Delta Runs A Dance-Off For An Upgrade

For twenty years I’ve been writing that every article on how to get an upgrade is wrong. There’s no secret phrase like ‘revenue management’. And ‘dressing nicely’ doesn’t usually matter because upgrades with most airlines are based on an algorithm – that may take into account (for instance) your frequent flyer status and the fare you paid.

Then a Delta Air Lines gate agent goes and does this: holds a “dance off” at the gate for an upgrade. And I start to wonder whether everything I’ve ever written about upgrades is wrong?

Delta considers extra legroom coach seats an ‘upgrade’ as though this was a different cabin. This wasn’t an upgrade to first class, just those extra legroom seats the airline sells as “Comfort+” so it wasn’t much of an upgrade after all. But it still represents the sort of gate agent discretion that you don’t normally see, but that endless travel advice articles suggest happens every day.

The fact that this is noteworthy is precisely because this sort of discretion, even if just or a few extra inches of legroom, doesn’t happen on a daily basis. As long as Delta’s agents follow the rules then Delta has a seven step process for prioritizing upgrades and shuffle, frolic and sweep aren’t a part of that.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Dance is the new high rev as long as the Delta revenue managers are smoking something
    I know you can dance better than that especially after a nice large meal of southern barbecue ribs !:) Many more upgrades just keep break dancing

  2. Cute, funny, entertaining, and should never, ever, happen. People spend serious money to be positioned well for upgrades. There’s a reason for algorithms.

  3. As odd as it sounds, I have seen the very occasional Delta flight where a few C+ seats still go out empty after the entire upgrade list clears.

  4. There are at times operational reasons to move a passenger from one part of the cabin to another. A dance off is a fun way to offer to move someone without just announcing a volunteer is needed.

  5. @Jason Blake, even op-ups have a priority order. I disagree with those commenters above me who think it should be rigorously followed. Loosen up and live life without a stick up the bum.

  6. @breaches

    Caught your drift…except for the absence of alcohol (maybe)pretty much behavior exhibited by the WN
    customer who was not allowed to travel

  7. This is what the airlines have done to us, make us dance like monkeys for an economy+ seat. I find it very distasteful, offensive, and humiliating.

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  9. Airlines took away inches of legroom in coach that they now charge you to get back, either in money or miles or dance moves. But I have to say after wriggling all over that floor she brings new meaning to the word dirty dancing.

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