Buying a business class flight is expensive, but it is a fantastic experience. If your budget won’t stretch to booking the class you’d prefer, here are some tips for getting an upgrade without the expense. While there’s no sure-fire way of obtaining an upgrade for free, there are some ways to increase your chances and some options for upgrading cheaply…
Check the flight seating
The first step is to check how full your flight is the day before you go. This will alert you as to the possibility of an upgrade. If economy and premium economy are all booked up but there are several seats available in business class, then that’s the perfect situation. If some passengers decide to upgrade from economy to premium economy at the airport, they’ll be looking for some premium passengers to move into those vacant business class seats and that could be you.
Carefully pick your check in time
The best plan is to check in early. If you check in later, any upgrades may already have been allocated. Occasionally a last minute check in can also bring results, but getting there early is the best plan.
Choose your travel outfit with care
Dress up for the flight and you’re increasing your chances of an upgrade. Staff are more likely to upgrade someone dressed smartly, than someone in flip flops, jeans and a scruffy slogan t-shirt.
Be quiet and calm
The check in staff will be assessing how suitable your personality is for that business class seat. If you’re talking loudly in the queue, laughing and joking or discussing how you’re about to head to the bar, they will most likely overlook you for the upgrade and pick someone who is being calm. The considerations of other passengers who have paid for their business class seats will certainly be taken into account and they will be looking for someone who will fit in without being a nuisance.
Be the first to offer to alter your plans
Flights are often oversubscribed and airlines will ask around to see if anyone is prepared to take an alternative flight. If you don’t mind flying later, or even the next day, you could get an upgrade in return for your inconvenience. You may also be offered air miles, which you could spend on an upgrade at a later date.
Drop a very subtle hint
If you happen to be flying off on your honeymoon or for some other major event, then just slip this into conversation at check-in. You never know how you might be rewarded. It might not be an upgrade but you may just get a free drink or other treat on your flight.
Ask for a price on an upgrade
If there are business class seats empty, the staff will be keen to sell them, and as it’s last minute, you could find that the prices are very low. It’s better for the airline to sell the seats cheaply than not at all, so it’s well worth asking.
Join the frequent flyer scheme
You’re increasing your upgrade chances if you’ve signed up for the airline’s loyalty scheme. You’ll also fare better if you fly often and you’ve moved up within the scheme above the basic level. This will show the airline staff that you’re a valued customer.
Travel on your own
It’s very rare that there will be two or more seats available for a free upgrade, so you’re massively increasing your chances of an upgrade if you fly alone.
Politely mention any issues with your seat
If there is anything wrong with your seat, then do politely mention this to the crew. For instance if your entertainment system is broken and you ask to be moved, they may just put you in an upgraded seat. Again, in this situation you may be offered air miles as compensation, another chance to save up miles to spend on future upgrades.
Emily is an avid writer with a passion for the travel industry. She also loves learning and writing about nutrition and healthy living. Emily is based in the UK.