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What is the greatest “sin” Delta can commit? Is it flying with an empty 1st class seat?

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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.

Sorry no UG for YOU!

Now before anyone goes off about this being all blown out of proportion and there are much bigger problems in the world – I get that. Even though there are many elites who fly Delta they are a small subset of those who fly the airline. For everyone who is not an elite, this post is going to sound a bit whiny and an eyeball roll worthy #FirstWorldProblem-ish (or another Sunday rant maybe).

So with disclaimer done let’s focus on what may be the greatest sin Delta could commit? It is:

Flying with an empty 1st class seat!

And it gets worse. This event was from ATL to DTW that is from one Delta hub to another Delta hub. Now this was midday on a Saturday but you can not tell that there was not one single:

  • Delta360 Diamond Medallion
  • Delta Diamond Medallion
  • Delta Platinum Medallion
  • Delta Gold Medallion
  • Delta Silver Medallion
  • SPG Crossover Platinum

Sitting in the 100% full section of Comfort+ (especially those in a middle seat “upgrade”) who would not have liked to move up to the seat that flew empty the entire flight from Atlanta to Detroit.

From what I could tell the seat was not broken in any way as there was no tape or warning it was out of service and there was a blanket and pillow waiting to be used.

I tried to pull up the Fly Delta App to see how deep the Medallion upgrade list was but since I had boarded and we were in the air it would no longer show me the list but again there had to be someone on the jet in C+ really upgrade worthy I would think!

And that gets me to the point of today’s post. Is not taking the time to do whatever it takes to put some loyal medallion into a 1st class seat even if it means another minute or two on the ground worthwhile?

From Delta news on

During my flying the other week I walked up to a gate agent in Austin at the 40 minute mark (since says the time was moved to process upgrades) and I was told no-no-no 30 minutes before departure – go wait for 10 more minutes and then ask again. Sigh – guess you did not get the memo from the CEO?

Part of the reason for this change from T-30 to T-40 was to try to reduce visits from SHENA or that is gate shenanigans. But even worse that those kinds of games is simply not upgrading someone due to whatever (we were not late or rushed so no idea why this happened).

I would have loved to ask the FA to move someone up but they tell you that is not something they can do, it is up to the gate agent and that is a hard ask for when you are up in the air!

You tell me – is this the worst “sin” Delta can commit or are there others that are much worse? Feel free to comment below. – 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. Same thing happened to me on AA a month ago. Only it was ME in the back!

    I’m an American Platinum and was sitting in a exit row and I had boarded late in the process since I was coming off another flight. Boarding was almost done and when I boarded there were 3 FC seats open. I thought, hmm that’s strange. I sat and watched as the remaining passengers boarded. One of them sat in F. Then the gate agent came on the plane and moved some girl up to F. That leaves one seat left.

    I knew Shena was in full force because the girl that got moved up to F acted like super confused and surprised that she got upgraded so my guess is she was a lowly Gold who is not used to it.

    So, one seat left and I see the gate agent and another agent on board looking at their device and scanning the cabin, even looking directly at me at one point. So here comes my chance, right? WRONG! Just like that both agents leave the plane and the door is promptly closed behind them by the FA.

    I emailed AA after the flight and they claimed that F went out full but I know for a fact it did not.

  2. Having occasional unoccupied first class seats seems to rank pretty far down the list of worst sins. Every elite benefit reduction and mileage devaluation ranks higher because delta “promised” those benefits in exchange for doing business with delta. We perform our part of the bargain but when we expect to receive the promised rewards, delta reneges

    That FAs say they lack the authority to move passengers on board conflicts with what I’ve seen on numerous flights and in varying circumstances.

  3. As an AA EP and DL Plat for over five years now I have always expected nothing more than what I paid for. Of course, complimentary upgrades are awesome and I will never turn it down. However, some frequent flyers have developed a sense of entitlement.

  4. IMO, worse are empty international biz class seats. The rule is no automatic upgrades…why? AFAIK, Delta doesn’t offer day of or gate discounts either. You either pay the full bucket rate or it goes out empty. Where’s the loyalty?

  5. What if someone used their companion cert to fly with an empty seat? Not common, but happens. Also, I was #1 on upgrade, one empty seat in first, already comfy and had no middle passenger in row – gate agent told FA to put me in first, but I told them I didn’t want to move… it was one row forward of where I was. They let it fly empty, didn’t go to #2 on list.

  6. 02 Aug 2017 FLL – ATL They’re was a few empty seats up front. We were sitting In C. The GA came on board and brought up people by us up to front. The one young girl was surprised and excited when she was brought up from a few seats away from us.
    02 Aug 2017 ATL – PHL was full.
    05 Aug 2017 PHL – ATL 3 Empty seats. Back was full
    05 Aug 2017 ATL- FLL 4 Empty seat. Back was full

    17 March 2017 I had book 3 first class seats from FLL MSP. My daughter and granddaughter couldn’t make it (Last minute couldn’t make it). I was the only one who flew. The GA went to the back and brought 2 people from the back and filled their seats.

    23 March 2017 MSP – FLL They filled there my daughter and granddaughter seats from the gate.

    I do notice that here in FLL, the GA come on board and get people from the back and fill First Class. And I have noticed several times in where I have been number 1 or 2 for upgrade, and I have not gotten an upgrade and they leave the seats empty.
    This is all DL Flights

  7. I hit the “Post Comment” button by accident too soon. I’d like to add the 05 Aug 2017 PHL – ATL and the ATL – FLL they never filled the First class seats.

