Seven ways to land flight upgrades

Want to score a flight upgrade? By planning ahead, using your manners and learning how to swing the system, you could be sipping champagne and flying high in business or first class on your next flight. Here are seven considerations:

1. Choose the right time to travel

Your best chance of securing an upgrade is by travelling during the low seasons. That rules out the school holidays and the Christmas period, when most flights are totally booked. On the flip side, if you want an upgrade during other busy times of the year, you may find that when economy class is fully booked, there might be spare seats in business class.

2. Flaunt your special occasion

There’s no guarantee on this one, but mentioning that you’re travelling for your anniversary, honeymoon or birthday at check-in can work wonders for scoring a reclining bed for the night. Be polite and casually throw your special occasion into the conversation, then ask if there’s a chance you can be upgraded.

3. Travel solo

Passengers flying alone have a better chance of securing an upgrade than those travelling with a partner and hoard of kids in tow. Make sure to be very polite and professional to the person at check-in when asking for an upgrade.

4. Fly frequently

Since requesting flight upgrades has becomes popular, they’re more difficult to secure. Airlines are most likely to reward upgrades to frequent travellers and those who are long-term users of their company’s frequent flyer scheme. The more points you accrue the further up you are in the company’s rewards scheme.

5. Bid for a place

If you’re part of an airline’s frequent flyer scheme, you might be able to use your points and cash to bid on an upgrade. Some airlines, such as Qantas, use this system, offering frequent flyers the chance approximately a week before the flight departs. Though you’ll only know if you’ve been successful 24 hours before your flight.

6. Dress to impress

Leave your tracksuit pants at home. Airlines are most likely to upgrade someone based on their frequent flyer status or if the cabin is overbooked, but if you dress the part of a business-class flyer, you could find yourself in one of their seats. So, polish your shoes and wear a smart outfit in order to prove you look the part.

7. Offer to be bumped

If the person at check-in mentions that your flight is overbooked, volunteering to be bumped to a later flight can sometimes do wonders for your cause. If the staff member sees you are flexible and willing to help out, they might reward you by granting you an upgrade on the next flight. Again, this tactic requires a little strategy and a lot of charm.

What successful tricks have you used to get upgraded?


Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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