For most of us, we’ll only find ourselves in front of the velvet ropes at the first class section of airplanes if we shell out lots of money or are frequent fliers. But is there another way to make it happen?
You’ll find plenty of tips and hacks on the Internet, mostly trying to get you to sign up for credit cards, but we asked the experts, frequent travelers and flight attendants, their take on getting upgraded.
We’re sharing the best of their tips on how to get upgraded on a flight, but keep in mind that all of these work best when flights are full, not empty.
Have a Frequent Flier Number
Before you leave for the airport and right after you book your flight, make sure to sign up for a frequent flier account with them. It won’t cost you anything, but will establish more brand loyalty than if it was your first and last time flying with this airline.
Also be mindful of which airline you choose, as this could play a role in whether or not you get upgraded. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get upgraded on budget carriers since they nickel and dime you for everything.
This doesn’t mean that you always have to travel solo, although we encourage it, but if you’re booked with multiple people it’s highly unlikely that all of you, or even just one, will be upgraded.
If you’re flying on your own you’ll be available for upgrades so that they can make room for standby passengers. Traveling on your own also allows you to switch seats with others who want to sit together, which may cause you to be upgraded.
Another important way to get upgraded is to be flexible with your travel schedule. Be willing to switch seats if necessary and don’t select your seats in advance. It can be a gamble, as you may end up at the very back near the bathrooms, but you also could be pleasantly surprised.
If you don’t have to arrive at your destination right away, you can volunteer to be bumped onto a later flight. At this point you can request that you also be upgraded for your later flight because of the inconvenience. An additional voucher may be pushing it, but can also be a perk.
Being pushy won’t get you upgraded most of the time. I heard from a number of people that politeness matters when it comes to getting perks like upgrades on flights and hotels and entry into club lounges. Thanking the powerful gate agents and, as one person suggested, bribing them with coffee or chocolate, is one way to show your appreciation and maybe even get a new seat.
Dress the Part
While you may be most comfortable in those sweatpants and Uggs, you are less likely to be upgraded if you’re dressed like a slob. Instead, dress more professionally while still staying comfortable like in black leggings with a tunic and flats.
This also might be an opportunity to swap out your backpack covered in patches with a solid colored duffel or suitcase. You’ll fit in better with the business travelers that frequent first and business classes. The Timbuk2 Aviator is a backpack that will probably work fine, but suitcases like those from Hartmann and Briggs and Riley are alternatives.
When in Doubt, Ask
You’ll never know until you ask! Be sure to inquire in advance of your flight, sometimes as early as a month out to be added to the upgrade list. Then bring it up again at the check in desk and again well before boarding at the gate. Plan for the worst, which is only coach, and also the best! You’ve got nothing to lose!
What Our Community Says:
We asked the question on Facebook if people ever got upgraded and how it happened, and the stories are pretty much across the board. While some relate to special circumstances (getting married, returning from deployment, etc.), others definitely reiterate the points above of dressing business casual, being flexible with flights, and just being cheerful.
Further Reading on How to Get Upgraded on a Flight:
- How to Get Upgraded to First Class Like a Boss, Matador Network
- 20+ Flight Upgrade Tips, MoneySavingExpert.com
Have you ever been upgraded on a flight? Share your story below!
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