This is How to Score First Class Upgrades, Even When You're Flying Coach
Sitting in coach but craving an upgrade to first class? We hear you. It may not be easy scoring those elusive travel perks, but we’re upping your chances with the top tips and secret tricks for scoring a better seat on that airplane, straight from flight attendants and travel professionals who know how to make it happen. First class perks, here you come!
Be the last to boardSo what's one secret way to score a better seat on your next flight? Says flight attendant Shreyas Pariah, whose worked for five major airlines: “Be the last person to board the aircraft… this way you always know which are the empty seats and can choose your own seat or even a row of empty seats.”
The takeaway? Don’t be so quick to jump in line when they starting boarding the plane. Best case scenario, there may just be an open seat waiting for you in first class…
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Make your case at the gateSjaak Schulteis, a flight attendant of 30 years with Lufthansa German Airlines says, when it comes to special requests or upgrades, not to wait until you are entering the plane or on-board the flight. Advises Schulteis: “At the gate is another story… you might get an upgrade if you book an economy seat, business class has empty seats and economy is full.”
The takeaway: Whatever your strategy, put the wheels in motion at the gate, preferably before the plane is close to boarding and the workers at the gate are bombarded by passengers wanting to get on the flight.
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Opt for the least popular flight timesFormer travel agent Benjamin Black Perley recommends you “fly somewhere at 5AM on a weekday or virtually anytime on a Saturday” when flights are less likely to be full.
The takeaway? If it makes no difference to you, it might be worth choosing that less attractive red-eye flight in order to increase your chances at an upgrade — or even just a more comfortable flight experience. Odds are you won’t find yourself stuffed between strangers, and possibly even discover your row is empty altogether. Stretching out across the three seats with no one reclining the seat in front of you definitely qualifies as a perk.
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Ask with a smileDesmond Butts, an airline pilot since 2015, suggests trying it the old-fashioned way. “Just ask!” Says Butts, “I have seen things happen all the time. I see seats open when I fly. I tell the flight attendants to fill first class almost every time.”
The takeaway? Speak up, and do it with a smile! You never know when a seat might be open for the first person to just ask…
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Don't abuse the call buttonFlight attendant Susan Brown has a tip: “If you want extra snacks… it is better for you to go to the galley (kitchen) and ask for it… instead of pressing the call bell.” Adds Brown, “You get on the crew’s better side if you go to the galley yourself.” Speaking of snacks, flight attendants will hate if you bring any of these snacks aboard a plane.
The takeaway? Consider how annoying it might be to get summoned to seat after seat via that call bell and make your requests discreetly in person. That could just be the ticket to some food and drink perks. Read on for some more things flight attendants don’t like you doing.
Hope for an overbooked flightSo this one might be out of your hands, but according to Qatar Airways worker Sahil Jain, “Upgradation happens usually in case of overbooking.” That isn’t to say you should give up hope, as Jain adds, “it happens to normal people too randomly but quite rare. So next time try to impress the airline personnel and you just might be able to sip that Dom Perignon in a champagne flute while reading the latest edition of TIME with a fortune 500 CEO sitting next to you.”
The takeaway: While you can’t predict overbooking or flight issues, try to take it with a grain of salt – you never know when that unexpected cause for delay might leave you open for an upgrade!
Volunteer to get "bumped"With over 14 million miles under his belt, pilot and air traffic controller Hachi Ko has seen it all. When it comes to upgraded seats and flight options, he says: “You can set yourself up for a free upgrade if you’re willing to take a voluntary bump on your original flight.”
The takeaway: Next time the gate announces that your flight is full and they are in search of volunteers to check their carry-on or change their flight, consider being that volunteer. The gate crew may just be so relieved to get the flight back on track that your good deed could score you an upgraded seat on the alternate flight, or first-class perks you might otherwise have missed out on.
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Be loyal to your airline and “look the part”It never hurts to look as though you “belong.” According to airline pilot Bruno Gilissen, aside from actually paying for an upgrade, he says: “The best odds you have is if you are a frequent flyer with the airline. Loyal customers are often the first ones who get the spoils, and rightfully so. After that, it would make sense that upgraded passengers 'fit in' where they’ll be seated… Hint: the laptop-carrying guy in smart casual won’t look out of place.”
The takeaway: Sticking with the same airline, and being able to play the customer loyalty card can’t hurt when inquiring about available perks. Looking professional or put-together also might work in your favour.
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Use an inconvenience to your advantageReddit user and flight attendant @iambfizzle notes that certain in-flight inconveniences, such as the “TV not working, seat not reclining” may warrant special attention. “If a customer… politely complains about it… and the only seats available are upgrade seats then I will let them switch,” @iambfizzle says.
The takeaway? That broken tray table or impossible-to-adjust seat belt might be the thing that scores you a free pass to first, so make a point to mention it to the flight attendant, but make sure you do so politely. Regardless of whether or not it results in an upgrade, there’s no point in ticking off your flight attendant before the plane even leaves the ground.
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Sign up for reward programsAirport planner Annie Lindseth recommends finding an airline you like and sticking to it. “Now that you've committed to an airline, you should maximize its amenities. A frequent flyer number is essential, but you may also want to consider credit cards that provide airline points. Many of these cards provide airport lounge access, free checked bags, and other convenient features.”
The takeaway: If there’s a loyalty program you can sign up for, don’t hesitate. Putting yourself on any kind of frequent flyer list will give you priority access over someone who isn’t part of the program, so that’s an immediate advantage you can leverage to your benefit down the road.
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