Upgrading to First Class and How Delta Gave Me $1,000

If you’ve kept up with my blog, you know how I got a $400 voucher from Delta through Twitter. My flight from Detroit to Syracuse was delayed by about an hour and half, but because of my relentless live tweeting of the incident, Delta issued me $400 in travel credit as a gesture of “goodwill and apology.” I then used the credit for a roundtrip Delta flight to visit my friend at Florida State and a KLM flight from Barcelona to Copenhagen, since I was allowed to use the voucher for Delta’s partner airlines as well.

On the Road to Shanghai and Bali  

After four months of waiting, the day finally came. My friend Chris and I are scheduled to fly to Shanghai and Bali after snagging a $385 roundtrip flight on China Eastern Airlines. Our flight to Shanghai is scheduled to depart New York City’s JFK Airport on Sunday at 12:45AM, which meant I had to fly from Syracuse to New York on Friday or Saturday. Since most university students fly out on a Friday, demand is usually pretty high and consequently, airfare is also high. I opted to buy a Saturday morning flight that is scheduled to arrive at JFK at 7:30am on Saturday, which meant I had the whole day to rest before our 16 hour flight to China.

Upgrading to First Class 

If there is a common secret in air travel that I can share to my readers, it’s this: flying in first class can sometimes be cheaper than flying economy, especially on shorter routes. A one way flight from Syracuse to JFK in Economy (Main Cabin) on a random February weekend will cost you $88. First class will run you $162, a $74 premium over a seat in the back. However, right after securing your economy seat up until the day of your flight, Delta will offer you to upgrade to first class for about $50 to $65, a cheaper option than buying the first class ticket during reservation. But why would you pay an extra $50 for such a short flight?

Benefits of Flying First Class:

  • Priority airport check-in, so you are able to skip the long lines.
  • Priority baggage, so your baggage is tagged with the magical “Priority” tag and it’s the first one to show up during arrival.
  • Priority security, so you are able to once again skip the long lines.
  • Priority boarding, because nothing feels more bougie than being the first to walk up to the podium and pretending you’re making it rain in dollah billz.

And most importantly: FREE TWO CHECKED BAGS.

If you’re flying on a regular economy ticket, the first checked bag will cost you $25 and the second will cost you $35, for a total cost of $60. For me, when I have to haul more than one piece of luggage home to New York City, it is more economical to either purchase a first class ticket or the upgrade after reserving my flight. Each bag could also weigh up to 70 pounds instead of the usual 50 you get in economy.

This may sound confusing, so if you’re really interested in learning more, give me a call.

Travel tip: Sometimes, especially if you’re checking in more than one bag, flying first class might end up being cheaper or close to the price of economy.

First Class on Delta Connection’s CRJ 700. Photo Courtesy: Delta Air Lines

How I Changed My Flight Last-Minute and Waived the $200 Change Fee

After checking the weather in Syracuse for Saturday, forecast showed that there would be some rain and potential snow in the area. As a preventive measure, I decided to call Delta to change my flight for Friday night and was on hold for almost an hour and a half. My phone call was finally answered and I explained my situation to a friendly agent. However, the airline has not issued an official travel waiver yet. A travel waiver is issued when there is severe weather in the area that will impact air travel. As a result, passengers are allowed to change, cancel, or refund their reservations without any penalties. However, the agent I spoke with said that I had to pay the $200 which of course, I refused to pay.

I politely asked her if it is possible to waive the fee by connecting me to a supervisor. When in doubt, always ask for a supervisor since they pretty much have unlimited power and are able to waive fees and bend the rules a little bit. With that said, after a few minutes on the phone she was able to secure me a first class seat on the 6:55pm flight on Friday.

Travel tip: if you’re on a phone with an airline and need further assistance due to a special situation, request for a supervisor to explain your situation.

Waiting for my flight to JFK

An Hour Delayed but $1,000 Richer

I checked in at Syracuse Airport at 5:15pm, an hour before schedule boarding time. The agent tagged both of my bags with SkyPriority tags on them and was issued my boarding pass. However, as an insane travel nerd, I decided to go to one of the kiosks to print another copy since the one she gave me was extremely flimsy. As an avid boarding pass collector, quality is key. Upon entering my reservation number, a window popped up in the screen and I was asked if I wanted to volunteer for a later flight since my current flight could potentially be overbooked. I was given an option to select how much I would be willing to give up my soul to Delta Air Lines and it’s SkyTeam partners. The options are: $200, $300, $400, or $500. Since I’m always hungry for free flights, I decided to go for it. But I ended up selecting the $500 option since I was exhausted and would prefer to remain on my original flight. Given that my flight was the last one to JFK for the day, being bumped off from my flight would mean that I’d probably end up on my original 5:50am flight the next day.

