Top 10 Flight Upgrade Tips
Traveling by air can be a very uncomfortable experience if you have to travel in economy class. Unfortunately, however, the difference in cost between economy and first class can be in the thousands of dollars. In order to have a more comfortable journey, you can try to get a free upgrade to first class. Quite often this does not happen, but sometimes it does; often enough to warrant trying out this list of ten tips for getting a free flight upgrade. If you have any tips or upgrade experiences of your own, be sure to tell us all via the comments.
10. Travel Alone
While this is not always possible, your chances of getting an upgrade are much higher if you are traveling alone. If you are traveling as part of a group – even if it just a small family – the airline is not likely to upgrade you because it means upgrading everyone.
9. Take Advantage of Special Events
If you have just recently been married, or are having a birthday or other celebration, be sure to tell the airline staff. They may be willing to upgrade you to make your event more special. Take a Wedding Certificate with you if needs be.
If you can, try to book yourself on to a flight that is going to have a very full economy section – this is much easier during holidays than other times of the year. You can figure out the numbers by going through a false booking on your airline’s website (make sure you don’t book by mistake!) The reason for this is that if the economy class is full, the airline is more likely to try to squeeze passengers in to first class rather than turn them away. In some cases, however, if they can’t upgrade, they might offer travel at a later date with an upgrade or an overnight stay in a nice hotel for free. The more flexible you are, the better.
7. Be Sneaky
When you are booking your flight through a travel agent, be extremely friendly to them. If they like you, they may be willing to mark you as a CIP (Commercially Important Passenger) or SFU (Suitable for Upgrade). The airline can ignore this information, but it is worth a try – the more effort you put in to getting your upgrade, the greater your chances.
If it is possible, you should try to pick a flight that will be using a plane with a large first class cabin. There are many sites on the internet that let you see the layout of different planes and the configurations that the various airlines use. Take advantage of these. Not only are these sites useful for finding a good “upgrade” plane, but you can also pick the best seats in economy in case you don’t get upgraded. I would strongly recommend using Seat Guru – I have used this site on virtually every flight I have taken since I discovered it – it is an excellent resource for travelers.
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5. Avoid Business Hours
Try to fly outside of business hours as the first class cabin is likely to be full on these flights. Try flying at odd hours of the day and on the weekends.
Be very polite to all of the staff you are dealing with at the airline. Quite often the decision about upgrades is left to the check-in staff. If they don’t like you, you won’t get upgraded. Smile when talking to the staff but don’t be so overly friendly that you frighten the staff.
3. Dress the Part
Dress like you are a first class passenger. You don’t have to go overboard by wearing a suit and tie, but do not wear tattered jeans, dirty shoes, a tee-shirt with Che Guevara on the front, or any other obviously “non-first-class” clothing. Also, because of the unfortunate situation with terrorism at the moment, you should probably be clean shaven.
By joining the frequent flier program of your airline, you are showing loyalty to the airline. In addition, you get the obvious benefits of being a member such as free flights if you earn enough points. If your airline have different levels of membership, buy the most expensive one you are able to afford – unfortunately money talks, but the extra cost of the program may be well worth the improved comfort on future flights.
A lot of people tell you not to do this, for a variety of reasons, but in my own experience, this can work. I have been given upgrades twice in the last year for asking if the airline needed volunteers. If you have followed all of the previous rules, you have a very good chance of getting the upgrade if there are seats available. Incidentally, ask very quietly – if other customers hear you get an upgrade they will ask as well – so the airline is less likely to give you one if you broadcast your request.
Images from Singapore Airlines.