    And when I said I have been number 1 and 2 for upgrade to First Class this has been in numerous other cities where they leave the seats empty. Here in FLL they are usually pretty good about coming on board to bring people upfront with upgrades most of the time.

  8. not sure what is worse 3 empty first seats and 6 delta comforts(last week) and me up front or 3– 2 years olds in first class and me in the back

  9. The worst sin Delta commits is keeping secrets.

    Two weeks ago I received a phone call from an American Express executive whose team works with Delta to promote the Delta-American Express family of co-branded credit cards. The call was in response to letters I had written to Am Ex in regard to rumored changes to the 2019 DM spend waiver. Even though they are partners, Delta kept the secret from Am Ex.

    Delta has a long history of keeping secrets whenever they contemplate detrimental changes to the Sky Miles and Medallion programs. Loyal customers are very rarely given an opportunity to weigh in before Delta carves the changes in stone. Example: no more free Sky Club guests using the Delta Reserve card or Am Ex Platinum card.

    Award charts? Another secret.

    Some Delta gate agents? More secrets. Far too often, having found myself number one on the upgrade list, gate agents have told me that there weren’t any no-shows. Then from my bulkhead seat in C+ I watched non-revs conspicuously remove their Delta IDs and sit in open FC seats.

    And yet another secret. I have had a future itinerary changed without explanation. Delta kept secret the fact that the flights still existed – the itinerary had been removed from Delta’s cover was blown because my travel companions, René and another DM, had not had their flights taken away. When I called the Diamond desk to get my flights back they would not reveal why it happened.

    Delta secrets. The worst sin.

  10. NOTHING frustrates me more than seeing non-revs in FC. Particularly, as you point out, when I’ve been “upgraded” to C+ middle…

  11. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    The greatest sin? It’s a tie between this and requiring customers with special dietary requirements to submit their request at least 24 hours before scheduled departure and then having such a lackluster quality control process that NO ONE checks to ensure that the meal has been loaded by the catering crew until we are in the air.

    Pay for a meal, plan for a meal, starve until final destination or subsist on salty snacks.

    By the by, when I complained about this to the Mother Ship, I received an apology and some miles but also was encouraged to check with the gate agent prior to boarding so that he/she may speak with catering in order to confirm. Who’s running this circus? (This happened during the Anderson years, by the way, but I won’t soon forget it).

    Oh, right, I forgot one. It’s a three-way tie. Have catering load 24 special meals even though a single passenger requested it, thereby subjecting the other 23 to a cold breakfast of Cheerios and yogurt when they should have been offered the option of a hot breakfast burrito! Classic!

  12. Yes, it is a sin, but for my money, it’s worse when they put NR up there instead of any Medallion.
    Sorry, DL can say it;s an employee perk, but that’s getting the cart before the horse. If not for their Medallions these people would not a job.

  13. Andrew Douds Reply

    I agree about NR being in first is a major sin with me since sometimes they are not employees but family. Recently I was on a flight where I was 1 or 2 on 1st class upgrade list and it flew with empty seats in 1st. I am Diamond with an American Express Delta Reserve card. I have also have had the GAs give my seats away as we were running to catch our flight because of a very very late connection and it was a Business seat to Europe. They offered middle seats in economy and not together. The Diamond desk was a help in rerouting in Business.

  14. I was #1 on the UG list for a flight last year and watched from my coach bulkhead seat as the FAs brought two dead headers from the back to FC just after the door closed.

    If DL will do that to a DM with 3MM, then they’ll do it to anyone. I live in a non hub city, so I decided at that moment that anytime Southwest flew nonstop to my destination at a convenient time, I’ll fly SW.

    • I’ve done that too taken either JetBlue or Southwest instead. It’s a shame DL does that to us. Unfortunately JetBlue and Southwest doesn’t fly everywhere we fly to I.e. FRA, ZRH
      Plus JetBlue has more leg space than DL
      I know it probably won’t happen, but I miss the old days with upgrades

  15. Follow up comment:

    Today on HNL-MSP, sat beside the husband of one of the operating FAs (i.e. super non-rev). I made an audible groan when I heard one of her friends apologize to him for not being able to get him a FC seat. They tried, but apparently those annoying GAs moved reg passengers in there first…

  16. Hi Rene,

    I can tell you the WORST issue for me is my travel from DTW-PVG and the return. I have witnessed on many occasions an empty seat in Delta One / First Class etc…..that flew empty. I even tried to point out to the purser that my UG didn’t clear at the gate (I was 4 hours short of the mandatory request timeline they told me) and she told me, oh so sorry can’t help. So I sat there for 14 hours in Delta Comfort with crazy negative thoughts of why can’t Delta empower their onboard flight leaders to make logical decisions when empty seats exist in Delta One. They sure as heck know our status since they recognize us and thank us for our status……just saying.

  17. Follow up

    When any organization caters to the employees instead of their customers, it’s the beginning of the end.

    I’m been killing myself and my budget to get to $6k + MQD, with a chance to get to 9k.
    But now I’m thinking what’s the point.
    I no longer need the Delta Hub in NYC. I’m flying more to Asia than Europe now and for the foreseeable future.
    I think I need to rethink this for 2019.

    Thanks all.

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