After attaining temporary Delta Gold status via a status challenge I was finally lucky enough to attain my first (and only) complimentary upgrade to Delta’s domestic first class cabin! The experience was very similar to American Airlines’ domestic first class, but with a few difference along the way.

Getting Upgraded

Delta Airlines was the first domestic airline to introduce “basic economy” fares and it is important to avoid booking these fares if you are hoping to receive a complimentary upgrade since they are not upgradable. I had actually purchased this particular flight (ORD-DTW-MKE) before long before considering the switching to Delta due to the extremely low fare offered over the Thanksgiving break. When I booked it, I had to option to buy up to Delta’s Comfort Plus cabin for just $20 for the entire trip and I did it. (mostly because of the complementary beers!) Then, a few days before my scheduled departure I received two separate emails letting me know I had been upgraded to First Class on both legs of my journey. I was excited since this was the first time in 20 or so flights as a (temporary) Delta Medallion Gold that I had received an upgrade to first class.

I like how Delta has chosen to handle the upgrade process. American Airlines requires non Executive Platinum elites to use 500-mile sticker upgrades when moving up to the first class cabin. It is always frustrating when you use a sticker on an insignificant upgrade you wish you had held on to down the road when traveling with American. I also think Delta’s mobile app does a fantastic job at letting you know exactly where you stand on both the Comfort Plus and First Class upgrade lists. I do not like how you are occasionally “upgraded” to a middle Comfort + seat, but that is a different story


Since this was the first time I had received an upgrade with Delta I decided to be “that guy” who lines up well before the boarding door opens to make sure that I was the first person on the plane. Unfortunately, due to traveling during the holiday weekend there were several older passengers who needed assistance and I was unable to board first (bummer). When I finally boarded the CRJ900 I immediately recognized the 1-2 cabin design which identical to American’s domestic first class offering. I was surprised by how dirty the cabin seemed. The cabin had clearly been serviced between flights, but the tip of my armrest was a dark shade of grey seemingly from years of wear/tear.

The only other difference was the travel pillow and Westin Heavenly Blanket sitting in my seat when I arrived. Being such a short flight I did not see much use in the travel pillow or the blanket so they ended up just getting in the way by my feet. I could have opted to put them in the overhead bin, but space was fairly limited and being such a short flight I did not care all that much. Overall, I love the accessory, but do not really see the point of putting both items in the seat before each flight. I think it would be better to simply have them available upon request.


After a short sit in the “penalty box” at Lambert we were above the clouds and at our cruising altitude. At that point in time the cabin crew began the drink/snack service. One notable difference between AA’s service was the cabin crew not addressing me by name, but that was of little importance since it was time for a free beer and some delicious pita chips / hummus. A few minutes later the crew stopped by a second time with a restocked snack tray and asked if we would like anything else before beginning our decent. At that time, flight attendants also notified passengers with connections of their next flight’s departure gate and status.


My second flight from DTW to MKE was nearly identical to the first, minus the water. Due to a glitch in Delta’s mobile app I did not receive a boarding notification and was the last to board, which was not an issue since my carry on was gate checked anyway.

I very much enjoyed both flights and always appreciate the more personalized attention of the flight attendants when traveling in the first class cabin. I also really enjoyed the snack options which seemed slightly healthier than those offered on American.

Upon arrival into Milwaukee’s General Mitchell airport (MKE) we were greeted by the unfamiliar sight of an Airbus A380 featuring a pink engine. Evidently the A380 was based in Milwaukee for two weeks during cold weather testing.

Bottom Line

Delta’s regional jet domestic first class was very similar to that offered by American Airlines. A slight variation in snack options was the only glaring difference between the two (and the in-flight magazines). Although I noticed the crew not addressing me by name, I attribute that to it being an early morning flight the day after Thanksgiving; unless that is common Delta? The flight also highlighted a minor issue I have with Delta which is the cleanliness of their jets. I know how disgusting planes are to begin with, but Delta’s older jets seem unbelievably dirty when compared to older American jets (MD-80s). It seems Delta does not take as much care as other airlines when cleaning the planes, but that probably is a result of their extremely short turnarounds at the gate.

I also much prefer the way Delta has chosen to handle the upgrade process and the way the upgrade list is displayed in the mobile app. On American, the average passenger is unaware of how many first class seats are available unless they speak with an agent.

I am glad I was finally able to receive an upgrade while traveling on Delta, but hope to get upgraded on a longer flight in the future to better compare in-flight experiences. I also hope my next upgrade is on a newer and larger aircraft.