We’ve all been there. Standing at the gate anxiously playing the gate upgrade lottery and then all of the sudden, you’re upgraded with a one-way ticket to First Class. It’s the Super Bowl touchdown equivalent for a frequent flyer. It’s the reason you stay loyal to some carriers over others. It’s part of the reason some of you keep coming back. If you’ve ever wondered; you are not alone, just take a look at the upgrade lists lately.
Is Delta Upgrade Process Broken?
On a recent flight I found myself in that situation. As I was walking into the end zone with my one-way ticket to First Class in hand, something happened that made me second guess the upgrade process at Delta. This makes me wonder is the Delta upgrade process broken? Or could this just be an isolated incident. Here’s what happened.
Delta Upgrade Process
On this particular flight, I was about 3rd on the upgrade list with only 2 seats available for upgrade. At this point, not completely out of the question that my upgrade could clear.
And just that happened for me about an hour before boarding. I was confirmed to First Class and had ticket in hand.
With a confirmed upgrade to 2C in First Class, I headed to the lounge and caught up on some emails. I didn’t think anything about it again, until I was walking into the check-in line at the gate and saw another flyer also “upgraded” to 2C. I was perplexed and slightly concerned so I got out of line and went to see the agent who was already standing next to a red coat (usually a good thing if you have issues on Delta).
Then in a flash while I was walking to the counter, my boarding pass updated to comfort plus window seat.
It all happened so fast. I asked them what was going on at the counter and showed her my screen grab of the upgraded seat. This is where it gets interesting.
The first agent said that Delta had just sold two First Class seats and that at least I was back in my old seat (I wasn’t), but that’s not the point.
As I walked away I thought it could be interesting to cross check with the red coat. Sure enough, she gave the real answer.
Weekly Flyer: “I’ve never seen this happen before, but I was upgraded an hour ago and just now downgraded, can you share what happened?”
Red Coat: “Certainly. We made a mistake and cleared the wrong people. We have to follow the order. You know, everyone has to have their time” as she handed me back my paper ticket at this point.
Weekly Flyer: “Thanks” (I guess that’s a good enough answer, but not great remark for a frequent flyer who felt he just got a bad call.)
I share this because I’ve always thought and heard Delta’s process to be fairly automated. The automation I can take comfort in that the upgrades will be applied according to rules and not other reasons. Sometimes in random smaller cities in years past, the upgrade list clearing process was highly manual and subject to manipulation. I haven’t given credence to that thought in a long while, until this recent flight.
Delta’s upgrade process is usually automated. But in this case there was human error which tells me that the process isn’t completely automated.
I’m curious what are the manual steps in the process and when an agent can step in, and clear an upgrade (even if it was in the wrong order as on this flight) and when they can correct mistakes (which is completely reasonable).
Also curious if any of you have ever been upgraded, only to be downgraded before boarding. If you have an interesting experience share it with us in the comments below.
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