No matter how much you may love (or hate) airports and travel, flying coach is always a cramped hassle. While some people may be able to sleep or read through a crowded flight, there’s no denying that first class is a far better option. But who wants to pay four times the ticket price just for a better meal and a little more leg room?
Fortunately, you may not have to. If you’re not on a strict schedule or traveling with a group, you have a chance at getting a free seat upgrade from the airline. Of course, some people have a better chance than others at getting bumped to first class. Following these ten tips, you could soon be sipping chardonnay and trying the complimentary slippers on your next flight.
1) Arrive Early
First and foremost, the early bird gets the worm. There are usually only a few seats available for upgrades and these will usually be claimed by whoever asks first. Plan to make it to your terminal an hour or more early and be the first to ask.
2) Dress for First Class
To be seated business casual, you must look business casual. Put some effort into your appearance and choose clothes that are both comfortable and classy. Think fancy dinner with your special someone’s parents kind of classy, but feel free to select soft fabrics for a comfortable flight.
3) Be Flexible About Timing
Passengers that are willing to wait an hour or two in the lovely airport for an upgrade are more likely to see one, especially if your plane was over-booked. If the airline attendants ask for someone to give up their seat, try volunteering to wait if you get first class on the next flight.
4) Don’t Have a Huge Carry-On
The last thing you want is to make your upgrade a hassle for the staff, they make the decisions. Having a huge carry-on that must be hauled around is a blatant discourager for an upgrade. Instead, choose something sleek like a drop-leg bag or a shoulder holster that barely registers as a carry-on and doesn’t need to be stowed.
5) Ask Politely
In order to be bumped to first class, you’ll need to actually ask for an upgrade, but never demand or sound like you’re complaining. It’s up to the airline staff to decide and they’re more likely to choose someone who has asked them in a cheerful, friendly, and polite manner. Always be considerate of airline staff.
6) Be ‘On the List’
Often, when upgrades are being decided, the staff will look at who is on the airline frequent-flyers membership list first. Even if you don’t travel often, it’s easy to join the club online before your flight which will increase your chances of an upgrade.
7) Take a ‘Lesser’ First Class Seat
If you don’t mind sitting in the center (first class) seat or next to a young child, mention it. Flight attendants often have trouble seating these spots and people often request to be moved away from them if assigned there. This can create an open spot for you with better food, leg room, and drinks. You might even get a great conversation partner from the five-year-old next to you marveling at their window seat.
8) Share Your Special Occasions
Most service personnel love to join customers in celebrating their special occasions. If you’re traveling for your birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, or another personal event, let the attendant know in a friendly way when you request your upgrade. Even if they can’t grant the upgrade, you might still get a few complimentary extras if you share the joy.
9) Take Busy Flights
Most upgrades occur because there are too many people in coach and open spaces in first class. This means you’re more likely to get bumped to first class if you fly during peak times where flights are more likely to be over-booked.
10) Be a Joy to the Staff
Finally, do your best to delight the staff. They deal with complainers and stressed out passengers all day long. They get snapped at, treated like servants, and yelled at for no reason. Be the highlight of their day by smiling, making jokes, and being respectful. If the desk attendants like you, they’re more likely to assign you an upgrade. When the flight attendants like you, they might even move you up after boarding if your coach seat is somehow flawed.
Flying first class doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re dressed well, don’t have much baggage, delightful to the staff, and willing to spend a little extra time in the airport, you can massively increase your chances of getting bumped to first class.