How to bag that elusive upgrade

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Improve your chances of getting bumped up to a better seat by using these simple tactics

Free seat upgrades aren’t a myth. They really do happen. Admittedly – thanks to full flights, the airline industry’s adoption of a surcharge culture and advanced seat-booking systems – they’re a lot less frequent nowadays. But they still happen – even for fliers who haven’t done anything to “deserve” them!

Snagging one takes luck of course, but you can improve your chances using these simple tactics. Our spacious, featured image is by Richard Moross.

Better in-flight meals
Better in-flight meals. Photo by imgdive


Be a loyal customer

If possible, try to fly with the same airline as much as possible and rack up those air miles and loyalty scheme points. Upgrades are typically allocated to the passenger(s) on a flight with the most frequent-flier miles.

Chance your luck over the phone

Online check-in typically opens around 24-48 hours before departure time. Call your airline just before online check-in opens. Offer your frequent-flier number to the agent while inquiring if upgrades are on offer.

Better in-flight entertainment
Better in-flight entertainment. Photo by Global X


Dress well

If you’re going to be given the part, you’ve got to look it. While smart dress will never secure an upgrade on its own, scruffy dress will instantly rule you out.

Check-in early

It’s not only a case of being the first to ask. In the middle and latter period of check-in agents are rushed. If you want to have a chance to catch their attention, charm them even, you’ll need to show up when they’ve got time for more than mere pleasantries.

Better amenity kit
Better amenity kit. Photo by jeffedoe

Ask nicely

Be polite but direct. Something along the lines of “If you’re upgrading passengers on this flight, please consider me”. Oh and don’t bother asking if you’re in a party of more than two. It’s just not going to happen.

Be charming, irresistibly charming

What can we say? Charm will get you places, including the front seats of an aeroplane. Many people an agent sees are demanding, obnoxious and miserable. Stand out from the crowd with a winning smile.

Better seats
Better seats. Photo by Augapfel

Offer to get “bumped”

Offer to take an upgrade (you hero you!) on this flight or a later one if your class of ticket has been oversold.

Take a stand

Use a bad experience (flight time or date changed already, lost luggage in the past) as leverage for an upgrade. Sad though it is, this is probably the likeliest way you’ll get an upgrade these days.

Take. Every. Last. Opportunity

Seating charts don’t fully take shape until after check-in has closed. If you’ve no shame then ask again at the gate desk. You never know…

Just better all-round
Just better all-round. Photo by thetravelguru

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

How to bag that elusive upgrade was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to