23rd Jun 2016

How to get travel upgrades

How to get travel upgrades
SJ Fallick

Upgrades are a traveller’s dream but getting one doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think. Here are a few things to remember to improve your chances.

Good things come to those who ask. It’s very simple – if you don’t ask you don’t get. While no airline, hotel or other provider is under any obligation to offer, if you ask, the worst that will happen is they will say no. Best case scenario, you get what you’ve asked for or possibly another perk. When I moved to London I asked for an upgrade to Business Class. They weren’t able to as they were overbooked, but they waived my excess luggage fee.

Remember, it’s all about leverage. What will the provider get in return for upgrading you? If you work in the industry, have a blog or online following, or something else that may help your case, it’s definitely worth mentioning. Similarly, if you have a special circumstance, this is another great approach. On my most recent flight back to London, I again asked for an upgrade and I ended up with consecutive exit row seats. I explained I am scared of flying and didn’t wish to sit down the back of the plane where the turbulence is stronger.

Ask in advance. Rather than waiting until the last minute, make a note of your request at the time of booking. You will be given priority if anything arises.

Be nice. You’d be surprised how many people aren’t. Nobody wants to help someone who is rude, aggressive, entitled or angry. While you may feel it’s somewhat cheeky to ask for an upgrade, if you do it nicely there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Be gracious in defeat. If the answer is no, don’t be a sore loser. It’s likely the person you’re dealing with has their hands tied. You’ll be no worse off than when you started and, who knows, they may find a way to reward you for your understanding.

Have you had success in getting an upgrade? How did you go about it?

Related articles:
Make economy feel like first class
Score a free hotel upgrade
Qantas upgrades by invitation

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her favourite travel ritual is an afternoon Aperol Spritz, preferably enjoyed pool or beach side.


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25th Jun 2016
Gosh those seats the hostess is pointing too look mighty uncomfortable. Are they vinyl with no arm rests or am I missing part of the picture? PS I always get the back of the plane with the grandchildren. Such a wonderful experience with as all feeling airsick and me pretending I feel fine. I wonder if Emirates is any fairer. Since I have traveled as an unaccompanied child, a mother and now as a grandmother you would think since I have paid more than my portion of the plane to fly I'd be awarded a better seat position. Its interesting that business travellers get the best seats and yet they are unlikely to have actually paid for their own airfare.
25th Jun 2016
We do not have 'hostesses" any more. That sexist term disappeared a long time ago.

