Lessons from Years of Experience

These days it is a struggle flying anything less than Business Class. I make the sacrifice flying Premium Economy when I accompany my little nephews in-flight. I can sit in Economy if I’m next to friends on shorter flights. But for the rest of the time, Business Class or the occasional First Class upgrade is my way of travel. So from my years of experience, here are 8 Things to Know About Flight Upgrades:

1. Luck of the Draw

The biggest thing to know is that there is no absolute method to guarantee a flight upgrade. It is dependent on the specific flight and, most of all, subjective to the whim of the check-in counter attendant.


2. Don’t expect upgrades on an empty flight

You may assume that because Premium Economy and Business Class are practically empty, that means an easy upgrade. Sadly, that is not at all the case. In fact, the emptier the flight, the harder the upgrade simply because the airline will not earn any more money by upgrading you if there is no one else paying for your current seat.


3. Higher chances of upgrades when Economy is overbooked

While emptier flights are nearly impossible for upgrades, overbooked flights are likely to bump passengers up. However, this is only when Economy or Premium Economy has been overbooked and there are vacant seats in Business Class or First Class. In this case, the airline earns money from upgrading you because of the paying standby passengers who will get your original seat.


4. Rewarding loyal frequent flyer members

When upgrades are available, airlines first reward loyal frequent flyer members. Loyalty to the airlines relates to how often you fly this particular airline. Do not assume, however, that because you are a frequent flyer you will get that upgrade. You are still competing with others who may have arrived at the counter earlier or the check-in counter attendant may not be in the frame of mind to upgrade you or anyone.


5. Have your own ticket reservation

You are more likely to earn a free upgrade if you fly alone. Rarely are there seats for families or groups to upgrade all together. Even if you fly with family or friends, perhaps have your own ticket reservation to upgrade yourself (if you are willing to leave behind your flying companions).


6. Try asking

It won’t hurt to ask the check-in counter attendant. Asking opens the possibility. The attendant may consider your question and look into the computer to see if it can happen. The worst outcome is that you will feel let down that you don’t get that upgrade.


7. Dress for success

Gone are the days of dressing properly. Casual dress has become the standard. And that actually lessens your chances for a free upgrade. Business Class gets its name from the business travelers who usually have those seats. These travelers are usually properly dressed from head to toe. So, learn from them and dress the part. This does not have to mean a business suit. At least consider decent shoes that are not sneakers and a travel blazer.


8. Green Light, Red Light

You last hope is at the boarding gate. On occasion, you will be upgraded right at the boarding gate when you give your ticket. When your ticket scans, the machine will either turn green (which means you sadly keep your original seat) or it turns red. Red is a good thing when you are hoping for an upgrade. Red means you are getting another ticket, and that ticket is likely to be an upgraded seat!


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