Delta CEO Reaffirms Commitment to Offering Free First-Class Upgrades

Oct 18, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

We value Delta’s Diamond Medallion status at a whopping $7,850 per year. Of that amount, complimentary upgrades account for some $1,500 — and, depending on which routes you fly and how often you travel, it’s easy to draw even more value from the perk.

Of course, like all carriers, Delta would prefer to fill those first-class seats with paying customers, even if that means letting them go at a fraction of the regular price. That doesn’t mean airline executives overlook the value of complimentary upgrades, though.

In between chatting up the Airbus A350 and revealing upcoming routes at Delta’s Airbus A350 media day, CEO Ed Bastian acknowledged that offering free upgrades is “very very important for [Delta’s] customers,” saying:

Five, six years ago before we started selling first-class upgrades we would only sell maybe 15% of the cabin in first class. Today, we’re somewhere between 50 and 60% of the cabin. It depends on routes; some routes are a little less than that some routes are a little more than that. So there’s a substantial amount of available inventory for free upgrades to first that we think is very very important for our customers.

Obviously, 15% to 50 or 60% is a huge jump, and there’s no question that free upgrade opportunities aren’t what they used to be. Bastian has an answer for that, too:

One of the reasons why we moved into the paid upgrade opportunity, not only does it allow customers to provide certainty by being able to buy the experience, but we also have a very good product in our Comfort+, which we didn’t have in the past, so that for many of our loyal customers that were unable to upgrade, they now have a place where they can actually have an enhanced experience, versus prior years where you’d be in the main cabin.

Is Comfort+ the same thing as first class? No, it’s not even close. But enhanced service and free food and drinks definitely count for something, and help take the sting out of missing out on a premium-cabin upgrade. It’s refreshing to see that Bastian recognizes the value of complimentary upgrades, though, especially considering the regular devaluations we’ve been seeing with the SkyMiles program.

Do complimentary upgrades impact your decision to fly a certain airline?

American Express® Green Card

WELCOME OFFER: 30,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: up to $100 annual CLEAR statement credit, up to $100 annual LoungeBuddy statement credit, 3x points on travel and transit, 3x points on restaurants worldwide

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership at select airports and stadiums across the U.S. and Permissible Biometric Scanning Technology terms: eye scanning, irises scanning and fingerprints scanning.
  • Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network – no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required. Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $150 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$150
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.