What’s Proper Etiquette if I’m Upgraded and My Client Isn’t?

Nov 30, 2014

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TPG reader Christopher tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–“What is proper etiquette when I get a first class upgrade because I’m Delta Diamond, and  my client is back in row 27?”

Unfortunately, this question has no clear “right” answer. This used to happen to me all the time. I remember once back when I worked at Morgan Stanley, I flew on a shuttle from New York to Boston to attend an information session there, and one of the senior managing directors walked by me toward coach as I was settling into my first class seat!

If you get an upgrade, don't feel bad! Your boss will be fine in economy... Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
If you get an upgrade, don’t feel bad! Your boss will be fine in economy. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Since the company policy was not to pay for first class, he must have correctly assumed I got an upgrade. Frankly, I hustled for it by getting the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express on my own personal credit to gain elite status, so I didn’t feel the least bit bad. You could give your seat up as a gesture of goodwill if you feel like that’s appropriate, but there are plenty of ways your client could increase his or her odds of getting a first class upgrade, so I don’t think you should feel like you have an obligation.

One thing I’ve learned in life (and not just with flying) is to go with your gut. I personally don’t think anyone should feel bad about maximizing their miles and getting first class upgrades, so it’s not bad etiquette to stay in your seat. Just say hello as they walk by you, and maybe offer them some tips later about how to get upgrades and maximize their mileage earnings. Or, you know, just tell them to read The Points Guy!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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