Ah, air travel! It can be fun or the most stressful event of a human life. It can also be very uncomfortable if you have to travel in economy class. Unfortunately, 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 tips for getting a free flight upgrade. Here are some other ways to get secret flight upgrades!
10. 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.
9. Book a Full Plane
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 the holidays than at 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 into 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.
8. Dress the Part
Dress like you are a first-class passenger. You don’t have to go overboard by wearing a suit and tie or a ballroom gown, 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, men should probably be clean-shaven.
A lot of people tell you not to do this, for a variety of reasons, but this can work. Get upgraded for asking if the airline needed volunteers. If you have followed all 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.
6. Be Polite
Be very polite to all 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. Whether you are trying to get an upgrade or not, this is a practice you should use all the time. Remember, the airline staff is under pressure and stressed out just as you are. Have some empathy for them.
5. 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 into getting your upgrade, the greater your chances.
4. Join the Frequent Flier Program
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 has 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.
3. Pick your Plane
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. One of the best sites is Seat Guru – it is an excellent resource for travelers.
2. 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 need be.
1. 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.
The overriding theme here is, be kind, resourceful and plan ahead. With these strategies in mind, you can turn an ordinary flight into an extraordinary one with a nice upgrade.