It’s the Holy Grail of air travellers, but can you really bag yourself a seat in first- or business class cabins? The answer is yes! A poll by Moneysavingexpert found that 16% of its users had been bumped up to a superior class within the past two years.
Loyalty breeds loyalty: First thing that frequent flyers should do is join the airline’s loyalty scheme. Building up points and miles, will put you at an advantage at check-in when the upgrades are handed out.
Dressing to impress: We’ve all heard this not-so-secret tip, but it remains as true as ever. Let’s face it, you’re highly unlikely to bag an upgrade to the spare first class seat next to Lord Sugar if you’ve opted to travel in your favourite baked bean-stained vest and comfy grey jogging pants.
Significant events: Don’t be shy when it comes to letting check-in staff members know you’re travelling on your honeymoon or significant wedding anniversary etc. Just remember to drop it into conversation and not use it as a reason to demand an upgrade. Make sure you carry some documentation to show you’re genuine – check-in staff will be used to dealing chancers using such claims to help get themselves ill-deserved upgrades.
Be first or last to check-in: These are the periods that upgrades are most likely to be dished out. Many airlines will let you check-in up to 24-hours before your flight departs, so heading to the online check-in as soon as the process opens could result in the airline’s back office staff bumping you up a grade if the flight’s full. This will save them having to deal with last-minute problems at the airport – where flight delays can cost thousands.
Likewise, arriving fashionably late could also get you an upgrade. If economy class is full, check-in staff might decide to give you an upgrade to ease the overcrowding in cattle class. Just make sure you apologise profusely for being late and dress in a manner that would just happen to fit in with the well-heeled inhabitants of premium cabins. Don’t risk this if you really need to catch the plane, though, there’s also the chance you could get bumped onto the next flight – however, this could also give you upgrade ammo… read on.
Get bumped: If you’re travelling on a popular route at a busy time – and you have some time to spare – it could be worth mentioning this at check-in. If the flight’s overbooked, staff will look for passengers who can move to later flights – often using upgrades as ‘bump bait’. You’ll probably be able to blag a seat in the airline’s exclusive lounge, too. Just don’t drink too much free ‘hospitality’.
Solo-a-go-go: Flying alone will improve your chances of getting an upgrade. Couples will less chance – and don’t even bother angling for a group upgrade for your pub rugby team.
Smile: Pushy passengers who demand upgrades will not be popular with hard-pressed check-in staff. Remember, upgrades are discretionary and how you act will have a profound effect on your chances of receiving one. Being polite and friendly could just get you bumped up a class. Word of warning, though, please look-up the subtle differences between ‘polite’ and ‘smarmy’.