Like many folks, you too, have probably flown in the economy section of an aircraft wishing for more space, more accommodating service, and better food options. While these dreams lie just feet ahead behind the dark curtain in the designated first-class area, most people cannot afford to fly in comfort. Business class and first class tickets are outrageously priced due to the limited seating available, and the high-class clientele they wish to attract to fill those seats.
Although the odds are not in one's favor, upgrades are given from time to time and if you are knowledgeable, you may be next in line for it. Free upgrades range from free food to free ticket vouchers, and are given to airline passengers for several different reasons. With a little timeliness and effort, you, too, may experience an airline upgrade. This can work out very well especially if you've already got cheap flight ticket.
The number one rule when traveling is to always be sure to dress to impress. Many airline ticket agents tend to give available upgrades to those dressed in appropriate attire in order to maintain the prestigious image of first-class. Although, flip-flops and ripped jeans are more comfortable to fly in, a dress or suit may increase your chances at getting bumped up to first-class.
Don't be afraid to ask
Every time you travel make sure to ASK for upgrades. If you don't ask, you may miss out. On occasion airlines have a seat upgrade they would like to give away. It is usually given to the first person that asks. Every time you check in, and even at the gate when you board, ask if there are any seat upgrades being given away on that flight. Although you will most likely be denied, there is a chance you may be given the gift of first class.
A secondary rule to asking is speaking up. When a legitimate problem arises with a malfunctioning TV, a faulty seatbelt, or an obnoxious neighbor, be sure to calmly notify cabin crew of the situation as it may warrant a new seat. If economy happens to be full, this new seat just may be in first or business class. At the very least you should be given some other form of compensation such as free beverages, free food, or a travel voucher for future use depending on the severity of your claim.
Be friendly to flight attendants and other passengers!
Cooperation is definitely a quality you should possess, as it may pay off one day. Although you will not know if you will benefit beforehand, moving from your assigned seat, when asked by a crew member in order to accommodate another passenger, may result in a free some free upgrades. When another flyer will better benefit from your seat, flight attendants will ask if you would be willing to move to another seat. In many instances free food and/or beverages are offered to you in return for your cooperation. While it is rare, sometimes a free seat upgrade is awarded.
Checking in early or late can also increase your chances of receiving a free seat upgrade. Booking a last minute ticket can sometimes help too. Checking in early puts you first in line to grab an upgrade if one becomes available. On the other hand, checking in late may get you the upgrade if the flight is overbooked and seats are available in first or business class. However, if they are overbooked and seating is a first come, first serve basis, then you may be bumped off the flight altogether. Therefore, it is not a recommended strategy if flying on that particular flight is important. If you are bumped, there's a great chance you'll get a discount or a free flight next time.
Flexibility may not always be an option, but when it is, being flexible can pay off. During busy traveling times such as holidays, flights frequently get overbooked. Flights to Europe and other long distance routes often book up quickly too. When this occurs, airlines will usually offer free flight vouchers to those willing to catch the next flight. This is a great deal, especially when the next flight is only a couple of hours later.
When traveling, notify your travel agent if you are traveling for a special occasion, such as a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday. Also tell the check-in agent these details at check-in. In many instances this has gotten passengers a free glass of champagne, a free meal, and even free seat upgrades.
The next time you fly, try using a few of these tips. It may land you in the lap of luxury.
Matt Reider is the manager of CanuckAbroad Travel - a Canadian travel site specializing in finding discount airfare, hotels as well as information and services for expats living and working abroad.