Does Delta release too many upgrades in advance?

I know, I didn’t think such a thing existed either. I’m used to flying United, where upgrade space often isn’t released till at the gate. I’ve been on 757 flights (24 first class seats) with only three seats assigned, yet United decides to hold back all the upgrade space till the gate. As if 21 people are going to buy last minute tickets.

Then there’s the other extreme, Delta. I’m flying them next Tuesday from Tampa to New York. I was happy to see my upgrade cleared on Wednesday (a full six days out), but was shocked to see that after the Platinum upgrades were cleared, there was only one seat remaining for sale. As of this morning, first class is sold out.

As an upgrader that books far in advance I love this, but this can’t be good for Delta’s bottom line, can it? For the next four days no one could buy a first class seat for any amount of money….

Filed Under: Delta
  1. Yes, they do (ish).

    My issue is with Same Day Confirming, by upgrading FO’s and GM’s at their window, it’s tough to get that seat if plans change.

    As for bottom line, they take a look at the market and if it’s a route with walkup F fares, they don’t pre-upgrade as much.

    MCO-LAX w/high paid F fares OFTEN have 6-8 seats open on the 737 when it comes to day of.

  2. I think it is very route dependent.

    I’ve seen JFK-SAN/SEA/LAX wait until battlefield quite a few times even when no seats are being sold.

    It also has a lot to do with the loads in the back as I’m learning. The more full the back is, the more they hold seats back for upgrades.

  3. What drives *me* nuts is DL upgrading full fare silvers over standard fare Platinums.

    And ex-DCA everyone is a full fare silver. Hint: Government employees work here.

  4. @Fozz – agree, route dependent. It’s particularly difficult to get west coast afternoon flights, they are continuations from Europe inbounds so they need to reserve seats for misconnects, and allocate them at the gate.

    @Gary – to some degree, don’t other airlines do this too in their own way? eg. buy a Y fare on Continental (or B if elite), get upgraded at purchase.

  5. Delta flights JFK–LAX have lots of misconnects because they leave from terminal 4. A couple of weeks ago we volunteered to be bumped on a flight that was oversold by 12. The staff were proactively hunting for LAX passengers with each shuttle that arrived from terminal 3. We were held at the gate till the very end while the crew were continuously paging “Martinez party of 4”. But Martinez didn’t show up, and Ron party of 4 got on the plane.

  6. I don’t doubt the analytics behind DL’s decisions on these sorts of things… I think they have number crunchers hidden away in some windowless room on Virginia Avenue that can forecast the likelihood of walk-up fares (as previously mentioned), but also the likelihood on any given day of the week – possibly down to the time of day. So on a Florida-NY flight on a Tuesday, they know it’s mostly leisure folks and can open up some Y space for SDC-ers that booked Fla-ATL-NY for some reason…
    Day of the week matters for my weekly trips. ATL-DTW & vv on Monday mornings and Thursdays is terrible for advance upgrades as a PM, but fly any other time and it’s a shoe-in for clearing at the window (in my experience)

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