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Has Delta ever #Coultered you out of your seat? Seat “mix-ups” are an ongoing issue for Delta you know…

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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.

Screen shot from @AnnCoulter page on Twitter

Let me get a few things out of the way right off the bat. 1) I am in no way defending the actions of Ann Coulter during the event that happened over the weekend (and after the event). 2) Nor am I defending Delta’s full court media attack on Ms. Coulter that was also inappropriate in many ways. I am sure one day a book or college paper will be written about that part of the story.

What I am focusing on today is the seat issue itself as the one thing this event did highlight, that we should as Delta flyer know about, is Delta does have an on going issue with seat “mix-ups” as the company itself admits (yes, they did admit they messed up her seat).

Screen Shot from DTW-ATL

So these are the facts as we know them. Ms. Coulter purchased a “Main Cabin” ticket a.k.a. a coach ticket. She then did what Delta Corp love-love-loves for passengers to do – that is, she purchased a more expensive “branded fare” upgrade to moved from a coach seat to another coach seat but one that is called by Delta a “Preferred Seat”. Apparently, according to Delta, the cost for Ms. Coulter’s flight to purchase this upgraded seat was ~$30 vs. the other same coach seat in another part of the cabin (in one example above the cost from ATL-DTW is ~$20).

So far no one has disputed these facts. There is more.

Next, it seems, when Ms. Coulter booked the flight she chose a window seat. But it also seems she likes an aisle seat because at the 24 hour check-in window, when many elites upgrade to Comfort+ or 1st class, Ms Coulter moved from the window to an aisle seat in the exit row.

Maybe it is just me but the way Delta tells this part of the story it is almost like an attack on Ms. Coulter about the seat change at the 24 hour mark. To me it makes it seem like it was in some way wrong of her to move, after having for some time before that selected a window seat, to the aisle seat in the same row. I personally change my seats all the time and check often on all the technology Delta gives me so when a “better” seat opens up I switch to that one. This part is just my musing but I think it is relevant to the overall narrative of the events. Back to the facts.

No one seems to be disputing that Ms. Coulter boarded the flight with her chosen and paid for aisle exit row seat. Then something strange happened. Her seat was was given to someone else and she was told to move to a window seat in the exact same exit row.

This was strange and I have never had “that” exact event happen but I have selected a bulk head seat and been “forced” to move when someone who required that type of seat checked in. Delta even warns me, either online or on the phone, that this can happen and I take that risk. Ms. Coulter’s event does not seem to be this kind of issue.

Nor does it seem to be a FAM move. FAM stands for “federal air marshal” or a cop in the air that can, and often does, bump you out of any seat anywhere if they want it. There is little or nothing you can do about that. I have had that also happen to me and you just roll with it. Too bad. Delta will sometimes when this happens toss you some miles due to the event and I really respect that as it is not Delta’s fault that you got “FAMed”. But again not what happened to Ms. Coulter.

So Delta messed up the seat issue. They admit it. We should know seat issues are an ongoing problem for Delta and I am now going beyond Ms. Coulter’s case but like the idea of calling it being #Coultered when Delta bumps you out of your chosen seat. 😉

One of the biggest problems that happens hits almost every single Saturday of the month, that is what we call “Schedule Change Saturday“. It can be maddening. Your flight may be the same time, the same aircraft, the same everything but one things changes – the flight number – and you can be “tossed” into some random seat you did not choose and Delta DOES NOT TELL YOU!

The next thing that Delta has a problem with that can result in seat “mix-ups” is when there is an aircraft swap. This can happen at the very last minute or months before the flight. Again Delta, a BULK of the time, simply moves you out of your chosen seat and does not tell you. You have to go clickin’ on your reservation to see you have been #Coultered out of your chosen seat. To cut Delta the tiniest of slivers of a break, the new Fly Delta App does, sometimes, push or update your new seat to you on the electronic boarding pass but it is not like it will “911” you that things have changed – you have to notice it yourself.

Then we have one that tends to hit elites more than others – that is, being “upgraded” against your will to a Comfort+ seat (often a middle seat) either by Delta technology or by a gate agent or someone else at Delta. Often when you gripe about being moved against your will the agent is surprised you do not want the “upgrade”. For most of us an aisle or window seat is WAY better than any middle seat on a Delta jet! Being #Coultered to a middle seat to me would make me crazy and I would flat out refuse and even take a later flight.

