Delta fixes Comfort+ upgrade problem

Comfort+ seats on an Airbus 330-300 (333). - These images are protected by copyright. Delta has acquired permission from the copyright owner to the use the images for specified purposes and in some cases for a limited time. If you have been authorized by Delta to do so, you may use these images to promote Delta, but only as part of Delta-approved marketing and advertising. Further distribution (including proving these images to third parties), reproduction, display, or other use is strictly prohibited.

When Delta Air Lines rolled out its Comfort+ product there was one major flaw. Rather than selecting a seat assignment passengers would be automatically placed in any available seat in the extra legroom section of the cabin, including the potential for a middle seat. Not surprisingly, many would prefer an aisle or window without the legroom and other C+ benefits than a middle with them but avoiding that scenario was not really viable. Until now.

As part of an update to its product merchandizing platform announced today Delta will now allow two additional options for Comfort+ upgrades:

In addition to the current automatic upgrade clearing process, Medallion Members may choose, instead, to self-select upgrade seats from the seat map once their eligibility window opens. The seat map will also allow a Medallion Member to choose to revert back to Main Cabin with one touch if they aren’t happy with their upgrade seat assignment, for example, to a middle seat. This improvement is designed for customers who value exact seat selection more than the ease of automation.

It is not perfect but it is a major step forward.

While this upgrade change fixes a bug in the way C+ was initially rolled out the other changes to the way reservations are handled are arguably more significant. The ability to upgrade itineraries will move from per-direction to per-segment. This matches the way United Airlines sells upgrades on a per-segment basis allowing passengers to be more specific about getting their desired product level on board. That said, the pricing algorithm behind the process is not transparent (nor is it on United) so the change could very well end up making upgrades more expensive compared to what passengers pay today. The new functionality also introduces the ability to pay for upgrades with a different payment method so a corporate-managed customer can now buy an upgrade for themselves on a personal credit card. These changes are all about the corporate customer according to Rhonda Crawford, Delta’s Vice President – Global Distribution & Digital Strategy:

This flexibility is what our corporate travel customers, in particular, have told Delta they want because it lets them select their desired experience, regardless of how or where their ticket was bought.

While Delta describes the changes as “designed to give customers greater flexibility and choice when making travel plans” it is also undoubtedly about helping the airline increase revenue, especially incremental revenue centered on the branded fares offerings. Basic Economy fares remain excluded from access to purchase such upgrades but once a customer agrees to pay a little more to fly the airline is more than willing to help that passenger continue to spend money.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. “The seat map will also allow a Medallion Member to choose to revert back to Main Cabin with one touch if they aren’t happy with their upgrade seat assignment, for example, to a middle seat.”

    There’s easily a chance between the upgrade clearing to a middle seat and the elite trying to revert back that the original good seat was already snatched up by someone else.

    The easier option would’ve been just provide preference toggle on their medallion profile page :
    – upgrade to any seat
    – upgrade only to window+aisle
    – upgrade only to aisle
    – upgrade only to window
    – no auto upgrades at all, I’ll manually pick when eligibility window opens

    1. The last of these options remains available as part of the new approach. And Delta is (mostly) clear that you don’t get to revert to the same seat, just easily back to the Main Cabin.

      Basically if you’re feeling lucky take the auto-upgrade and hope for a decent assignment in C+. If not then choose no auto-upgrade and manually pick. But choosing manual means a decent chance the remaining aisle/windows gets auto-assigned when the window opens.

      It is not perfect. But it is WAY better than what it was before.

  2. Unfortunately, Delta is continually making it more difficult for we multiple million milers, and spouses in same situation, to get upgrades. Loyality is again being thrown out the door for the greenback. Smaller family shops must again pay the price of the big guys. This is still only the beginning.


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