Nailed It: 8 Ways To Bag A Flight Upgrade

By Clare Acheson
23rd Aug 2016

Flying everywhere first class is basically the dream, but unfortunately it’s a very costly dream that the vast majority of us won’t dare fork out for. If you’re keen to score yourself a flight upgrade without forking over the cash (hey, I could go to Bali for a week on the fee for extra legroom…), read on for some tips that have worked for the world’s savviest travellers.

#1: Travel Solo

It’s waaaay easier to upgrade one person who isn’t travelling with a family and kids/a entire stag do in tow, so if you’re crossing your fingers for the elusive upgrade, you’re best to do it when you’re flying solo.

#2: Look The Part

Sure, it ain’t all about looks, but your chances of getting bumped up to business are higher if you look, uh, like you might actually run a business? We’re not talking travelling with a heap of Louis Vuitton monogrammed luggage in your Prada heels—although we’re sure that’d turn a few heads—but dressing neatly and generally looking like you’ve got your shit together, rather than are returning from a full moon party, is more likely to get you upgraded as you can be trusted not to cause chaos.

#3: Get There Early… Or Super-Late

Upgrades are most likely to happen a) as soon as a gate opens, on both under-booked and over-booked flights, or b) two seconds before the gates close, on an under-booked flight. So think about how busy your flight is likely to be and plan accordingly. Flying at 2pm on a Wednesday? Get there late, apologise, and ask politely if there are any spare seats up front. Flying at 8am on a Monday? Get there early and pray.

#4: Join The Rewards Schemes Before Booking

Reward schemes not only earn you frequent flyer points, they can also be an easy way to get heaps of bonuses during your flight experience, from extra glasses of vino to a seat swap on under-booked flights. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

#5: Have Your Paperwork In Order

If you have any additional paperwork, other than your passport, such as student visa documents or medical certificates, be sure to show the attendant that checks you in. More paperwork = extenuating circumstances which, if they have room, can lead to an epic freebie.

#6: Remind Attendants That It’s A Special Occasion

Are you flying on a birthday trip? Just gotten hitched? Or are you settling into a 20-hour flight to surprise your folks on the other side of the world? Let the flight team know with a hint that, if there’s anything they can do for you, you’d greatly appreciate it.

#7: Be A Nice Human Being

Surprise, surprise! Being a nice human being can actually get you places, especially if you’re flying from a busy airport where staff are usually only spoken to when passengers want to complain. Crack a joke, say that you really appreciate what the flight staff do in your most sincerest tone, and even volunteer to move without hassle if they ask to move someone from your row so that a family can sit together. It’s flight karma.

#8: Just Ask!

This one goes hand in hand with point #6. Sometimes, politely asking with a smile and your best puppy dog eyes is all it takes for someone to do you a favour that will save you 9+ hours of leg cramp. Good luck, fellow flyers.

Image credit: Gabrielle Stjernqvist

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