They are now called Flight Attendants, a much more civilised name, and can be both male and female. However, I will agree there is far more females than males.
25th Jun 2016
If you want and upgrade at checkin, simply present your credit card. Checkin staff are fed up with passengers expecting free upgrades. Philippines offer upgrades to business class for US$500.00
25th Jun 2016
this is a old story resurfaced you don't get anything for nothing it will cost you no airline give you anything for nothing the consultants are there to get as much as they can out of you tiger is the worst airline for this.
25th Jun 2016
Sounds a bit like a scam Sue. We are pretty straight and in all fairness do not ask. Agree with you there.
25th Jun 2016
Sorry but this article is rubbish. Unless you're willing to pay for it, no airline has ever agreed to upgrade. And I've flown most airlines over much of the world. And always asked politely and sweetly.
They'd never get anyone to pay for Premium Economy if they offered free upgrades to cattle class passengers.
25th Jun 2016
Just take note that the statistics show that those at the back have a greater chance of survival in the event of a crash. Those at the front pay extra for the extra likelyhood of dying!
25th Jun 2016
Change the record Fallick your on loop. You keep dishing up the same old mush.
25th Jun 2016
Have flown few different airlines around the world more than once ,never have come close to getting upgrade or heard of any people I have met on my travels getting one for ''just asking'' .Think the author is stretching the friendship here a bit expecting us to all front up and ask for freebies
25th Jun 2016
I have a friend who was traveling to Canada with her teenage daughter, they were neatly dressed in the queue ready to book in when an attendant came up to them and asked them to check in at his desk. He was upgrading them to first class as they had accidentally overbooked economy . They had a wonderful trip and couldn't believe their luck it couldn't have gone to more worthy people a hard working single mum who had saved long and hard to treat herself and daughter to a holiday.
That was fifteen years ago she never asked she was chosen.
27th Jun 2016
back in 2000, my wife and I traveled to the UK on JAL. We stopped over in Osaka overnight in free accommodation in a hotel in the airport with free smorgasbord breakfast. When we arrived there in the afternoon, I asked if we could have the same seats as those we just had for our flight, the next morning. The check in girlie said yes.. The next morning, we didn't get those seats. Because the flight was shared with Qantas, they were overbooked by Qantas, so we were "bumped up" to business class. What a difference. I think that because w had booked all the way with JAL, that we were "rewarded".
13th Aug 2016
my daughter got a free upgrade with Qatar Airlines last week on the second leg of her flight from Melbourne to Vienna. She didn't ask for one and was completely surprised by the offer. She was travelling alone and no reason was given for the upgrade, she was just handed a new boarding pass. She was lucky enough to get a pod type seat whereas on the first leg business class was merely a wider seat. If anyone out there is thinking of booking a business class seat ensure you know which type of seat you will get for your money.
The pom
20th Aug 2016
When I fly Business Class I dress in comfortable, often untidy looking, clothes so no one will think I am a cattle class upgrade.
20th Aug 2016
when I fly business class I sleep all the way because it only ever happens in my dreams.
24th Aug 2016
We got an upgrade to fly Business Class from Perth to Wellington. How you may ask?
Arrived at 9.30 p.m. to catch a mid night flight. Found I could not fly as my passport was still in my previous name and did not match the ticket. We had to drive an hour and a half home and come back the next night to catch the identical flight. We did not cause any fuss; we realised it was our fault...should have known. The following night we fronted up again and the same two chaps were on the check in counter. They checked us in and as we were about to walk away we were told that we had been upgraded. I think they must have felt sorry for us having to go all the way home the previous day.

We were most appreciative. They did not have to do it for us but it was nice gesture.
21st Jan 2017
Don't just 'ask' for a free upgrade and expect it, try paying for it in the first place.

I'd rather pay for the pleasant experience than try and get a free upgrade @ the airport.
25th Jan 2017
I am either too poor or too mean (perhaps both,) to fly other than cattle class. The only time I have travelled first or business classes has been when the government has sent me somewhere. Even then I didn't ask for the priviledge and am too steeped in the notion that you should pay for what you get to ever ask for a freebie such as this.

It is not 'correct' to say so but there is a Scottish taint in my blood.

If good food or something was going to waste because someone didn't arrive I am sure the attendents would ask someone if they wished to move up as a type of easy and free way of exciting good will and long-term business.

BTW, some of the first class treatment I certailnly have enjoyed even if I wouldn't pay for it. Lavish and abundant cream cakes and pastries,that sort of thing...well...I don't eat cream either but they looked extravagant.
26th Feb 2017
Travelling with my five year old, he was airsick and vomitted - a small amount - on the passenger in the next seat. HE got an upgrade. We didn't even get much help in cleaning up.
26th Feb 2017
Pretty good just the same I reckon Fran.

They and hospitals seem to bend over backward for children. One of ours would get very upset on long (overseas) flights. While a few around would be angry that their peace was being disturbed hostesses would put their complaints down firmly then ask if they could give him a cuddle for a while. That actually seemed to make it worse but it was a nice gesture.

(Local flights of an hour maybe two never worried him and after a year and a half of some miserable flights [have you hever held and sung to a 1 year old for a full 9.5 hours after connecting flights on top of a solid 18 hour day?] all stopped as quickly as it had started...it was after that when his car/flight-sickness and asthma set in...an upgrade, [for the boy,] out of mind and sight might have been appreciated)

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