Lastly we have the being asked to move due to a family or some special need. Apparently this is what may have happened to Ms. Coulter and I have to believe if cooler heads had been in play this issue could have been resolved this way. I have, yes somewhat reluctantly, given up my carefully chosen seat to accommodate others. For a short flight if it helps another passenger I can live with a move to another seat on the jet (so long as it is not a middle seat that is). I think most people who fly are decent enough to gripe inside their heads a bit and let it go and do the “right thing”.

So there you are. If you fly Delta you need to know they have real seat issues. You, and Ms. Coulter, may think you have a guarantee to your carefully chosen seat but Delta does not do much to protect that specific seat for you. Know this and it is up to you to check and check often and to be pro-active if you get #Coultered out of your seat! – 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. I bought business class seats for a trip my niece was taking with me. I selected seats 2C and 2D. When we boarded I see two people in our seats. The FA told me we were to sit in row 1 because those people had 2 cats that had to be under the seat in front of them which required them to be moved to our seats to accommodate the cats. They moved us to their row 1 seats. Since I’m quite allergic to cats I asked if there was another option. Answer was no. So I spent an absolutely miserable trip from Tampa to Atlanta because of two cats. I guess I should have whined and cried to see how much compensation I could have gotten. Shame on me!

    I’ve had my seat changed a couple times due to families wanting to sit together. I don’t always like it but I never thought about ranting and crying over it.

    When i see these blogs this morning that say how wrong Delta was, I wonder if they have ever asked for their family or group to be seated together on a plane? Do I need to contact Delta to pay for the extra allergy medicine I had to buy because of the cats? It’s only been 2 years, I must still be traumatized over it. LOL

  2. I have viewed this story through my own experiential lens, and could find only one reasonable explanation. Delta changed aircraft from one with two exit rows over the wings to one exit row. A DM who had selected the exit row aisle seat that disappeared then demanded the remaining exit row aisle, and Ms. Coulter was moved.

    I am making a lot of assumptions. I would think someone with Ms. Coulter’s fame and income would fly first class – what’s she doing in coach? Second, she must fly a lot, and if she didn’t have Medallion Status on Delta (or her Preferred seat would have been free), why was she not on her “home” airline where she could better claim her status? It could not be an accommodation re-seat for a family (must be 15 to sit in exit row), or physical disability (can’t assist in emergency), or similar reasons for bouncing a passenger.

    Certainly, Delta should handle disgruntled passengers better – one bad experience could cost millions to recover. Certainly, Ms. Coulter could have kept her frustration to herself or in a complaint to but since she is not a Delta regular (and probably never will be now), what good will a few miles chucked her way do? Further, Delta should be well aware that passengers have a public loudspeaker on social media, and are not afraid to use it.

    I guess it comes down to training of the ground and flight staff on how to treat passengers in this media age. Whether the treatment is above or below par, folks will talk. The era of a “don’t tell anybody but…” favor or dismissal are gone.

    A favorite Japanese business professor, Noriaki Kano, published an article in 1986 call “Attractive Quality and Must-be Quality.” He introduced the idea that what excited people yesterday (ex. I can select my own seat) will become expected tomorrow (ex. That seat is mine!). Organizations should embrace this concept – quality and customer satisfaction are a moving target, and complacence loses.

  3. When things like this have happened, usually Delta is responsive–will give miles or return an upgrade fee. Things happen and Delta should be more like Marriott—employees are given a $ amount they can use for customers to “make things right”.
    Having said this, Ann Coulter acted like a 2 year old having a temper tantrum. I’ll be glad to have her flying other airlines!

  4. All of these could be avoided easily if only FA explain the situation politely. Many incidents happened simply because FA acting like a robot instead of human being, but complained that they are human who needs rest or chatting in the galley.

  5. AZDeltaflyer Reply

    Complete mishandling by Delta. If they let Ms. Coulter board first, it’s her seat and they should have apologized the person boarding later and offered them 10,000 MQM’s. And if still not happy 15,000 miles and so forth until that flyer smiled. Avoid another “United Incident” at all costs (what if Coulter had refused, would they call the airport police to drag her off?).

    Mishandled by the gate agent.
    Mishandled by the lead flight attendant.
    Mishandled by Delta corporate (procedures and communications).

    This is the type of corporate misbehaviour that needs to be punished. In my experience, 99% of problems can be solved with compensation and well trained and empowered employees. Delta apparently failed on this one.

  6. Due to a last minute equipment change I was recently bumped by Delta from first class all the way back to row 24! This was not a last minute seat change, I bought the first class seat months prior as part of a planned relaxing vacation (my one break last year). I’m 6’4″ so putting me back in regular coach meant I’d have an awful 5 hour flight. After some social media shaming Delta refunded a large portion of my ticket and gave me a credit for future flight.

