10 Tips to Help You Score a Flight Upgrade

You’re tired of economy class. Instead, you want to spend your flight relaxing in first class, soaking up the spacious seats and good food. While there are always going to be situations when first class is full and you’re just out of luck, there are also going to be plenty of opportunities to try to work your way to the front of the plane. Most of the time, the little things that go a long way.

Ready for that flight upgrade you’ve been dreaming of? Here’s a list of tips to help.

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1. Travel during quiet times

Sky Scanner writes that there’s always a better chance of upgrading to business class by booking during times when business travelers may not be flying. Look for holidays that bankers have off when booking your flight.

2. Check upgrade availability frequently

“Although upgrade seats may not be available at the time you [purchase] the coach ticket the inventory for upgrades is constantly changing, right up until the time of departure. You can check with your airline every day or several times a week or you can use an alert service from some online services,” says Expert Flyer.

The best time to check in with airports is typically around 24 hours before your departure. You can also sign up for flight alerts, which allow you to program your flight or preferred flight for an upgrade. The alert will automatically search for open availability and let you know as soon as it’s open, giving you the best chance to scoot on up to the front.

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3. Just ask

It’s worth a shot, right? According to the Telegraph, a MoneySavingExpert.com poll showed that 4 percent of participants said they received a free upgrade just by asking someone at the check-in desk. When you do ask, have a good reason: There’s a better chance you’ll get your request if you have a valid excuse, such as being pregnant, celebrating a special occasion, or being exceptionally tall.

4. Stay single

Traveling as a pair or with kids is not going to work in your favor when you’re trying to get an upgrade, writes News.com.au. Even if there are two seats available up front, they’ll probably offer them to solo travelers first.

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5. Ask once and only once

This isn’t a situation in which being pushy is going to get you your way. “Embrace your inner wallflower, and after you voice your ‘upgrade availability,’ stay visible and near the desk but don’t continue to inquire. This is a busy time for the agents trying to get everyone out on time,” according to the Huffington Post.

6. Be nice

Try a smile and a nice word or two when hoping to upgrade, Carolyn Paddock, owner of Inflight Insider, told Bankrate. From the second you enter the airport, be friendly. You’re not sure who will ultimately make the decision about your upgrade. And frequent fliers may have an even bigger advantage. If someone at the airport recognizes you and remembers how friendly you are, it could greatly increase your chances. So whether it’s an early morning or a late night, smile.

Source: American Airlines

7. Be a first-class dresser

The way you dress could be the extra push you need to get your first-class seat, the Huffington Post says. The day you’re hoping to upgrade is not the day to wear flip flops and ripped jeans. According to Bankrate, if there’s a seat open in first class, it’s most likely going to the person who’s dressed like they should be sitting there. No need to go overboard with a full suit — nice and neat will do.

8. Be early

Your flight may only have one or two upgraded seats available. To have a better chance of scoring a spot in first class, check in 11 hours before your scheduled departure, Sky Scanner says. If you get there before anyone else, the check-in attendants may be able to let you know if there are spare seats in first class. Since you’re the first one there, you’ll more than likely get dibs.

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9. Have a frequent flier membership

If you fly often enough, a membership could help you earn elite status, which typically starts at 25,000 miles, Bankrate says. It’ll bring you a wide range of perks, including (fingers crossed) a free upgrade. If anything, it’ll at least give you an advantage over others vying for a first-class seat.

10. Choose your route strategically

An upgrade can occur when the economy class cabin is full or oversold but premium cabins aren’t, the Telegraph writes — so traveling on a busy flight may actually work in your favor. “Flights to beach resorts during the school holidays, when the majority of fellow passengers will be families, are a good bet. Monday morning flights to Frankfurt — not so much,” according to the publication.

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