Once upon a time airline upgrades were a common occurrence, but not anymore. They can occasionally happen in the right circumstances. Here at Unique Boutique Travel, we have put together a list of tips that will maximise your chances of securing a rare upgrade. Our preferred airline is British Airways.
It helps to understand what is going on behind the scenes when an upgrade option becomes available. Airlines almost always oversell seats. This means that if they have 20 seats available in Premium Economy, they may sell 25 seats. This is because of several reasons. Passengers fail to show up and others pay for last-minute upgrades. Most of the time this model works. However, sometimes all 25 passengers turn up, meaning that if there is room in Business Class, 5 of these customers will be upgraded.
Here are some tips to maximise your chances of being one of those lucky 5.
1. Belong to the airline’s Frequent Flyer program
Airlines are much more likely to offer upgrades to their most frequent flyers, therefore belonging to their frequent flyer program is going to give you an edge over the other travellers. Amongst a group of frequent flyers priority will most likely be given based on status, so Silver will have a greater chance of an upgrade over Bronze.
2. Travel alone
In nearly all cases, free upgrades happen to solo travellers. This is because there is ever only a handful of upgrades available, and it is easier to seat a single passenger than two or more.
3. Dress well
If you have arrived for the flight in beach attire, you have virtually no chance of being offered a free upgrade. Airlines have standards and if you want to have a chance of an upgrade, wear smart casual attire.
4. Relaxed behaviour
The airline wants someone who will quietly, but appreciatively accept their upgrade. If you appear boisterous, loud or excitable you won’t stand a chance. Arrive at the check-in desk in a quiet, calm and relaxed manner.
5. Offer to fly the following day
If the entire flight is full, airlines will often ask for volunteers who are willing to travel the next day. They will generally put you in a hotel overnight and pay for your food. The trick here is to volunteer on the condition that you’ll get an upgrade on the next day’s flight.
6. Special occasion
Advise the booking and check-in desk staff if you are travelling for a special occasion, such as a wedding or an anniversary if you are lucky you may get an upgrade. We have heard this has worked in the past, but in the experience Unique Boutique Travel this is unlikely to work. In 2017 we flew with British Airways in Premium Economy for our wedding in Sydney, Australia. We advised the staff at the check-in desk and received nothing more than a complimentary bottle of champagne once onboard. Try your luck with this tip, but don’t hold out much hope.
7. What not to do
Asking outright for an upgrade is never going to work, so don’t pester the staff. Making demands, being rude or attempting to bribe the staff will also backfire. If you are on board the flight and you decide to commandeer a vacant seat in Business Class you will quickly find yourself escorted back to your seat. The flight crew are only too aware of which seats should be vacant.