Most of us would love a seat upgrade from economy to first class. You get to board the plane first, your seat and entertainment are superior, you are served food and drink throughout the flight and generally the entire experience of flying is more enjoyable. Because an upgrade is so desirable, it can be a rare occurrence and travelers should never assume that they will be able to secure an upgrade, even in exchange for cash or frequent flyer points. If first class is a priority due to comfort reasons, it should be reserved at the time of booking. If, however, you are willing to take a gamble on your seating class, you may wish to attempt to upgrade your seat at the airport. Read on for tips on how to score a free upgrade to first class:
1. Dress the part. Ticketing agents are far more likely to upgrade a passenger who is smartly dressed than one who is still wearing pajamas. While dressing the part does not guarantee an upgrade, it gets you off on the right foot.
2. Join a frequent flyer program. Purists might quibble that since there are usually fees associated with such programs, this doesn’t really count as a “free” upgrade. But some airlines offer such perks in return for flyer points, so for those who travel frequently anyway, the extra cost could be worth it. Participation in the program will also show loyalty toward the airline, which will garner the positive attention of the ticket agent in any case.
3. Arrive late to the gate. Clearly, this tip should be reserved for those who aren’t in a great hurry, as it carries the risk of being bumped off the flight. If time is not a concern, though, late arrivals stand a better chance of being upgraded, as the economy class might be overbooked and already full.
4. Travel during slower periods. A bump to first class during the holidays is practically unheard of. There’s a reason for that, of course: the flights are usually full, including the first class cabin. When the planes aren’t full, upgrades are more readily available, and the ticketing agents have the luxury of flexibility.
5. For last-minute trips, keep an eye out for bad weather. And then book a flight during the time when the storm is meant to be at its worst. While scoring first class upgrades can be a long shot, the trip will likely be delayed or cancelled, meaning economy class on later flights will be maxed out, and there’s a slightly better chance for the bumped patrons to score a seat in first class.
6. Offer to be bumped from the flight. Even without the “benefit” of inclement weather, flights are often overbooked. Passengers who are willing to give up their seats for a spot on a later flight can ask for an upgrade in return.
Whether you are flying first class or economy, it is important to purchase travel insurance to protect your trip.