When you read the headline of this article, you may have scratched your head, trying to figure out what the downside of being an elite frequent flyer could be. Is it the fact that you’re not home very often to cultivate relationships or to see your kids grow? That’s one of them but it’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a free perk that sometimes backfires.

Airplane flying over the beach in California.I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking. Who in their right mind would complain about having a dedicated phone line to call for reservations, being able to check-in at first class, having free checked bags, getting them tagged priority so they come out first, being able to assign the best coach seats for free and getting free upgrades?

It all sounds pretty good … except I have two examples of the downside. One of them I wrote about recently, where a husband snagged his elite frequent flyer wife’s last-minute upgrade and sat up front while she sat in the back … on their honeymoon. Yep, that’s cold. If you know a good marriage counselor or divorce lawyer, send it her way.

The other is a scenario that I’ve experienced and a frequent flyer just posted on Threads. User @rachelepojednic wrote: “On a plane… I get an upgrade to “plus/comfort” class on booking due to my miles status. I purposefully booked an aisle seat in the back because the only upgrades were middle seats. I was automatically “upgraded” at check in. Didn’t realize it until I was boarding… To the middle seat 🤬”


Post by @rachelepojednic
View on Threads


If you’re wondering why Rachel would pass up five extra inches of legroom, she writes, “I’m 5’1. I don’t need the leg room. I do, however, have a bladder the size of a thimble. 😫”

I get it. I get up to use the bathroom at least every hour, which is another reason I always choose an aisle seat.

It might sound ridiculous but this is a legitimate concern for some travelers. Here’s how I avoid this kind of situation: Before getting on the plane, I look at the flight’s seating chart in the app and if there are only middle seats available, then I go up to the gate agent and kindly ask them to please remove my name from the upgrade list unless it’s to first class. That usually does the trick.

However, if it doesn’t work and the reader at the boarding door still spits out a new seat assignment, you can either ask the gate agent to change it back or ask the flight attendant if she can find a passenger in an aisle seat in the back of the plane who wants more legroom towards to the front. Guaranteed people will jump at the chance.

There have been times when I’ve been upgraded to a completely full first class domestically where the legroom is still pretty tight but if the plane is wide open in economy I will either give my upgrade to an elderly passenger or a soldier in uniform and go sit in the back where there’s an empty whole row. I always ask the flight attendant if it’s okay because they sometimes don’t like it when you give an upgrade away for some strange reason but they don’t mind you leaving your seat empty and going back to coach.


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2 Comments On "The free frequent flyer perk that sometimes backfires"
  1. ACinCLT|

    Delta let’s you designate you don’t want a Comfort+ upgrade if it is a middle seat. Just click the box on the reservation and you won’t have to deal with this.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good to know! Thanks for sharing.

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