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8 first-class ways to get a flight upgrade 🍾

August 7, 2017

Let’s be real for a second, for most of us first-class travel, or even business-class for that matter, will be largely unattainable. Exorbitant ticket fees mean the allure of champagne flutes on arrival and fully reclining seats will remain a figment of the imagination. But… there are a couple of tactics and insider tricks of the trade you can use to try and wangle your way into the elite in aviation transport. Take a peek at our carefully curated tips – they may come in handy for future trips.

Travel when it’s quiet

You will find throughout the year there are ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’ times for flying. It might sound strange given there are always planes in the sky but you can find quieter times both in terms of time of day and time of year. For example, flying on Bank Holidays are likely to be less busy given business people will probably not be flying – however you can find these times for flying are a little on the expensive side. But, if the stars align and Jupiter’s third moon can be seen from Earth with the naked eye you might find there is a business-class seat that has your name on it.

Fly solo

If anyone knows a thing or two about upgrading it’s Beyoncé, in her hit song ‘Upgrade U’ she said it best, “I’m known to walk alone, but I’m alone for a reason.” The reason is so queen B can make out she’s eschewed her entourage in order to get a free upgrade (although we actually suspect this isn’t a problem she regularly encounters). Alas, for us mere mortals flying solo can be the ticket you need to get that upgrade. Airlines are more likely to offer single fliers a bumped up seat over a travelling couple.

Be a frequent flyer

Be loyal to your airline and they will might be loyal to you. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that being a frequent flyer or holder of an airline loyalty card will get you that ticket to the Promised Land but it’s a decent place to start. Plus, with a lot of airlines even if you don’t get that elusive upgrade, you might still be privy to other discounts and rewards so investing in a loyalty program is always worth it.

Get there early

It sounds like a bit of a pre-requisite for flying but you’d be surprised what attention to punctuality can get you. If a flight is close to fully booked and only has a couple of spare, what we will now refer to as, elite-seats showing up a few hours early could be your opportunity to bag an upgrade. Rocking up for your flight hours in advance is a risk that you need to be willing to take, however. If it pays off you might get a cheeky upgrade. If not, you could have a lot more time to kill in the airport Wetherspoon’s.

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Dress the part

Looking the part means you feel the part. You have a spring in your step and exude a higher level of confidence when people can see you’re in your Sunday best. Airline staff also notice it. Ambling up to the check-in desk in your tracksuit and hoodie – which there’s nothing wrong with, by the way – creates a certain impression. Equally, striding up in a crisp suit and a pair of suede brogues with a copy of Outliers under your arm screams something else and, as vein as it sounds, could be the catalyst for an upgrade.

Have a honeymoon

If you’re high on life after your wedding, chances are you’ll be carrying on the feel-good factor with a honeymoon to some far flung, exotic destination. There is no harm in letting the airline know you’re off on your post-nuptials to see what you can blag. It might be a free glass of bubbly, it might be a plush upgrade so you can travel in style or it might be nothing but a thumbs-up and a chorus of “congratulations! We’re so happy for you!” either way you won’t know till you try.

How’s your luck?

Some are born lucky, some achieve luck and some have luck thrust upon them. If you fall in to any of these categories then it might be worth chancing your arm and seeing where the luck takes you. It could be all the way to the top… deck of the plane… in first-class. As the old saying goes, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.’

Cough up

We don’t mean go up to the check-in desk and start spluttering uncontrollably. That’s going to win you no friends. No, what we mean is in order to get the plush leather seat that reclines fully and doubles up as a hotel bed, you might just need to cough up the money in order to take the step up to the elite-seats. Sometimes the language of currency speaks loudest. How profound!

Jack O'RiordanView all posts

    Jack is the editor of The Leisure Lounge. Expert in the art of writing things and putting them online. Loves travelling, especially anywhere in southeast Asia. Hates mushrooms.