How to get an Upgrade for Free!
Everyone has a story about a friend who gets free upgrades. Next time you travel it could be your lucky day to sit up front and enjoy the pampering. It really is a lot rarer than some people might let you believe, but follow these 10 Golden Rules and you might very well be finding yourself sipping the champagne from a spacious leather flatbed in a class you didn’t pay for. Next time you fly follow these tips on How to get an upgrade.
- Make sure you are flying on an airline that actually has a class to be upgraded to. Most of the discount airlines are economy class only, so don’t expect to be sitting anywhere except the Cattle Class seat you booked!
- If you’ve ordered a special meal such as Vegetarian, Kosher or Hindu, you’ll automatically be excluded from being considered for an upgrade. Airlines will never upgrade anyone unless they have the matching meal to go with the passenger and because upgrades are usually done at the Last minute, the airline will have no time to order a special upgraded class version of your meal. It will be easier for the airline to just upgrade a passenger with no special needs, to make it easy.
- Upgrades occur because the airline is oversold in the class you have booked, not because they had spare seats in Business Class and thought they’d be nice. Before check-in starts the airline usually knows exactly how many passengers they might need to upgrade, so they’ll be on the lookout for any suitable passenger. Do not ask for an upgrade! Ever! Usually the lowly check-in staff can recommend suitable up-grade candidates and they really do not like someone asking them. They usually recommended drama free, happy travellers who have just flattered them, the airline and the city you’re in.
- Dress like a First Class Traveller. If airlines are considering upgrading you, they want you to look the part and would not consider a poorly dressed or scruffy backpacker. Men wearing shorts, singlets or sandals will never be upgraded while well dressed women with expensive looking shoes and accessories stand a much better chance.
- Travelling with children is an automatic no-no to getting an upgrade. Of course your children are adorable but many serious premium passengers might not be so tolerant of your energetic youngsters so almost always families with children will be left with the seats they paid for. The closest you can expect to get Business Class will be passing through it on the way to your seat near the rear toilets.
- Arriving either very early or very late is a good way to improve your chances of being upgraded. Some airlines that plan to upgrade will do the upgrades first thing often picking the lucky travellers from the queue standing in front before check-in has hardly started. Sometimes a last minute oversold situation might occur which unexpectedly means the last passengers will be upgraded. Last minute passengers can occasionally be rewarded with an upgrade, but more likely will end up with the worse seat on the plane.
- Telling a sob story about going to a funeral or asking for a honeymoon upgrade might get you a few extra kilo’s of baggage but will almost always not help your cause for an upgrade. Ground staff are so used to hearing stories of every description they are universally immune to any tragedy or celebration. However, having a legitimate and provable complaint against the airline explained in a patient and non demanding way might just elicit the check in agent scuttling off to a supervisor to ask if anything can be done. Insults against Airlines, their staff or procedures will not get you anywhere and extinguish any chance you might have had for a Free Business Class Upgrade.
- Sometimes the airline will only be upgrading a single person or one or two who have split seating. In this case they are most likely to be upgrading only single people so if you turn up by yourself, well dressed and have a warm and friendly smile you have a better chance than couples.
- Frequent Flyers have a better chance to be upgraded than non frequent flyers. Some airlines such as Korean Air are scrupulously fair with their Upgrades and generally upgrade according to the tier of the passengers. Diamond, Gold and Silver in that order. Even having a Bronze frequent flyer for the host airline can improve your chances over non-frequent flyers. However most airlines are a bit sloppy with the way they upgrade and despite protestations to the opposite, they make upgrades in an ad hoc manner on the spot with little reference to their official policy.
- Perhaps the most important part of all in getting an upgrade is to have a friend who works at the airport or to name drop. Ground crew, even lowly check in agents, can have considerable say with who does and does not get any upgrade that’s going, so having friends at the airport is a great help. Make sure any you know are on your Christmas card list.
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