With demand for air travel cratering, even low-tier elites are receiving complimentary upgrades on many U.S. domestic routes. It was so cute to watch the joy of a young couple who were upgraded on my recent flight from Washington to Los Angeles.
In all my years of flying, I never thought I’d see a United hub-to-hub transcontinental flight go out with open seats in the premium cabin. But in the current environment, flights are departing less than half full, meaning all elite members (and even employee standbys) are clearing into premium cabins. This is true not just on United, but on all U.S. airlines.
Just how serious is this? My flight from Washington to Los Angeles on Sunday was booked at 6/16 in first class for about a week. I wondered, as we approached our flight date, if I would get upgraded. But the day before the flight, the front cabin looked like this:
What a world…
Anyway, first class ended up going out booked 9/16. Everyone had their own row except the couple in 3E/F. The guy was a United Premier Silver and absolutely over the moon that his upgrade had cleared. His girlfriend was equally ecstatic.
With a huge smile they told the flight attendant, “I’ve NEVER been upgraded as a silver before. This is so amazing! I’m so excited!”
I was seated right behind them and they spent half the flight making out, taking pictures of themselves in the domestic first class seat, and downing one drink after another.
At the end of the flight, they told the flight attendant, “This has been the best flight of our lives! Thanks so much for making it great.”
I smiled. It reminded me of when I started flying about 15 years ago. Every upgrade excited me like that. It just made me happy to see two people so thrilled to receive an upgrade.
Meanwhile, I eventually downgraded myself and spent the majority of the flight sleeping across three empty coach seats…everyone had their own row in the back, begging the question of just who received the better deal…
Silvers will enjoy this temporary period of low demand to enjoy upgrades like they have never seen in the past and likely never will in the future. For the young couple on my flight to Los Angeles, your joy was infectious. It made me thankful for all the upgrades that I now take for granted.