The upgrade question isn’t so funny, after all…

Are you feeling lucky? As passengers approach the airport, they just can’t help but wonder if today is going to be the day. The day when all the dreadful upgrade articles they’ve read may just come true, and that tip about dressing smart casual, or whispering two magic words would finally land them a seat up front. Four Delta employees were just fired from their Seattle base, and they allege it’s for handing out upgrades. Next time you ask the question, don’t be surprised if it brings back a less than amused response…

The Story

Four Delta employees were fired this week after allegations of “violating ticketing and fare rules”, according to Delta. To most of us, this means they were allegedly handing out unauthorized free upgrades. Wouldn’t free upgrades be nice? The four women however claim, in a lawsuit, that the flight upgrades were legitimate, and out of an operational need, and that “everyone” does it on oversold flights. Furthermore, they claim they were discriminated against at work for speaking Korean, despite being hired for their Korean language skills, and that things went south with their Delta employment after filing notices of sexual harassment against an allegedly “touchy” coworker. The matter will be settled in court.

Operational Upgrades

Translation: some flights are full in some cabins but not others, when this happens, some people inevitably get upgraded. This is why it’s always a good idea to enter a frequent flyer number, add your self to any flight bump lists and stick with one airline as much as possible. It’s usually the most frequent flyers that receive these upgrades, but sometimes it’s someone standing in front of the agent when they realize someone will need to move. As VFTW mentions, this is why the age old adage of dressing sharply can score upgrades, even though it’s 99.99999 rubbish.

The Truth About Upgrades

At least 90% of upgrades on any airline are processed without any human input whatsoever. Airlines have sophisticated algorithms and metrics, and when someone needs to be upgraded, the computer generates a passenger based on factors such as: elite status, how much they’ve spent with the airline, type of ticket purchased and other factors like service recovery. Agents have very little discretion to randomly move a passenger, even if they really want to, because the passenger brought them treats and a smile. Basically, it’d be really hard for any agent to “abuse” the system, given that they’re really only able to offer upgrades when a need is recognized and backed up by computer.

HT: View From The Wing