Delta To Possibly Start Charging for In-Flight Seat Upgrades

Mar 12, 2014

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According to this post on a software blog dedicated to Microsoft accounting technology (and I thought writing  a blog on frequent flyer miles was niche!), Delta has figured out a way to put an end to one of the few perks of flying – switching to a better seat for free once the doors have closed. Now when you spy an empty exit row or Economy Comfort seat and make an attempt to snag it, you could be charged for your efforts.

The joy of snagging an empty Economy Comfort seat on Delta may be over
The joy of snagging an empty seat for free on Delta may soon be over

Delta flight attendants are now starting to carry Windows 8 smartphones programmed with Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP Software that enables real-time credit card validation any time between take-off and landing. (ERP, which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated, real-time applications that a company can use to store and manage data.)  According to the blog post, Delta now plans to start charging for seat upgrades on all Delta flights, with fees that start at $9 per seat.

This could turn into a big revenue stream, especially on international flights, when extra legroom becomes more a necessity than a luxury and where fees can climb upwards of $200 per flight. I’m frankly surprised more airlines aren’t doing this now, but I do have a couple friends who flew El Al recently and their upgrade fees were charged on a handheld credit card processor and they moved while on-board to their upgraded seats.

Is This Actually Happening?
In addition to a comment on this TPG post where Delta flight attendants warned flyers not to “self upgrade”, we were able to find a September 2012 example of this seat-switch fee on Airfarewatchdog.com – a $29 fee for a switch to an exit row seat on a flight from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City – but at present, no other examples of these fees being charged on a regular basis.

However, according to the ERP blog post, Delta has begun to implement their onboard upgrade seat fees on select domestic routes in order to test the Microsoft system as well as work out any logistical kinks. (One potential snag is the need to streamline the process of transferring an “upgraded” passenger’s carry-on luggage to their corresponding overhead during a seat switch so that it doesn’t delay take-off.) However, Delta’s website lists no information about this new plan, and their information on Economy Comfort seats only asks for your existing booking in order to charge you for an upgrade. Additionally, neither Delta’s Ticket Rules & Restrictions or Prohibited Practices includes a mention of being able to switch/upgrade once the door has closed.

Have any of you been charged for a seat switch or upgrade once the doors have closed on a Delta flight? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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