How do I get a flight upgrade? The flight upgrade is something of the holy grail of travel, yet getting upgraded is easier said than done. Nonetheless, there’s perhaps never been a better time to get a flight upgrade. According to the U.S. Travel Association, while leisure travel is growing, business travel is actually declining, which could increase your chances of getting a business class upgrade. So today I’m coming to you with intel that should boost your chances of getting a flight upgrade.
Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs
For the best shot at getting a flight upgrade, start moving up the loyalty ranks of your preferred airline. Sure, it may mean having to be committed to one airline, rather than committed to the cheapest fare, but it’ll increase your upgrade chances. Nonetheless, you’ve got more options when you’re loyal to one of the major airline alliance programs, such as Oneworld or Star Alliance. Furthermore, a number of airlines offer reward credit cards that can help you build up and redeem miles quicker.
Dress and Act Nicely
I talked to a long-time Delta flight attendant who confirmed that available business class seats typically first go to travelers with high loyalty status. However, she mentioned that dressing and acting the part, especially with the gate agent, can sometimes mean a seat upgrade when upgrades are available. In other words, leave your pajamas behind and break out that suit and tie.
Play the Special Event Card
Similarly, playing up special events and tugging on the heartstrings can sometimes lead to an upgrade. It’s infrequent, but mentioning a special event like a wedding, honeymoon or anniversary could translate into a flight upgrade. If nothing else, hopefully it’ll earn you a couple free drinks in coach.
Check In Early and Buy an Upgraded Seat
This has proved to be my successful way of getting a flight upgrade. Sure, there’s a cost to it, but it’s a relatively low cost compared to the cost of a regularly priced business class seat. I’ve bought an upgrade for as low as $200 several times by simply arriving to the airport early and checking in at the kiosk. However, these upgrades are usually only available during off-peak times.
Use Frequent Flier Miles to Upgrade
While many people often only use frequent flier miles to buy round-trip tickets, you can also use your miles to upgrade. According to ExpertFlyer, airlines will sometimes make some seats available for mileage upgrades, but not for awards. This can come in handy on that long-haul flight you have a coach seat for.
Give Up Your Seat For a Later Flight
At one time or another, we’ve probably all been waiting to board our flight and been given the opportunity to volunteer for a later flight. And as inconveniencing as it could be to volunteer, you could actually use it as an opportunity to negotiate for an upgrade on a later flight. But try to be one of the first people to volunteer, and per the tip above, be nice, as the gate agent is likely already under a lot of pressure and being polite will go a long way.
Fly Off-Peak Days and Times on Off-Peak Routes
Lastly, your chances of getting an upgrade increase when there isn’t as much competition for available upgrades. Flying cross-country, for example, on a Monday or Friday will likely be difficult for a flight upgrade, since this is often peak time for business travelers. Consider flying days and times like the first flight on a Wednesday or Saturday morning.