  7. AZDeltaflyer Reply

    In fact, I wish that Ms. Coulter had refused to give up her seat. It would have been a good test as to how good Delta’s “on the ground” employees are … and if they are as good as Rene frequently says they are.

  8. You said it Rene. IMHO, the worst part of the whole Coulter situation was the bitchy, childish, inappropriate tweet reply to Coulter from @Delta. Was Coulter carrying on too much, yes but Delta corporate needs to be better than taunting their customers Totally unacceptable coming from corporate. As a platinum that offended me more than anything that happened onboard.

  9. Richard – if I understand your comment, you were bumped from a purchased first class seat to the back of coach? I have never experience this myself, but I find it so unacceptable. Was it a broken seat or some such reason? Rene – what is Delta policy on de-upgrading free upgrades to make room for purchased first class passengers?

    • @Glenn – On purchased tickets they offer a refund from what you paid in 1st to coach price but often is not what you would expect i.e. way to little. Or they will offer you a 1st class seat on a later flight and if you BEG maybe give you a meal voucher while you wait. Maybe. As for free UGs they really don’t owe you anything but will many times work with you to find other flights in 1st class and move you free to those. In the past, when they would force bump you down, they would give you a bonus RU type cert. I liked that when they had that in place but seems to be gone now.

  10. I was flying out of Atlanta – Delta hub – so I assumed the replacement aircraft had fewer premium seats and I didn’t have high enough FF status to compete the the seats they had – even the upgraded coach seats.

  11. Several years ago, I flew with my 96 year-old mother back to her home in St. Louis, from Melbourne FL. I bought and paid for two First Class seats to make her comfortable and to make getting on the plane easier for her. The tickets were purchased a month before we flew. I checked our seats 48 hrs. before departure, and we had been bumped from the last row in First Class to bulkhead seats in First Class. This was fine for my 5 ft. mother, and she enjoyed the flight, but not comfortable for me, at 6 ft. 4 in. (When flying solo, I generally refuse a First Class “upgrade” to bulkhead and stay with my better-than-First Class-legroom exit seat). I called several people at Delta and received only wishy-washy excuses that the move had been made and they could do nothing about it. I asked if this was a FAM reassignment and, of course, they could not say, but I could tell from their response that it was not a FAM issue. Having been in security positions for many years, I observed the two people in “our” seats when I was on the plane, definitely not FAMs, but it looked like a case of a Diamond/Zillion Miler demanding the seat and requesting that we be moved.

  12. Has happened to me three time. Several years ago, flying from LAS to DTW through SLC, I boarded the first leg with no problem. Went to board in SLC and was told I had no reservation. I was holding a boarding pass given to me in LAS. Flight was completely full so someone had to give up their seat and take a later flight to accommodate me (I was flying with my husband). The second time, we were again flying LAS to DTW direct. We both were upgraded (# 1 and 2 on the upgrade list). Desk agent assigned us Row 4, Seats C and D, then said the other agent at the desk would print our new boarding passes. To make a long story short, she never printed our new boarding passes and gave our upgrades to someone else. That was two years ago. The third time I was traveling alone and was upgraded. Tried boarding with first class, and the gate agent said my upgrade had been revoked because someone at the last minute wanted to buy a FC seat. This was about a year ago.

  13. rick in boise Reply

    My experience was booking a good seat, printing out the boarding pass then getting to the airport and finding my seat had changed. AND they told me that my new seat was my original the whole time. I showed them my BP (and my reservation email) and they were freaked out. How did my purchase history get changed? Obviously, someone at very high levels at Delta… as they hinted I really shouldn’t push this. (Delta Assist told me there was zero chance of fixing this.An interesting choice of words? 🙂

    Turns out it was somebody’s girlfriend on some sort of buddy pass. She WAS quite good looking but I confronted her politely and she assured me that this had been HER seat all along (even though she’d booked <24 hours before – and that she just couldn't believe Delta would displace someone for her. (FAs were quite amused, as you might imagine. I suspect they knew exactly who she was.)

  14. rick in boise Reply

    however, here’s maybe the flip side? A friend got displaced by a gum-chewing blond bimbo type with a Joisey accent…

    Of course, she WAS the air marshal intentionally incognito. She treated my friend badly when he asked for his seat. Upon arriving (LAX, I think) she chased him down and bought him a drink and explained…. in a southern accent). My chum feels like he’d been in a spy movie, LOL)


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