After walking to security and feeling bougie and fabulous going through the priority lane and skipping everyone on the line, and staring back at everyone probably asking “who is this brown boy and why is he dressed so nicely?” I grabbed dinner at the only dining option at the airport. A few minutes before boarding, my last name was called on the PA system.

“Mr. Sa….ba….doo…kweya? Please come to the podium. Mr. Sa…ba…doo….”

I ran to the podium so the poor agent can stop struggling with my extremely long, complicated and ethic last name. She seemed out of breathe after her first two tries, and she asked me if she pronounced it right. And I was like girl, you were fine but not really. I don’t blame her, sometimes, I even doubt myself if I’m pronouncing it correctly. But anyways, back to business:

“So you were on our volunteer list. We can give you $400 and a hotel room for the night to stay. We can put you in on the first flight to JFK next morning.”

Since I was sporting an extremely business casual Delta Medallion look with my Kenneth Cole shoes, Kenneth Cole carryon, Kenneth Cole handbag, and my Tommy Hilfiger pants matched with a white top from H&M with the top three buttons unbuttoned, I was feeling very sexy and confident. So, with my best professional and Caucasian voice, I said “Nope. I’d be willing if you go higher.”

Without hesitation, she said “$600.”

For a brief second, I wanted to take the deal. $600 could take me from New York to California roundtrip. Twice. But no, I told myself, I look way too cute tonight with this outfit to just go to California. I’m thinking roundtrip flight to any point in Europe or South America or even Asia.

As I channeled my inner Caucasian and with my deep manly Caucasian voice, I politely asked “$800.”

She immediately talked to her supervisor, and whispered “can we do that?”

As my big brown puppy dog eyes gazed upon the supervisor’s eyes, I stood my ground and was ready to haggle and defend my bold righteous act of asking $800 through a rhetorical showdown. In my head, I was ready to spit the phrases “I’ve been a loyal customer to Delta since 2011 and “how dare you offend me and my Kenneth Cole inspired outfit.” But these dramatic and extra responses were unneeded because in less than the blink of an eye, the supervisor said yes and I was $800 richer…or so I thought.

The sad looking gate area after everyone on my original flight to JFK boarded.

Day Just Keeps Getting Better

My luck didn’t end that moment. The agent said that the flight to LaGuardia that was supposed to leave at 5:34pm was delayed until 8:30pm, and since there were only 26 passengers on that flight, she was able to put me on that one that arrives LGA at 9:30pm, only an hour behind my original time of arrival.

And Better…

The agent then gave me a print out of the voucher’s receipt which I was able to confirm on delta.com. As I was double checking the details of the voucher, it turns out, she ended up giving me $1,000! As someone who paid $80 for the original flight with a $60 upgrade to first for a total ticket value of $140, I was able to walk away with seven times the value of what I spent with only one hour of my life “wasted.”


Gotta snap the success

Major Takeaway

As I write the final paragraphs of this blog, I am currently sitting in Seat 2A on my new flight to LaGuardia, scheduled to arrive in just about 20 minutes. Although I was already very excited for this weekend, marking the start of an exciting and much anticipated journey to Shanghai, China and Bali, Indonesia, things just got so much better. One thousand dollars better to be exact. As I’m getting ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, I’m very blessed to say that I’m already starting to think of my next one. And it’s all thanks to Delta…and of course, my nerdiness. Mom, it’s finally paying off!

  • On shorter routes, flying first class might sometimes be cheaper or close to the price of economy if you’re checking in more than one bag.


  • When you have a special circumstance, call the airline and request for a supervisor. They allow more flexibility and have the power to bend the rules a little bit, such as waiving any change fees. 


  • If you’re flexible with your travel schedule, check-in at the kiosk and indicate that you’re willing to be a volunteer to be moved to a later flight. At the gate, make sure you sit near the podium, so you’ll be the first one to approach the agent when they ask for volunteers.


  • Try to feel out the situation first. If you notice that you’re the only one who is willing to volunteer, leverage that to get a higher compensation. Feel confident and know that you’re worth at least $800.


  • Keep following my blog! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via email (jsabaduq@syr.edu), my social media handles (listed below) or via phone (if you know me personally).  


Instagram: jez.world | snapchat: jez_rel

Ready to fly more on Delta and add more to this collection and stay tuned for my post about Shanghai and Bali in the next few days:


Thanks for reading!


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