Dreaming of leaving your squishy seat in economy behind for top-tier service and leg room in business or first class? Flight upgrades are more common than you think, and these tips will help you get bumped up and earn full bragging rights along the way!
Say goodbye to cattle class and fly in style
Everyone has a friend of a friend who’s been bumped up from economy to business -- or even first class -- and hasn’t stopped bragging since. The flight upgrade is every traveller’s dream -- the thought of sashaying past the weary passengers bound for economy to get to your comfortable lie-down bed in business class will kick off any holiday with a bang or make the trip home a little more bearable.
While flight upgrades make the travel experience that much sweeter, they are elusive and usually considered to be out of reach. Everyone wants that new ticket, but no-one knows how to get it. Often it comes down to being in the right place at the right time, but there are some ways to increase your chances of flying like a VIP.
Stay loyal to airlines
Put simply, airlines are businesses that reward loyalty wherever they can. With that in mind, try to stick to the same airline as much as possible when you fly. If an airline is looking to move a few passengers from a packed economy cabin to a seat in a higher class, they will firstly pick those who have "status" with the airline. After all, it’s only fair that regular customers get something in return for their loyalty. If you’re committed to flying with the same familiar airline, just make sure your frequent flyer number is attached to every booking.
Travel on your own
You’re much more likely to get an upgrade if you’re travelling alone. While there may be times when two adjoining business class seats are available, in most cases there will only be one. When you’re waiting for the boarding call, try to sit on your own but in the line of sight of the agent at the gate. Airline staff will immediately look to well-dressed, solo travellers to fill a spot, so here’s another tip: If you’re hoping to get an upgrade, dress as though you deserve it. No-one wears daggy tracksuit pants at the pointy end of the plane!
Smile -- it goes a long way
This should be a given, but good manners are essential if you want any chance of getting upgraded. Airline workers listen to whingeing, annoying passengers all the time, so it really does pay off to separate yourself from the hordes and make an effort to be friendly. If you’re nice to the check-in staff and gate agents, they may be inclined to note those words down on your record: “Great passenger if you need an upgrade.” Remember, not all upgrades are confirmed at check-in; in fact, most are organised at the gate itself. What’s more, if you take the time to ask how their day is or engage in a little bit of banter before cheekily asking for an upgrade, you’re much more likely to have a surprise waiting for you at the gate.
Exploit special occasions
Just like normal people, airline staff members are suckers for love. If you’re flying for your honeymoon or anniversary, make sure the airline knows somehow. There are two ways to do this: proactively and spontaneously. If you’re a fan of forward thinking, get your travel agent to note the occasion down in your booking so that the airline knows in advance. If you go down the preparation path, be sure to bring some proof to present to the airline -- they need some evidence, otherwise everyone would use this trick. If you’re more of the spontaneous type, put on a show of affection at the check-in or boarding areas. Look lovey-dovey, but don’t go over the top -- no-one needs a big PDA. You might just tug at someone’s heart strings and end up with an upgrade.
Don’t prebook your seat
If you really don’t care where you sit on a flight and you have your fingers crossed for an upgrade, take a leap of faith and don’t preassign your seating. The rationale behind this is that passengers who don’t choose their seat in advance are considered to be more flexible and easy to satisfy -- character traits that make them key candidates for an upgrade.