Flights Travel Tips sky outdoor flying plane airplane Sunset air travel aircraft flight clouds aviation atmosphere daytime atmosphere of earth airline jet aerospace engineering cloudy cloud transport airliner air sunlight wing computer wallpaper meteorological phenomenon sunrise afterglow dawn narrow body aircraft dark day
Travel Tips

Jetsetter’s Guide to Getting a Free Airline Upgrade

It’s a tale as old as time: You arrive at the departures gate, hoping to secure that all-empowering first-class seat, only to learn that your miles are no good here. Or you’re preparing to cash in some credit card points when the telephone agent tells you that you’re waist-deep in a blackout period. But what if we told you there are tried-and-true ways to get the airline upgrade you’ve always dreamed of without all the hassle—at least in instances when strictly automated, electronic upgrades (we’re looking at you, Virgin Atlantic) aren’t the rule? Read on for eight tips to increase your chances for a free airline upgrade. Updated 2018

Flights Travel Tips sofa indoor Cabin airline air travel vehicle aircraft cabin scene business jet aviation furniture
Flights Travel Tips sky outdoor flying aircraft water plane transport airline airplane City vehicle aviation atmosphere of earth air airliner flight infrastructure low skyline land landing Sea
Flights Travel Tips indoor floor vehicle room Boat Cabin airline yacht Living passenger ship luxury yacht luxury vehicle interior design seat furniture

Look the part Want to fly like a high roller without dropping a dime? Start by looking like one. We’re not saying you have to don a suit, and chances are slim that your outfit alone will score you an upgrade, but common sense dictates that you ditch the yoga pants and flip-flops and opt instead for something tidy.

Get the timing right You know what they say about the early bird—it applies here, too. Gate agents are more likely to reward someone who arrives before the masses, when things are quiet, rather than when they’re trying to get everyone boarded and off the runway on time. That said, on very rare occasions it’s sometimes the straggler who gets the worm, but we wouldn’t advise you take up that strategy.

Flights Travel Tips plane mountain sky airplane outdoor airline vehicle airliner air travel aircraft aviation flight air atmosphere of earth runway wide body aircraft jet aircraft air force takeoff aerospace engineering boeing jet boeing 737 narrow body aircraft airbus aircraft engine wing boeing 787 dreamliner boeing 767 airbus a330 engine tarmac day

Choose your flight wisely Though it seems counterintuitive, a full flight ensures your greatest chances for upgrade success. That’s because airlines rarely award first-class status on an empty vessel—what’s the point? If your flight is full, odds are good that it may also be oversold, and oversold trips sometimes force flight attendants into upgrades to accommodate everyone.

RELATED: 12 Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

Speak up, especially if you have a story worth telling It never hurts to ask nicely. If you were bumped from a flight, held on the tarmac during an hours-long delay, or inconvenienced in any way, now’s the time to air your grievances—directly but as politely as possible. Just don’t spin a yarn about an incident that never happened. Gate agents are like human lie detectors. Likewise, don’t be shy if you’re celebrating a special occasion, like a honeymoon or anniversary.

Flights Travel Tips airline vehicle aircraft cabin pink aviation passenger
Flights Travel Tips car vehicle airline Cabin indoor ecosystem aircraft cabin luxury vehicle passenger yacht automobile make seat car seat

Be a big spender An old adage holds that you can’t get something for nothing. That’s especially true when it comes to airline upgrades. In fact, the more you pay for your ticket, the better your chances are of scoring a business-class seat. So instead of opting for the cheapest booking, spend a little more to show that you’re not just looking for a handout.

RELATED: Jetsetter’s Guide to Getting a Hotel Upgrade

Travel light When it comes to upgrades, it’s better to be a lone wolf than to roll with an entourage. Smaller parties (read no more than two people, and more often just one) usually find more success than large families or people with special carry-on requests (we’re looking at you, support-animal faker).

Flights Travel Tips sky plane airline airplane outdoor airliner air travel aircraft vehicle aviation wide body aircraft atmosphere of earth narrow body aircraft boeing aerospace engineering jet aircraft blue flight air force takeoff runway boeing 767 boeing 777 tarmac aircraft engine boeing 737

Do your research Leisure travelers might blink and miss advertised business-class sales, but there’s a good reason to pay them more attention. In admittedly rare instances, you can nab a ticket on an expensive flight for slightly less than the undiscounted economy fare. If you’re really lucky and spot a two-for-one business-class set deal, scoop it up. They absolutely exist but are increasingly harder to come by.

Work the system Anyone with elite status will tell you that it pays to be a loyal customer who travels frequently with one airline, but owning a mileage rewards credit card can also help boost your standing in the upgrade pool. Consider enrolling in one affiliated with a specific airline rather than something more generic to not only jump the line but also gain access to perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.

Want More?