Blagging business class upgrades

Airlines regularly upgrade certain people from economy class to business class. How do you become one of those “certain people” and blag an upgrade that might usually cost over $1000?

1. Get a frequent flyer number - if you have already earned miles, you’re much more likely to be upgraded to a business class seat, especially is you have earned a lot of miles.  Having earned miles with the airline is the simplest and easiest way to get a free upgrade.

2. Book flights during very busy periods when economy class is likely to be overbooked. There will invariably be business class seats available - and the airline has to choose who to upgrade  - give the airline a reason to upgrade you (the best reason being that you are a frequent flyer).

3. Travel alone.  If you’re with kids your chances of an upgrade are greatly reduced.  If you’re a couple or group, book your flights separately and check in separately (you could pre-book your economy class seats in advance, so you’ll still be sitting together if you don’t achieve an upgrade).

4. Dressing smartly and being polite always helps enormously.  Make the check in agent like you - but don’t be artificially friendly.  Act the part - like you would be suitable for an upgrade, don’t be pretentious or stuck up.

5. If you have been inconvenienced on a previous flight with the same airline (delays, overnights, lost luggage etc), make sure the check in staff know, but be polite - it’s not their fault after all!

6. If you are a Doctor, or have some other title, make sure you use it rather than the standard Mr when you book the flight.  If you’re someone who might be deemed “important” to the airline (a politician, journalist, tour operator, travel agent or travel writer) make sure the airline knows - but don’t smarmily tell them yourself - better to get your travel agent to put an electronic note inside your booking for the attention of the check in staff - something along the lines of “VIP Travel Agency Manager - pls do all possible to assist with possible upgrade”.  If you’re on honeymoon, do likewise - make sure the check in staff know in this manner.

7. Perhaps purchase a Y class (or Y-up) fare - these are always the most expensive economy class seats. Sometimes they’re extortionate, but if not, consider paying a little more, as you chances of an business class upgrade might be increased.

8. At check in, you can always ask how much an upgrade is.  If you don’t want to pay, just explain that it’s too much for you, you’re going to do conservation / voluntary work in *** the rainforest / an orphanage / to work with street kids **** and you’d feel guilty spending all that money on business class.  The check in staff might like you for that….

9. When you check in, choose your counter accordingly - try to check in with the most senior looking check in agent, who’s more likely to have the power to authorise a business or first class upgrade.

10. If a flight is completely overbooked, and you volunteer to get bumped off, your chances of an upgrade on the next flight are dramatically increased, plus you’ll receive monetary compensation anyway.

11. Never ask for an upgrade - you have to give the airline a reason to upgrade you, and asking at check-in invariably hinders your chances.

Here’s a quote I found on from a BA check in staff worker:

“If you want an upgrade ….. simply be yourself - don’t ask, be polite to the check in agent and dress smartly . British Airways only ever upgrades if a flight is overbooked ….. we firstly look at our frequent flyers then anyone that the checkin agent might have recommended for an upgrade.”

There’s dubious ways of getting upgrades in addition (eg. lying about the fact you’re on honeymoon works well). Try calling the airline the morning of your flight and asking if you can pay for an upgrade  - give them your credit card number, but one digit off. Of course the card will decline, keep persisting with the wrong numbers, then give up - you’ll often find yourself upgraded for your troubles.  Alternatively, limp up to the check in desk, and explain that a couple of days ago you were in a car crash / skiing accident etc, and you’d really really appreciate a leg room seat (eg. an emergency exit seat) as you’re leg is extremely sore - if the staff take pity on you, you might get upgraded to business class.

Almost invariably, you won’t discover that you’ve been upgraded until you arrive at the gate, where a new boarding card will hopefully have been printed for you.  If you find yourself in an economy class seat on the flight, you’ve very little chance of moving to business class. If you’re asked to move seat - do so - hopefully it will be to business class.  Consider that the cabin crew themselves have no power to move anyone  - they are simply taking instructions from the ground staff, and the pilot, who is the only person on the flight who has the authority to upgrade anyone to business class (and the reason would invaribaly need to be medical once the flight as taken off - use your imagination…)

I got upgraded on the last flight I took with Iberia - Bogota to Madrid overnight - the flat beds meant I could actually sleep.  All I did was follow the advice above - I’ve earned quite a few miles, I was travelling alone, I was polite (though not dressed very smartly), the flight was overbooked - all I did was ask if they had any emergency exit seats available - at the gate I got a new boarding card (business class). Sweet.

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