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More Upgrades for Delta Basic Economy Passengers

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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.


Yep. It happened again. Four times on one flight.

Delta Basic Economy passengers received complimentary upgrades — while Medallions were passed over.

Note: This post has been updated. The sequence of flights was inadvertently flipped in a prior version. It is correct now.

Upgrades on Delta Basic Economy

Delta explicitly states “Basic Economy travelers are not eligible for paid or complimentary access or upgrades to premium seats, including to Delta Comfort+ or Preferred Seats.”

However, we’ve seen separate incidents of Delta Basic E passengers enjoying first class upgrades.

I’m starting to wonder if the “E” fare class really stands for “Elite Light.” 😉

The Latest: Basic Economy Upgrades to Delta Comfort+

Our most recent examples involved several Basic Economy passengers receiving Comfort+ upgrades.

Reader Eric G. flew DTW-SLC-MSY last week. Prior to his DTW to SLC leg, one Basic Economy passenger received a Comfort+ upgrade. But several Medallions didn’t clear.

The standby list is pictured on the left. The upgrade lists are on the right.

 

DTW to SLC flight upgrade and standby lists from the Fly Delta app indicate Basic Economy passengers were upgraded to Comfort+ ahead of Medallion status holders.

Eric said, “Number one on the [upgrade] list got upgraded to 10D, like, an hour and a half before departure, then [the] GA ignored number 2-15 on the list.  Didn’t affect me but I would’ve been upset if it had. Not only did [the GA] skip the upgrade list, they skipped the Main Cabin folks without seat assignments and went right to Basic.”

Four Basic Economy passengers received Comfort+ upgrades before Eric’s SLC to MSY hop.

 

SLC to MSY flight upgrade and standby lists from the Fly Delta app indicate Basic Economy passengers were upgraded to Comfort+ ahead of Medallion status holders.

Some Possible Explanations?

I have a few theories about why the Basic Economy passengers were upgraded:

1. Shenanigans — intentional or otherwise. (Or maybe the Medallions were traveling with their families?)

2. A technical “anomaly.”

3. Playing Devil’s advocate for the first flight, it’s possible no Medallions wanted a Comfort+ middle seat. (Eric says this trip was aboard an A321; so “MIT/E” in 10E wound up in the middle.) Medallions can choose whether or not they’ll get upgraded to Comfort+ if their preferred seat(s) aren’t available.

But the second flight’s upgrades certainly are suspicious.

This trip flew a 737-800, so 10C is an aisle seat. 14F is a window. So the C+ upgrade opt-out probably wasn’t a factor. Two Medallions should’ve gotten those seats.

It’s possible some people higher on the C+ upgrade list traveled together and were offered upgrades, but didn’t want to split up. Yet, 14E & 14F were available — and filled by Basic Economy customers; so that argument doesn’t necessarily work.

What Do You Think?

Do you have any theories as to what happened? Are Basic Economy upgrades something you see on your flights? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!

— Chris

 

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14 Comments

  1. I see this virtually every flight I take now. I used to screenshot it but don’t bother anymore. If I want first I buy first and as a PM I usually get C+ as I’m usually able to book far enough ahead that there is still an aisle or window available. I used to see it more in the western cities like SEA PDX LAS LAX but it’s made it’s way to the east having just seen at CMH and JFK. Heading out tomorrow to o JAX but first was so cheap I couldn’t pass it up.

  2. A reminder of why im United 1K and Delta Plat not the other way around

  3. From other experiences, I think it’s IT. At some point within T-1hour it appears a script is run and takes whomever in E hasn’t been assigned a seat and dumps them into whatever is available, including Econ+. It seems there’s currently no script to run to upgrade eligible medallions then assign their previous seats to E.

  4. This is called lazy gate agents. If the upgrade hasn’t cleared prior to it being handed off to the gate, it’s easier to assign a standby PA that is needing a seat assignment than it is to follow the upgrade list because that requires two seat assignments, first the upgrade then the basic economy into the just vacated seat. Probably rationalize it in needing to get the plane loaded.

