A Reddit user posted a picture that Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Medallion members should find somewhat concerning.
The image — which the poster, “2180miles” confirmed was taken from seat 10A in Comfort+ — shows several open First Class seats.
2180miles snarked, “(Atlanta) gate agents yet again proving their commitment to customer satisfaction… DL1100 leaving with 5 open (First Class) seats and 50 on the (upgrade) list. Keep Climbing!”
To be fair, we don’t know if some other duties got in the gate agent’s way. Perhaps there wasn’t time for them to clear upgrades. (I’ll probably get harangued in the Comments section; stay tuned.)
But upgrades are a significant reason people pursue elite status. It’s not a good look when efforts aren’t even made — or appear not to be — to fulfill those benefits.
What Can You Do?
This isn’t exactly the first time First Class seats have gone out empty.
“I’ve seen way too many (First Class) seats fly vacant when I’m first on the list and it’s a long flight,” writes ltg8r. “And that’s even included where a (Regional Upgrade Certificate) was applied to one leg and not the longer one (usually when they’re about to expire).”
So, what are your chances of maybe getting one of those First Class seats?
Keep tabs on your spot on the upgrade list if you have a realistic shot of getting upgraded. A Delta gate agent once decided my family shouldn’t be upgraded — even though I held Diamond status and my wife and I were numbers 1 and 2 on the upgrade list.
If upgrades aren’t clearing a few minutes before boarding, I’m not shy about approaching the gate agent and pleasantly saying something like, “Hi! I’m number (whatever) on the First Class upgrade list. When do you think the computer will start clearing upgrades?” (Always blame “the computer” — not them.)
Never once has a gate agent replied with a big smile and a “We’ll get your upgrade processed as soon as possible, thanks!”
I usually receive an apathetic look (or worse) and words to the effect of “In a minute.”
I thank them and that’s that. The upgrades usually clear within a few minutes.
I don’t feel bad about politely inquiring. Why? I’m a loyal customer (although five empty First Class seats and crazy SkyMiles changes…). Upgrades are a published benefit of Medallion status.
You forfeit your spot on the upgrade list once you board a Delta flight.
Sometimes, the gate agent may board the plane just before the door closes and give some lucky passengers what are colloquially known as “battlefield upgrades.” Those are when the gate agent (presumably) takes the upgrade list — even with the people who already boarded — and moves them up to First Class.
But gate agents have a lot going on just before a flight leaves. You can’t depend on battlefield upgrades.
Another tactic is something known as #TeamBoardLast.
My colleague René puts it this way: “…the last elites standing at the gate just before the door is closed get that open 1st class seat that was not filled by someone who did not make the flight (but was checked-in).”
Basically, you hang out until boarding is all but finished — then ask the gate agent if First Class boarded full. If it didn’t, show them you’re on the upgrade list and politely ask if there’s any chance you might be able to occupy one of those First Class seats.
Keep in mind we’re asking if First Class boarded full. That’s way different than “checked in” full. Gate agents sometimes say, “First Class checked in full” — sort of a Don’t wait around, board when your zone is called. I’ve also heard the occasional “First Class boarded full” as I’ve waited for my zone to be called.
I rarely play the TeamBoardLast game. If you wait too long to board and First Class is full, you might not have enough room for your carry-ons (if you didn’t check your luggage beforehand). That said, I know people who love playing the TeamBoardLast game — and occasionally have some good success with it.
A Reddit user posted an image of five Delta First Class seats purportedly going empty before the flight left. Upgrades are a major reason people pursue elite status. Loyalty needs to be a two-way street.
That said, there are some more important duties gate agents may have to fulfill before upgrades get processed.
Remember to ask about upgrades proactively — you are the customer — or play #TeamBoardLast.
What are your thoughts?
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