How to Get Upgraded On A Flight

How to get upgraded on a flight

Frequent travelers reveal the secrets of how to get an upgrade on your next trip!

There’s nothing like travel. Seeing distant lands, meeting new people, coming home with tales of some  exotic hottie you had a summer fling with – all these are the amazing benefits of travel. 

And with airlines and accommodations in fevered competition to bag that mighty tourist cash, the world has never been more accessible for less.

But even seasoned travelers agree that while travel in itself is wonderful, flying coach is just barely tolerable, especially on long-haul flights. May the gods help you if you have long legs, or if the passenger next to you is, shall we say, a person of ample girth

Almost everyone would agree that if you can get a bump up to premium economy, business class, or even the holy grail of first class, it’s so, so, so much better.

When you get upgraded on a flight, it’s like a magic door opens up for you, offering you legroom adequate for actual adult humans, better food, wider seats – and often nicer smiles and more conscientious service from flight attendants. 

And yes, it is possible to learn how to get upgraded to first class all the way from coach, although setting your sights on a more modest bump to premium or business class is more likely to succeed.

Here are few tricks frequent fliers swear by for how to get upgraded on a flight!

1. Dress for the class you want

This is an old tip for how to get upgraded on a flight, but it still holds true. They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and that advice applies if you want to know how to fly first class for free. 

When a higher class seat is available and flight attendants or other airline staff are considering passengers for airline upgrades, they will seek out a passenger who will fit in with the people in the higher-priced section. 

Pack your flip-flops away and wait until you arrive at your destination to bust out your board shorts and your neon-colored Hawaiian shirt. Wear something more like business casual and you’ll increase your chances of getting picked.

2. Join frequent flier schemes

Sad to say, but one of the most reliable ‘tricks’ for how to get an upgrade is just to grind away at accumulating miles. 

Given enough miles or points accumulated, depending on the airline you can find yourself moved up to the front of the line for boarding or even getting a free airline upgrade every time you fly. 

Even if you don’t fly that often, it’s still worth it to join any and all frequent flier clubs for airlines you fly on. 

It doesn’t cost you anything, and in the eyes of the airline staff, the simple fact that you have some kind of relationship with the company moves you to the front of the line ahead of people without a frequent flier number.

3. Ask

How do you request a seat upgrade on a flight? Just ask! 

Hey, as we’ve all learned from the world of dating, if you don’t put yourself out there, they ain’t gonna come looking for you, not unless you’re loaded or you look like Harry Stiles’ long-lost brother. 

One common strategy for how to get upgraded on a flight that works more often than you’d imagine is to simply speak up at check-in and ask for an upgrade. 

Just say, “If there are any upgrades available for this flight, I’d like to be considered.” Flash those baby blues, give them a nice smile, throw a little joke their way, and see what happens. 

The world of air travel is an insanely complex soup of numbers and data, and you just never know what the flight is going to look like until you’re aboard. 

If you’ve ever had the glorious experience of lucking out on a long-haul flight with an open seat next to you, that’s great and all, but it also probably means there were open seats in premium economy and possibly even business that could have been yours, if only you had asked!

4. Don’t be a pain in the ass

Related to the above, just being nice is a great ‘secret’ for how to get an upgrade on a flight. 

Always remember that the people you’re talking to at the check-in counter, at the podium at your gate, and on board the aircraft are the decision-makers when it comes to airline upgrades. Shitting all over them from the jump is not how to get upgraded to first class, and why would it be? 

Smile, joke, laugh, be patient, and be understanding. 

Just by showing them that you are a seasoned, confident traveler who isn’t going to put his bare feet up on the seat arms in front of you or wash your underwear in the airplane bathroom and then hang it up to dry under the ventilators is a great first step for how to get upgraded to first class.

5. Be early for your flight

One big secret for how to get upgraded on a flight is just showing up early. 

Each flight, if it has any upgrades available at all, has limited ones. And as we’ve shown above, it’s often down to who asks for the airline upgrade first. 

If you roll in at the last second all sweaty and stressed out, you’re not helping your cause. 

Get there well ahead of the rest of the rabble and maybe you can score a sweet airline upgrade for your trouble.

6. Travel solo

Unless your mates can’t stand to be away from you for more than one moment, even on the flight over, consider booking your flight separately. 

This is a big, unspoken secret for how to get upgraded on a flight, simply because if you’re booked together in a duo or a group, it’s a lot harder to get an airline upgrade than if you’re solo – or appear to be. 

Oftentimes, if airline staff sees a couple of travelers or a group flying together, they won’t even consider them for an airline upgrade simply to avoid opening the Pandora’s Box of ‘Oh, can we BOTH get bumped up to first class? Together? No? Honey, do you want to go, or should I?’ etc., etc. 

The answer is much simpler for someone who appears to be traveling alone: ‘Hell yes I’ll take the bump up to first class!’

7. Travel when business guys aren’t

Skyscanner says their data suggest that travelers flying on bank holidays and other times when business travelers aren’t likely to be going anywhere are more likely to get airline upgrades, simply due to the fact that business class won’t be full. 

This relates to another frequently asked question: is it cheaper to get upgraded to business class at the airport? Especially on bank holiday weekends, this is a safe bet, according to Skyscanner. 

If there aren’t any business boys on a flight that’s closing soon, the airlines are likely to offer bigger discounts in order not to lose out entirely on selling that seat.

8. Be flexible

One of the better-known but less frequently used tips for how to get upgraded to first class is to be prepared to wait for a later flight. 

If you don’t have a strict schedule waiting for you on the other end, volunteering to be bumped to a later flight will often get you an upgrade. 

You can even score a bonus of miles or even cash vouchers for a flight within the next year on top of your airline upgrade. 

If you do score business class on your subsequent flight, be sure to ask for access to the airport lounge as it’s an automatic benefit that comes with flying business class.

9. Special occasions

If you’re flying off for a honeymoon or anniversary, or if you happen to be flying on your birthday, one great way to score an airline upgrade is simply to let the check-in staff know it’s a special occasion. 

If there’s an upgrade available and they’re feeling the love, it could well be yours.

10. Bid on your upgrade

A new innovation many airlines are using and which fliers who know how to get an airline upgrade to first class are taking advantage of is a bidding system to bag the sweet life up front away from the plebs. 

Log on to your airline’s booking system after you’ve booked your flight and look for something called PlusGrade, or do a Google search for your airline and ‘upgrade auction.’ 

Also, if your airline has a standalone app, download it. Many airlines offer flash upgrade sales or auctions on a pretty random basis and they notify passengers by the app. 

The bottom line: Just remember that air travel is a wildly complex system and each airline has to have a certain amount of built-in flexibility in order to make all the cogs fit together. 

Always walk into the airport with the expectation that nothing is set in stone – including your seat. 

With a little planning, a little charm and a little luck, you can get yourself an airline upgrade every time!

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