  5. Charles has it. One seat assignment is easier than 3. Where years ago there were three GA, now there’s often just one. So much to do … and now has to move Comfort+ Diamond to first, Coach Medallion to Comfort+, and unassigned Basic to Coach seat … That is 3X more work and often needs to be done multiple times. Just easier to give first to basic … one effort.

  6. Sometimes it works in your favor. My wife booked a basic ticket for a 1 hour Delta flight to SEA and was assigned a first class seat at the airport. I mean, Delta’s serious when they tell you they will assign you a seat. It could be anywhere.

  7. There is yet anothers complication with basic economy and that is seating minors with parents. The algorithms do this if seats are available but if at t-24 there aren’t two seats available together then it falls to gate agent to find a way to get minor next to adult. They are going to do this in quickest way possible. Especially since if they go through the whole upgrade process that Charles mentioned first, then they will likely still need to move people to get parents and children seated together.

    • @Dan: Yep. The only time I’ve ever been tempted to fly Basic Economy is super-short trips (i.e. LAX to Vegas or the SFO Bay Area) because I can put up with almost anything for an hour. But that’s definitely out of the question when my daughter travels with us.

  8. I saw many a medallion decline a comf+ middle the other day so I bet that is a possible reason. But still I would think with a long list someone on the upgrade list would take it.

  9. I admit, I have procured upgrades to C+ when I had been booked BE. But it was because I asked at the gate. II am PM and almost always book main cabin seats and get regularly upgraded to C+ or first. But for some reason Delta is very $$$ Jan-May on my weekly route and it is not affordable except on BE. I will sometimes inquire at the gate whether there is a seat closer to the front of the plane because I have a tight connection. Agent will sometimes notice I am PM and after some discussion, will put me in an otherwise empty C+. I have never been moved to first this way and it really depends on the airport. Just as often I’ve gotten an exit row in Main, or absolutely nothing but an irritated gate agent (Atlanta always).

  10. Barry Graham Reply

    I think that if it bothers people enough they should write to Delta.

  11. Last week we missed flight SLC to Aspen because of fuel pump delaying our flight to SLC..Had to stay overnight in a hotel with our 3 year old grandson. We were rebooked in am to ASPEN but since there were 3 of us we were put into 2 PNR’s so we could all get on upgrade list. I made the C- list but no upgrade as number 1 with 3 seats. Did not make the FC list. My husband and gransdon did not make any lists!! Crazy IT nonsense as others got upgraded over me..I have copies of the lists…So much for Diamond and M M status..

  12. LAURENCE J WULKER Reply

    Talking about upgrades – And I do not fly often – But in the past year I have been upgraded but never I was and sat in my coach seat. Usually I am at the Delta Lounge until few minutes before take off.

    This past January, I inquired about an upgrade and was told “You already paid for Delta Comfort” so the implication was why should you upgrade you.

    I think they need to educate the staff better.

  13. Just saw this too on an oversold flight from PHX to SEA. Maybe 20 BE people were waiting on seat assignments and the flight was oversold by 5. They had 5 volunteers comprised of a party of 3 and two singles (including me). I was in C+ and second on the upgrade list to first but I am almost certain it was full. There were a LOT of C+ seats available and they cleared maybe 2 or 3 of the couple dozen on the list and then started boarding. They cleared 10 BEs as first class boarded and filled empty seats in the back of the plane. Then they cleared 5 more and filled out C+ after Priority Boarding. Then they had two no shows plus 3 more C+ they filled the rest with after Zone 2 boarded. I and the other single got called to board and missed out on $500 vouchers. THEN I got to have a fun conversation about “dedicated overhead storage” with the lead FA. Good times.
    I am curious if everything goes out the window in oversold situations and that being the common thread.

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