Who has never dreamed of sitting at the front of the aircraft and enjoying the comfort of business class by paying for an economy class ticket? If the upgrade remains a chance, here are ten tips to force fate.
1. Check your emails
On the day of departure, up to one hour before take-off, some airlines occasionally offer upgrades at bargain prices when seats are vacant in business class. If you accept, you will be asked to pay a flat rate (usually around €200 for a long-haul flight) or miles will be deducted from your loyalty card if you have one. If your mailbox is empty, do not hesitate to ask for the price of the upgrade at the counter of the company.
2. Be faithful
The loyalty card is precisely a major asset in your quest. Even if the status is at a low level, members get more attention, from a glass of champagne to the opportunity for an upgrade. And the higher the passenger’s status in the program, the more miles he has accumulated, the more priority he will have, confirms most airlines. An economically logical choice: it is better to offer an upgraded long haul to a regular customer, in the hope that during his next reservations, he will opt directly for a higher class. Know how to invest to hope for a return.
3. Choose the right period
When booking, the choice of timing is crucial. Business seats are mainly occupied, as their name suggests, by businessmen or women and personalities who travel mainly during the week. By prioritizing weekends and holidays to depart, the likelihood of having empty seats at the front of the aircraft will be higher. Also bet on a flight in the middle of the day rather than on an early morning schedule. However, school holidays should be avoided when the flights making the desired connections are overloaded, unless you bet on overbooking. At your own risk, because you are more likely to have to wait for the next plane than to enjoy a glass of champagne in a comfortable armchair.
4. Arrive (really) very early…
If spending hours in duty-free shops and airport restaurants doesn’t scare you, patience can sometimes pay off. In the event that the flight has only one or two free seats, arriving early at check-in could facilitate the process with some companies. Be careful though, early does not mean four hours before the flight, but more than ten hours! Notice to amateurs.
5. … or at the last minute
Conversely, for other companies, the decision to upgrade is made when the flight closes, one hour before take-off. It is therefore at the end of check-in, when most passengers have already boarded, that you are most likely to be moved to a higher class. This would work particularly well at peak times, but beware of missing the check-in.
6. Travel alone
If a seat becomes available, it will obviously be easier for the purser to accommodate a solo passenger. If an upgrade is sometimes granted to a couple, during honeymoons for example, families can give up on their dream of migrating as a tribe. Airlines value the serenity of the space and avoid (rightly) installing young children there.
7. Be kind
Don’t forget: nothing is due to you. If courtesy and kindness are precious qualities in everyday life, they are also valuable at the airport. We will therefore bet on his sympathy capital: showing a good row of teeth may earn you a few positions in the ranks of passengers who are candidates for upgrade.
8. Wear proper attire
The habit does not make the monk, but can work in your favor or, conversely, against you. “We are not asked to wear a suit and tie, but there is a minimum. A person wearing shorts or flip flops will not be upgraded. Jeans and sneakers can also be prohibitive for some pursers”, admits a Cabin Crew Member from a regular company. Forget the comfortable but shapeless pants, sartorial elegance is the key!
9. Take care of your relationships
It is a fact, having a relative who works for the borrowed airline can help. The person concerned should ideally file a letter of request with the captain of the flight and the purser to explain that their brother or their best friend is on board the plane. If there are free places, then an upgrade may possibly be possible. If this is not your case, know that diplomatic passports also have magical powers…
10. Cultivate your uniqueness
Got a leg in a cast? A significant overweight that could disturb your seat neighbor? You are pregnant ? Be proud, these characteristics could well be worth changing your class. And if you also travel on your birthday, the chances that the flight attendants will pay attention to you will be doubled… Madam, Sir, would you like a little haircut?
This article originally published on August 10, 2021 has been updated.