How To Score A Flight Upgrade

22 August 2013

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit in the pointy end of the plane? Fancy a cabin class flight upgrade the next time you fly to maybe premium economy, business class or even go for gold and hope for first class? Take a few Flight Centre tips on board and we could soon have you nibbling canapés and sipping champagne with an upgrade to a superior class.

Snappy dressers snare the prize

Casual is as casual does, and nothing screams "unprepared for business class" like being underdressed.

 Relax in Premium Economy

You wouldn't dine in an upscale restaurant in your finest pair of tracksuit pants, so what makes you think you can secure an upgrade in them?

Surveys show that well-dressed travellers are the most likely to score a move to a superior class, so consider ditching the slacks and donning a suit if you’re looking to settle into a business class seat.

Join a loyalty program

It should be the most obvious tactic in your arsenal, yet many travellers presume they’ll score an upgrade despite not being a member of an airline’s loyalty program.

While it's not strictly necessary to be on an airline’s books, you've got a much better chance of being upgraded if you’re a regular card-carrying passenger. Expect to jump towards the head of the queue if you can prove your allegiance in an era in which brand-loyalty can seem like a relic of a bygone era.

Think about your flight times

Is your Saturday night reserved for dinner and a movie? Unless you're a calculating traveller, so too is everyone elses'.

The less popular a flight time, the more likely your chances of securing an upgrade to a coveted business class seat. Many airlines over-subscribe flights, leaving midweek mornings and weekend evenings the best times to land an upgrade.

Check in at the counter

Life might be faster in the age of automation, but have you ever tried to sweet-talk a machine? These days there are countless convenient ways to check in for a flight, but none of them are likely to result in an upgrade unless they involve speaking to an actual human being.

Checking in at the counter offers you the opportunity to state your case for an upgrade. Whether it’s an urgent need for more leg room, a sudden bout of travel sickness or simply the fact that you’re a smooth talker, none will make a difference unless you’re talking to someone with a potential upgrade at their fingertips.

Don’t forget to smile

"Smile when you say that" goes the old idiom, yet it's noticeable how few travellers pay airline staff even the most common courtesy.

In a hectic, often crowded environment, being the stand-out who smiles can prove the make-or-break difference when it comes to securing an upgrade. Manners cost nothing, so even if you fail to leave the hoi-polloi of economy behind, you’ll still have brightened someone’s day by speaking pleasantly and offering them a smile.

The end result

There are ultimately no hard and fast rules when it comes to bypassing economy en route to a business class flight upgrade. However, a combination of forward planning, sensible attire and a respectful demeanour will have you in the running – if not for an upgrade, then at the very least a pleasant flight.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.