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How to Get a Flight Upgrade

Let’s face it a flight upgrade, aside from making you silently yell YAY!, let’s you arrive at your destination feeling relaxed and pampered. The attentive service, super reclining ‘make mine a flat bed’, along with ‘oh my goodness is that you-know-who sitting two rows in front’, really enhance your zen. So how can you arrive in style? Here’s my top 9 upgrade tips.

How to get a flight upgrade graphic.

1. Dress the part

It’s no good rocking up to the check-in desk in your comfy onesie. If you want to bag yourself an upgrade, make sure you’re smart and presentable. 

2. Get your name on the list

That’s the frequent flyer/loyalty list. Airlines look more favourably upon those that are signed up to their membership programs. Check out Delta Airlines who have Skymiles that don’t expire along with no black out dates for travel.

3. Tick tock

Timing is important. If your destination is a popular business route then you don’t want to be competing with platinum membership travellers in business rush hour. However an overbooked bank holiday flight could be perfect for getting that upgrade.

4. Celebrate good times

Heading off to get married, going on your honeymoon or having a long lost family reunion? Don’t be shy drop it into your check-in conversation. They just might like to add to your celebration. 

5. Special meal – not this time

Ordering a special meal in advance is a no no. If the airline doesn’t have that meal available (and let’s face it if it’s a special request it’s not very likely) then they won’t upgrade you.

6. Traveling solo

You certainly increase your odds if you’re travelling on your lonesome rather than with your partner and extended family. 

7. To arrive early or to arrive late? 

This can work both ways. If you arrive early just as check in opens and only a few people are around, then both you and airline check in staff aren’t so rushed. Take your time, smile, strike up a conversation and sound out your chances. If you arrive late, sweating, but of course still looking desirably presentable, you might be lucky in getting bumped up to the higher class due to overbooking.

8. Let them know if you’re unhappy 

Not in a high pitch whiny way but if you have a genuine cause for complaint, address it at the time. For example, there could be a fault with the seat controls or entertainment setup. If the airline attendants are unable to help and move you there and then, follow up with a polite letter to customer service. You could get a free flight or a flight upgrade voucher for another time.  Happy days.

9. Spend more

If you’ve got premium economy / business class tickets as opposed to super economy tickets you bought 11 months in advance, there’s more chance the upgrade Gods will bestow upon you. 

FAQ about flight upgrades

Do airlines give free upgrades?

Yes and no. It depends on the airline. Some airlines have strict rules with regards to flight upgrades, however it is well known the airlines overbook. They don’t really want to take off with lots of empty seats. Additionally there might have been a last minute change with the aircraft type and this could have a knock on the effect on the seating formation. Both of these scenarios, along with the tips above could help your quest!

Is it cheaper to upgrade to a business class at the airport?

Yes it can be, however it depends on how important it is for you to travel in business class. Aside from having availability in the cabin, how long is the flight? Do you really want to chance it on the day? Are you traveling at peak time? Some airlines have a list of fares that they can sell at check-in. Check with your airline in advance to see if it’s a service they provide.

Can I use my loyalty/ frequent flyer points for a flight upgrade?

Most definitely. For example, check out American Airlines upgrade with miles, where you can trade in frequent flyer mileage together with a small additional premium for a higher class of travel. Some credit cards also allow you to accrue frequent flyer points too, whatever you use them to purchase. Just remember to pay them off every month to avoid unnecessary charges.

Should I sign up to airline newsletters?

Yes. Yes. Yessss. By signing up to your desired airline(s) newsletter you will be ahead of the queue and receive notification of special offers as soon as they are announced. The more the merrier I say on sign up.

What’s your favourite flight upgrade story? Do share in the comments!

Not too worried about an upgrade but want to be super snug on your flight? Here’s our 5 cute airport outfits that will keep you comfy on long flights

Looking for some cheap flights? Check out our 5 tips for booking cheap flights

For latest travel advice, head here.

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