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How to give yourself the best chance of getting upgraded on your next flight

27 June 2012 One Comment

One of the most popular queries people have concerning air travel is – “What is the best way to get upgraded”. Along with a popular question comes a lot of misinformation and bad advice. While nothing is set in stone, and there are no pearls of wisdom that will ensure you get upgraded every time, here are some things to consider.

Dress the Part

Always travel in smart clothing if you harbour any hopes of getting upgraded. While it may be a lot more comfortable to spend the flight in trainers and a tracksuit, this is going to greatly affect your chances and you will not be considered to slip in with those who have paid the top rate for their tickets. We’re not talking a bow-tie and dinner jacket (nobody needs to mistake you for James Bond) but business wear or smart-casual attire should be enough.

Punctuality will be rewarded

Getting upgraded is far from being an exact science, but one thing we can guarantee, is that late comers are very rarely upgraded. Get your baggage checked in as early as you can, and where possible check in online. If a cabin has been overbooked, the airport staff will aim to move people around early to avoid operational issues.

If you’ve got a friend…

If you know anyone who works for either the airline or the ground handler, make them aware that you are travelling. As with most things, having a contact on the inside can help you in your quest to break into business class. Members of staff are often able to add notes to your booking, indicating that you are suitable for an upgrade. Should the airline need to move passengers, you are more likely to be first in line for an upgrade if they can see you are connected.

Give yourself a birthday present

If you happen to be travelling on a special day, such as a 30th birthday, honeymoon or heading to an exotic location to get married, make sure you let the airline know about it. Get a note placed on your booking (your travel agent, tour operator or airline should be able to do this for you). The check in staff or those at the boarding gate will see this and may decide to make your trip that little bit more special.

Join the frequent flyer scheme

If you travel regularly you should definitely consider joining the frequent flyer scheme. If you build up your rating as a member your chances of being upgraded will increase. Try to stick to one airline grouping such as Star Alliance, One World or Sky Team to maximise your chances.

Ask for an upgrade at your own risk

This may go against some personal stories you may have heard in the past, but on rare occasions this can work. Generally asking for an upgrade will do more harm than good, with airline staff preferring to choose for themselves who gets upgraded, rather than responding to requests. Airlines are also much more likely to pick solo travellers or couples and very rarely choose large groups, for obvious reasons.

Make yourself flexible and an easy option for movement.

If you want to do everything you can to increase your chances; don’t book any special meals or unnecessary special assistance. It will make moving you that little bit easier, making the airline staff’s job that little bit easier.

Don’t count on it

Premium seats on charter flights are very popular and sell out fast; sadly upgrades are not as common as you might hope. Therefore if you are serious about experiencing an upgraded service, then book your flight early and pay the extra.

Turn on the charm

This probably goes without saying, but remaining polite, well mannered, cool and calm will greatly improve your chances of a member of staff wanting to help you out. Being friendly, chatty and pleasant will be more than welcome by airline staff after a long day of dealing with stressed out travellers.


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