Wouldn’t it be nice to change from being crammed into an overbooked flight with minimal legroom space to instead be enjoying a grandiose experience sipping champagne and enjoying your very own comfortable bed 10,000 meters up in the air?
Business class and first class is expensive, that’s true for sure. However, if you know these tricks you might just be able to receive such upgrade to first-class on your next flight. For FREE!
I’ve personally done these tricks with successful outcomes on a number of occasions. It started with me exploring different techniques as a quest to complete this on my bucket list (to fly first class), and since then I’ve gained a set of techniques that keep enabling me to get upgrades (and I had over 60 flights in 2016 alone). Here’s a list of the secrets for getting a business class/first class upgrade:
1. Book Directly With the Airline
Rather than using a third-party website, book your flight directly through an airline’s website. Their systems are likely to know that you did, and when it comes time to inquire about that upgrade, you’ll be treated as if you’re loyal to that specific airline — at least to a certain degree.
2. Follow Up
Related to the tip above, be sure to check your mailbox regularly. That is, if your flight is overbooked, then the airline may be emailing you to see if you’re okay by being bumped to a later flight while receiving an upgrade.
3. Use Your Connections
Should you be so lucky and know someone who works for an airline? Perhaps a friend or family member? If so, then ask that connection what they can do for you (it doesn’t hurt to ask!). The things is, employees of airlines often get incredible perks that they may share with their friends and family.
Psst! Should someone help you out then be sure to return the favour and show your gratitude!
4. Show Up Early…
If you’re at the gate or check-in really early for your flight, then you have ample time to chat up the attendants and to see if they might be able to hook you up with that desired first-class upgrade.
5. Or Get There Late!
Given that many airlines will overbook their flights, if you show up late, then you might get bumped. Time-wise that’s an inconvenience, but if you can deal with that it could equal getting first-class treatment.
I would not recommend this approach though! I would always advise that you give yourself ample time in case of unexpected events etc.
6. Non-Peak Times
If you are relatively flexible then travelling on non-peak times and generally slower days will increase your chances of getting a first-class upgrade as there will be more open seats and more potential for getting a first-class upgrade.
7. Go Alone
Flying by yourself may seem lonely, but consider that since you’re just one person, an airline will have a much easier time moving you up to first-class than they will with a couple or a family.
I’m not saying you should check in separately from your girlfriend in an attempt to get seated in first-class while she would end up in the back though!
8. The Birthday Upgrade
Flying on or around your birthday, maybe for a special occasion?
Let the check-in and gate attendants know about it! From the kindness of their own hearts, they might be able to hook you up in style.
Some might just outright give you an upgrade just because it’s your birthday without you ever having to notify them. Just as my girlfriend and I got from Cathay Pacific on our flight from Hong Kong to Cebu, Philippines.
9. Dress for the Occasion
I’ve talked to numerous of people within the airline industry (at one point flying next to one of the senior managers at Emirates) and they all say more or less the same: you are more likely to get an upgrade if you are dressed well. So, with this in mind — while it’s more comfy to wear that hoodie and jogger pants — if you want to increase your chances of an upgrade then put on something nicer and more “business-oriented”.
I have some friends who even purposely use sunglasses at the airport to supposedly resemble celebrities. I can’t say for sure whether that something that actually works — but they say it does!
10. Know When to Whine
This is probably the only trick I feel uncomfortable with and refrain from doing myself — but it’s a trick that is destined to work from time to time.
If you’ve got something to complain about, then complain about it. In order to keep you on their side, an upgrade could be coming your way.
However, don’t be that person who complains just for the sake of complaining (when everything is more or less in order).
11. Travel Rewards Credit Cards
This one really goes without saying, but if you don’t have a travel rewards credit card for racking up miles, then it’s time to get one.
I’ll be posting a specific post in the future about travel rewards credit cards. Stay tuned for that.
12. Loyalty = Royalty
Rather than flying with multiple different airlines, just stick with one (as much as possible) and definitely sign up for their rewards program. That loyalty can lead to amazing long-term benefits — although it might cost a bit more for individual tickets in the short term.
13. Don’t Forget to Ask
If you don’t ask then there’s definitely slimmer chance of ever scooping up a first-class upgrade. And what do you got to lose by asking? Nothing! Sometimes it is more or less just a law of averages kind of thing. Ask often enough and you’re bound to be successful every now and then.
So there you go! Hope you learned something useful. Now go out and try these tricks. Who doesn’t want a business or first class seat for free?!