly domestically, it will be interesting to see if elites get these seats free (since there is no C+) or if they will become part of the 1st class upgrade mix.

Have you ever got an OP-UP before? Let us know in the comments below. – René


  1. Hi Rene, I just noticed n the NR that the A350 will fly select routes out of DTW to PEK, ICO and NRT. Since I regularly fly to PVG, I will assume with the demise of the 747 from service soon the default bird will remain the 777. So this serves me well as I cannot imagine booking into Main Cabin, and then hoping for underage to EC on the 777.

    If I read your post correctly, should they roll the A350 into my PVG route, booking into the EC seats will be where I am stuck with no shot for auto upgrade into PS. As a DM I know there will be readers who say “suck it up” as it is the seat you bought so deal with it. But looking forward, the pricing on these new routes with the new A350 in PS are quite pricey. The value of my 4 international upgrade certificates just became very valuable, as we will have to be very selective in picking flights with advance bookings where we know we can excel isle those carts at booking and not choose the “pay and pray” method that D1 availability opens up. JS

    Great article – Kevin

  2. I’ve gotten op uped both to and from Beijing on the same trip a few years back. I did a trip to London in May and used a global over but decided not to pay the extra taxes on the way back. I actually went to the gate agent and decided to pay but changed my mind. Sitting in my EC+ window side seat, a GA comes on and tells this passenger to move up to D1. Lucky guy right? But wait…his friend who is sitting with him starts talking…asking how the guy with no status (his boss), gets the upgrade over him and he’s platinum. (Boss said he actually paid for the EC+ seat.) I said well I’m a DM and I didn’t get it either. Red coat comes on for another reason and I said how come they didn’t upgrade elites first. She said the other agent made a mistake and should have checked but just moved the guy so that two people could sit together. I guess mistakes happen but this one did give me a pain in the butt for about nine hours lol

  3. I think the biggest beneficiaries of PS might be non revs. When some of those 48 PS seats go unsold, they will probably be moved up to PS even when economy isn’t oversold. Of course some would prefer moving to D1 as often happens now.

    On international flights in economy with DL, I’ve gotten bumped to D1 maybe 5% but less than 10% of the time. I usually don’t know until my boarding pass is scanned at the gate. I love that sound when the scanner spits out a new boarding pass.

    I think it makes sense to allow elites to select or at least be upgraded to PS on domestic flights. When AA flies three cabin aircraft with first, business and coach, elites select business class seats when they purchase a ticket and then go on the waiting list for upgrades to the lie flat first class seats.

  4. I was traveling home from Madrid three summers ago with my husband and adult daughter. All of us were op upped. I also got an up on my flight from JFK to Vienna this past fall. I’m gold so very happy for these opportunities.

  5. Love op-ups because they’re such an unexpected surprise. Strangely I’ve had them most often when I haven’t had status. The best was an oversold Northwest 757 flying from Boston to London, and I was moved from economy to first. I was thrilled at the time, but in retrospect I had no status and have no idea why I got it, except I was traveling alone. More recently I was flying AF from CDG to DTW during a general strike in France, so they had to swap aircraft. Was moved from a miserable economy seat to premium economy, which was a huge improvement. I’m Gold right now but was Platinum at the time of booking, and I don’t think AF was aware of my downgraded status (I think codeshare partners get your status at time of booking, and not at time of departure, but would appreciate comments on this)

  6. I’ve never had an op-up on Delta. I fly them mostly to Asia and South America. Was beginning to think they just don’t do that, same with Air France.

    (@ Mark; You are correct in that AF would have recorded your status at time of booking.)

    Whereas have had fairly good luck with KLM — 6 times to world business class, 5x on their 747 and 1x on a 787 just 2 weeks ago.

    With respect to the new A350s coming on board, I know that I am likely in the minority here, but I like the extra legroom with Delta comfort+ for the long flights to Asia and will miss that option.

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