How to Get an Upgrade to First Class
Knowing how to get an upgrade to first class can result in an incredibly rewarding experience. Having felt like you’ve saved plenty of your hard earned cash and then travelling in luxury will put a smile on your face for days. Although all airline policies are different, there are a few approaches that are certainly worth adopting.
1- Let’s start with the highest chance of success (although most costly). Many airlines have deals for seat upgrades should their 1st or business class tickets not be sold. Inquire about these over the telephone a couple of days before your flight.
2- Sign up for a frequent flyer programme. This is more of a long-term approach, but having clocked up lots of miles will place you in good stead.
3- If you book directly with the airline, you often have the option of writing further information when booking on-line. Here it might be worthwhile perhaps suggesting that you’re a travel writer or event planner or similar.
4- Book with a travel agent. Many, reputable travel agents will be allocated upgrade vouchers in order for them to recommend flying with that airline. Try and negotiate an upgrade for free for booking with that agent.
5- Free upgrade attempt at the kiosk. This is very hard to attain and you have to be very charming to attain it. Remember here that the check-in clerks have most likely had a very hard day and have dealt with many passengers. No matter how busy it is, do not be in a rush, be friendly, polite, crack a joke, and even flirt. A straight out compliment may be too transparent, but being as forward and as fun as possible will go a long way. Choose a clerk who doesn’t look too ‘jobs worth’, and who is sitting further away from their colleagues (as then they won’t be concerned about someone else hearing their conversation). Appreciate that although in many circumstances they may have the power to provide an upgrade free of charge, often their hands will be tied or at the very least they will have to get the upgrade verified with a manager. If you are going to lie in order to get an upgrade (medical condition, special occasion etc), be prepared to follow the lie through to the very end! Check in early to maximise your chances of success.
6- Paid upgrade at the check in counter. Often the last few first class tickets will be available at the check in counter. Arrive and check in early as these will go on a first come, first serve basis.
7- Take advantage of delays/over bookings. If your flight has been severely delayed or over booked, you may be able to negotiate an upgrade as part of your re-imbursement package. An upgrade will be one of the more costly options for the airline, so again, be polite, friendly and understanding in making your request, as the clerk will most likely have dealt with a queue of angry customers beforehand and so being their ‘breath of fresh air’ will serve you well.
8- Ask the flight attendant. Unless you’ve fostered a very good relationship with the flight attendant, there is very little chance that they will upgrade you simply for asking. There may genuine reasons to change seat however. These include: A problem with your seat (seat belt, broken recliner etc), a legitimate complaint against a passenger who you’re sitting next to, or a family requiring the bulk-head seat that you pre-booked.
Look the part. You are less likely to be upgraded if you look scruffy!
Choose which check-in clerk or manager that you talk to carefully.