Tips and Strategies - First Class Upgrade Secrets

Published: 26th July 2008
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Top 12 Ways to Upgrade to First Class on the Major Airlines

Getting Upgraded to First Class

These days with little profit and extra overheard costs, a flyer with no past history on a given airline has little chance of upgrading to first class. But it can happen if you do your homework. Hence why you are here today.

Method #1: Asking the ticket counter agent nicely or perhaps offering him/her a bribe. Does this work?



In 99% of the time absolutely not. In most cases on most airlines, the ticket agent is not authorized to upgrade passengers unless you have frequent flyer status and even with frequent flyer status, you will most likely need to use miles to get your upgrade. Of course you have to hope they actually have first class seats available for upgrade. With many frequent flyer programs, and with rules changing frequently due to airlines merging with other airlines, or the carrier simply revamping their frequent flyer program, many of the top tier frequent flyers get upgraded before they fly. Thus by the time you arrive at the airport, there is a good chance that the first class seats that have not been sold have been allocated to frequent flyers. Bribing a ticket agent can not only get the agent in hot water, but she will probably seat you at the back of the plane just for being stupid.

With some airlines, fellow flyers I have met have been clever enough to ask the ticket counter agent to kindly add a code to their ticket. Why? Because the code signifies to the gate agent that you as a passenger are potentially eligible for an upgrade. It works with the right airline and of course you will need to know which code to use as each airline uses different codes for different situations that are independent of other carriers.



Method #2 Dress smart and arrive as late as possible



There are plenty of flyers who believe in getting to the airport as early as possible in the hopes of either asking the counter agent for an upgrade or asking the gate agent for an upgrade. Believe me, I have tried thousands of charming ways to get upgraded and the employees are simply following the rules. Oh and they have heard every line in the book. So why would your line be any different?



Of course if you want to press your luck, you can arrive at the 11th hour and ask the gate agent for an upgrade, it will of course help to dress the part and of course hold some status even if its just a basic member in the airlines frequent flyer program. One method that has worked for me in the past is to tell them the reason you are late is because of a terrible experience you had with their competitor, sometimes if they think they have the potential to win the business of a frequent flyer from another carrier, they might put you in first class, space permitted since you are in an emotional state. It can work.



Method #3 Buying an Upgrade



Many domestic carriers in an attempt to earn more business will happily sell first class seat upgrades on a first come first serve basis. Obviously they want to earn as much money as possible and they will release first class seats typically only at the airport and only on the day of the departure. Instead of paying $1,200 for a first class flight coast to coast, you might end up paying 300 for the coach ticket and just 150 each way for the first class upgrade. Certainly better than begging for an upgrade and this is certainly better than using miles in many cases.



Of course this rate may not apply to you, on some airlines they only offer the upgrades to their frequent flyers first and only after they have exhausted all attempts at selling to their most loyal customers will they sell to you. Hint: Get a frequent flyer card as soon as possible. It's free and will only help you upgrade and of course you start to earn miles with your first flight.

If by chance you paid full fare for your coach ticket, there is still a chance of buying an upgrade, but like everything in this world, don't expect much with a free or heavily discounted coach ticket.



Method #4: It's not what you know but who you know



If you just so happen to be related to a family member or are friends with an airline employee, you certainly could ask for an upgrade, but keep in mind that airlines are in the business of making a profit, and if there are upgrades to sell, or loyal frequent flyers to keep happy, don't expect to be first inline for an upgrade.



On a positive note, keep in mind that suppliers, contractors and airline partners have some pull to get upgraded. It's not just family of the carrier's employees.



Method #5: Show a travel agent ID



Again, if and only if seats are available will an airline offer a free upgrade and even though a travel agent might have some pull, you always have to assume that frequent flyer status will help more than just travel agent status. If you have both, you will only improve your chances of an upgrade. It certainly does not hurt to try. You can of course become a travel agent for as little as $50 without having to sell anything.



Method #6: Ask a flight attendant for an upgrade if you a seat available



Typically flight attendants never upgrade passengers and simply asking for an upgrade is not going to work. However, there are legitimate reasons why a flight attendant will upgrade you. Here are a few.



1. An oversold flight - Typically airlines overbook flights and hope that some passengers will simply not show. If however there are more passengers than seats in coach, your best chance to be upgraded is to get assigned a seat towards the front of the aircraft. If there are no seats left and the flight is oversold, you may also be asked to volunteer to take a later fight. This would also mean compensation but of course not necessarily a first class upgrade.

2. A problem with your seat - In some cases where your seat has malfunctioned and you can not comfortably sit there, I.E. seatbelt problem or the seat will not stay in the up position, the flight attendant will make an attempt to find you another seat. If no other seats are available in coach yet space is available in first, you will be moved to first class. On the down side, this is a rare occurrence.

3. A problem with a fellow passenger - If by chance you are sitting next to a passenger and you have a legitimate complaint, the flight attendant can at her discretion, move you to first. This actually happened to me on a flight when I was trying to watch the small screen in front of me, and a senile old woman would not move. I was upgraded.



Method #7: Book with a travel agent



When you book with a travel agent, it is possible, with a valid reason, to have the agent mark your reservation with a comment, such as OSI (Other Significant Information). The record may indicate that you are a VIP or CEO of a big corporation. Airlines like to see this information as they are trying to win more and more business away from their competition. If there is a chance that an important decision maker is flying with them it could potentially mean extra revenue for the airline as they may want to try to win your company's account.



Method #8: Book directly with the airline



When you book directly with the airline, there is the possibility of also adding an OSI to your record, if you are a travel agent, travel writer, or event planner, it certainly won't hurt your chances.

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