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#TeamBoardLast is still the LAW of the Deltaland! You want first? Then must board last!

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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.

Delta, this 1st class seat should not fly empty!

Next week I will have a fun set of posts on the way about my very last Delta 747 ride ever since Delta is rapidly parking them in the Arizona desert to die with no plans to replace them with 747-8s (sad to say). Yesterday I shared the interesting experience of flying with an extra paid seat in coach. Today I want to talk about an issue that impacts ALL elites and what I call #TeamBoardLast that raised it’s ugly head on my last flight of my 747 adventure.

For those who are not aware, one of the things that makes elites most crazy is something we un-affectionately refer to as SHENA that is short for shenanigans. With real 1st class upgrades becoming more rare than gold or precious gem stones every-single-seat-matters! When gate agents do not make or find the time to upgrade every single elite they can, or worse put a Delta employee in a domestic 1st class empty seat, it makes us truly question our continued loyalty to Delta Air Lines.

We have been promised on that reps would “try” to come onboard and upgrade more when a seat opens up. When the change first was announced to employees I did get many reader reports of it happening more than in the past. But now the norm are e-mails telling me about how a seat went empty in domestic 1st class or that someone who works for Delta stole my upgrade. How sad. Also as reminder the official policy is that if you board you are giving up your chance for an upgrade (you drop off the list and #1 will be who is left at the gate not boarded).

Now before there is the never ending flood of comments that “I do not want to risk overhead space” to play #TeamBoardLast – I feel for you – clearly this post is not for you. Board #TeamBoardFirst and enjoy your open overhead space in coach. For the rest of us, read on. 😉

Sorry all you on UG list – Enjoy coach!

My last leg of my 747 adventure to Manila was on a several hour delayed CRJ900. There were some 16 people on the upgrade list. Despite the delay and the fact that a Red Coat (customer service specialist) came onboard twice before we departed, no one was pulled from coach up to the empty 1st class seat next to me. Most disappointing and disheartening.

Now I know this was a short 40-ish minute flight but with Comfort+ service all but vanishing on flights shorter than 350 miles those fake “upgrades” to C+ have become even more fake than they were before. Thus on shorter flights a real first class upgrade that still gets full service matters more than ever.

So why is this still happening? The reason is simple – there are/were no firm guidelines to remove SHENA from the equation. It is if time allows for the gate agents. It is only if they want to. All reports are that unless someone is maybe watching them I do not think they want to or see this company suggestion as a priority for elites. I wish the Delta CEO had decreed this is a MUST DO even if it takes a minute or two extra to get the flight out.

Thus the only real change from the ongoing effort with #TeamBoardLast was the move for the upgrade window from T30 to T40 and that has had some positive impact I have to say. That, Delta, I am grateful for or at least grateful when reps follow this rather than telling me it is still T30 before departure!

Thus folks we find ourselves back where we started and the situation that has been the law of the land or Deltaland for years – if you want a shot at that last open 1st class seat on a domestic flight then you join me in playing #TeamBoadLast! – 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. I misconnected due to a delay last weekend and was protected on the next flight in Y even though I had “upgraded” to C+ at booking. The DM agents wouldn’t put me back in C+ but instead insisted I wait for a C+ or F upgrade. I didn’t argue much because there were 5 C+ seats at T-3 so I went to the skyclub and checked the upgrade list. At T-2 people from the standby list were being cleared into the last C+ seats even though there were 20 people on the C+ UG list! GRR! The skyclub agent had no idea what was going on. I ended up in the 2nd to last row of Y on an M fare.

  2. What’s your opinion on asking the gate agent if it’s worth waiting for an upgrade? In the past they’ve either had me wait (and I got the upgrade as the 1st class passenger didn’t show up), or told me it’s not worth it, and I board with my overhead space.

    • @Brian P – I often ask if anyone in 1st will likely miss-connect and if 1st has BOARDED FULL not just checked-in full. If they lie then time to contact Delta and get compensation. As mentioned in post, I care more about 1st class than overhead space – they can always find space for 1 more bag if you push it.

  3. What’s your view on #teamboardlast when you are not a DL Elite but a partner elite (who often ranks much MUCH lower)?

    I’m VS Gold so i would be eligible to upgrade but if there is literally anyone with DL status ahead of me in the ranking i’m guaranteed not to get the seat.

    But playing #teamboardlast also means i risk losing overhead space for a seat in first i’m not even likely to get – especially when most of my DL flights are CRJ’s.

  4. Love team board last and it worked for me once although that was probably because I arrived to gate/airport late. Question for me is, how long do you typically wait after final boarding has been called to before deciding to board? I’ve sat at the gate several times as last to board but feel somewhat uncomfortable once GA has called for final boarding. Even had my name called one time.
    Thank you for your excellent blog and all then valuable information!

  5. It depends on airport, imo. At ATL, the upgrade list is over 30. They aren’t putting #22 in F no matter how long you hang back.

  6. Thank you for this post, Rene. I have the same question as Steven. I almost always wait until final boarding is called. I then ask as I board if everyone has boarded that is in 1st. Many times I’m told they have, then I get on and there are open seats in 1st. I’m clearly doing something wrong! I’m sitting in an airport now, and I’m definitely going to ask if it BOARDED full based on your advice, because I’ll probably end up 2 spots away from the upgrade. Is there anything else I’m missing?

    • @Rich – What you said. If agent lies get name and post on twitter and gripe to

  7. Hi Rene,
    I had a flight from MDW to MSP last Sunday. I checked the upgrade list at 3:00 PM for a 7:04 boarding. I was first on the list and my wife second and there were 7 open first class seats. When I checked in only I was upgraded. I later found out they put 2 NDSU flight students in 2 seats and apparently a handicapped (she had a cane) older woman, her daughter, and 2 grandchildren in the other 4 seats. I’m a platinum that will no longer be pursuing Diamond. The aircraft was a CRJ2000.

  8. i just hate checking my small roller even tho i can always find a space(it will fit under most seats-if they let u on with it) most of the time they will not let u on with it !!Bummer

  9. ps both of my first class flights thur nite (red eye)and early am did not have Pre board service even though the 2 FA’s at the door chatted together the whole time!!some FC peeps actually rang the lite and asked for a beverage,, they still did not get the hint and on a 5 hr 40 minute flight after snacks they were no where to be found!! the next 40 minute flight the same thing but got in flight drinks no snacks

  10. Kilo Sierra Foxtrot Reply

    Rene, I boarded normally with SkyPri for my C+ seat recently (was first on the upgrade list with no seats available), and the gate agent came onboard just prior to doors closing and handed me a first class seat assignment!

  11. This past Thursday on a flight to WPB from LaG, after everyone had boarded, an FA came and got a passenger from row 21 and offered him an upgrade to FC (row 3). I imagine he was DM, as I am PM. Good for him! And good for the FA to not obligate him to wait in the boarding area before boarding hoping for the upgrade. This, to me, is the best possible scenario.

    • @rumproof – How it should work (i.e. passenger was #1 at T40) but most times it does not.

  12. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    It would be interesting to know if there is a difference between mainline Delta flights and commuter flights, not that it should matter. Only possible difference I could see is that some of the out-station airports served by commuter flights with first-class or even mainline flights with first-class are contracted staff, not real Delta employees.

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