1. Be a frequent flyer
Joining a frequent flyer scheme is a smart way to angle for flight upgrades. Airlines reward loyalty with points, and the first set of free flight upgrades will most certainly go to their frequent flyer members first.
2. Dress to impress
It’s an old chestnut, but if an airline staff member organising upgrades gets to choose from a pool of peeps looking like they stepped off the set of Mad Men, or a set that looks like they just dropped their entire packet of Twisties down their trackies, you can bet Don Draper’s gonna get that upgrade. Sunday best, business casual, brunch with your posh Grandma, are all appropriate upgrade styles.
3. Actually check your emails
No one wants to do this, but promotional emails from your airline will often offer promotions. Skim read for a cheeky upgrade offer.
4. Be nice!
This one is simple, but necessary. Check-in staff aren’t going to feel kindly to the cranky passenger demanding an upgrade because they ‘don’t want to be shoved in cattle class’. Put on your best smile, roll out manners your mother would be proud of, and ask for that upgrade nicely.
5. Stand up for yourself
Of course, if you’re getting bumped left right and centre, your bags have been lost, you’ve missed your connecting flight, and you’re about to lose your proverbial marbles, then you are allowed to get a little mad. Don’t throw a wobbly, but be firm. Tell them that you’re unimpressed, deserve better, and are about to hit send on a withering tweet to your 10,000 followers.
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6. Travel alone
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a person flying alone must be in want of a seat that’s not next to a baby. You’ll have a much better chance of getting an upgrade if you’re travelling solo, especially if you get chucked into a less-than-ideal cabin class seat (I’m looking at you baby).
7. Find the right time to fly
This is a tricky balance to get right. Early morning and light night flights will see less crowded planes, and usually a more relaxed staff partial to letting you sit where you want. Conversely, if your flight is half full, your chances of getting that coveted upgrade are slim. A full flight (or a slightly oversold one) is the Upgrade Witching Hour. However, if you choose to fly during a busy period, and don’t get that upgrade, prepare to be wedged between ‘Guy That Won’t Stop Talking To You’ and ‘Sleeping Woman in the Aisle Seat’.
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8. Volunteer to be bumped
These super-booked flights can work to your advantage in other ways though; it’s common practice nowadays for airlines to overbook their flights, and when this happens it’s the new normal for staff to call on intrepid volunteers to step down and take a later flight. If you’re booked on a long-haul flight with a premier airline, often volunteering to get bumped will mean a sweet First Class seat in return. However, double-check this before you go raising your hand, because no-frills airlines and domestic routes don’t tend to offer upgrades.
9. Get to the check in desk early
Those punctuality lectures from your parents were spot on, the early bird really does get the worm. Get to the airport early; if you’re one of the first people at the check-in desk, you’ll also be one of the first to request an upgrade.
10. No harm in asking…
Flyers can sometimes be positively Victorian when it comes to asking for an upgrade, but chancing your luck is probably the best tip we can give you. Just plaster a smile on your face, be polite, and ask if there are any upgrades going.