Delta Upgrade Experiment To New York City

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Last week my upgrade didn’t clear as a Delta Platinum member on an elite heavy route at the peak of business travel. So I decided to try an experiment by changing flight variables including airport, one of the worst delayed flights in the USA, and plane size to increase the upgrade percentage.

Last week I was on a H class ticket to LGA as a Platinum member and noticed I was in the high 20s range on the upgrade list. I headed to the gate to move from a middle seat to an economy comfort seat (after the upgrades cleared) and noticed something odd. All of the upgraded passenger’s new tickets were on the counter and they were all Diamond elites but one. The non Diamond elite had Silver status (FO), so that could only mean they were on a full fare Y class ticket based on the upgrade rules.

Hear me out. I’m not (don’t believe I am) an entitled elite complaining about the upgrade percentage, but just one trying to figure out how to improve it to better enjoy the flight in style.



Since there are three airports around NYC I decided to give EWR a try to see if the upgrade percentages would increase. I bought a ticket as soon as possible based on the notice I was given, which turned out to be a better M fare, selected the last available middle seat, checked in and then watched the upgrade list to see if the variable changes would work.

The gamble was that even though EWR is a less convenient airport to NYC, and the fact that Delta operates a smaller plane on the route with fewer First class seats, the upgrade chances would increase because of the fewer amount of elite members.



When I checked-in my position was 4 with 5 available upgrades. Score! But not so fast.

I was one of the first to check in so my position was not yet true. There were many more elite members yet to check-in.

Once at the airport I noticed the upgrade chances didn’t look promising. I dropped to the 11 position but the available upgradable seats jumped to 7. This meant First class seat upgrades opened up and an additional 6 people jumped ahead of me on the upgrade list. I was 11 on an upgrade list of 65 for only 7 available upgrades.


Bottom Line

The switch from LGA to EWR helped me into the low double digits on the upgrade list as a Platinum member, but the upgrade still didn’t clear. In addition, LGA is a much more convenient airport. I did end up in a bulkhead economy comfort seat which was clutch for an early Monday morning flight.

Upgrades on Delta elite heavy routes are hard to come by. Next time we’ll try JFK to see if we can improve the results.

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About The Weekly Flyer

The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. Not sure where you were going, but if it was a long flight, you should have used a SWU. You would have jumped ahead of everyone on the list except Diamonds using a SWU!

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