Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

By Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG

If you’re like me, you like flying in the front of the plane. Nothing beats kicking back in a nice plush seat, or better yet an actual bed, dining like a rockstar while the miles just float by. If you’re like me, you also hate paying to fly in the front of the plane. I mean, who has 7 grand to blow on an international plane ticket, right? So, here are some tried and true hacks to increase your chances of getting a free or cheap upgrade to first or business class.

 

#1). Stick to one airline when you fly:

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

Loyalty to an airline really does pay off with perks including free upgrades. Find the airline that works best for you and enroll in their frequent flyer program. Airlines will usually upgrade a member of their frequent flyer program over a non-member and the more you fly, the higher your chances of scoring a free upgrade.

#2). Get an airline credit card

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

Yes, airlines have credit cards and yes, using them can really pay off. Get the credit card of the airline that you fly the most and use it for as many everyday items as you can (just make sure to pay it off every month!). The more you use the card, the more miles you will accumulate to use for upgrades and many times, the higher your status with the airline, the higher your likelihood of scoring an upgrade.

#3). Look for cheaper upgrade opportunities

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

Even if you can’t score a free upgrade, you can frequently get a deeply discounted upgrade. Airlines would rather sell the seat, even for pennies on the dollar, than give it away. Many airlines have a bidding system that lets you bid as much or as little as you want for an upgrade. Obviously, the more you bid the higher your chances of success. Many airlines will also offer the opportunity to upgrade when you check-in for the flight or even at the gate, so keep an eye out if you use online check-in or ask if you check-in with a person.

#4). Don’t get an advanced seat assignment:

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

I know, I know, this can be a little risky. If you don’t get a seat assignment in advance, you could end up in a middle seat in row 83. Yup, that’s true, but, holding out for a seat assignment until you get to the airport, or even to the gate, may leave the airline with no option but to give you an upgrade. Most airlines overbook their flights and often there will be more coach fliers than there are coach seats. When this happens, people without seat assignments will be assigned to any available seat, including a first or business class seat.

#5). Travel on separate reservations

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

If you are traveling with others, consider traveling on separate reservations. The smaller your party, the higher the likelihood of an upgrade. When upgrades occur it is usually for one or two flyers, not seven or eight.

#6). Fly more on the weekends

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

This one is a bit of a catch-22. Business flyers, who usually pay for first or business class and are more likely to be upgraded, usually avoid flying on the weekend. Fewer business travelers mean more chances for an upgrade. So, why is it a catch-22? Well, weekend flights tend to be emptier so fewer chances for an upgrade.

#7). Look the part

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

Airlines want their first and business class cabins to have a premium feel. If there are two travelers and one seat, the traveler in the sweats and flip-flops isn’t likely to get that upgrade. As a matter of fact, many airlines even have a dress code for their off-duty employees when they fly in first or business class. So increase your odds by dressing for first class.

#8). Offer to volunteer your seat

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

If a flight is oversold and the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seat, volunteer. Usually, your coach seat will be given to another flyer and you will either be accommodated on a later flight (with financial compensation) or you may be upgraded to first or business class on your original flight. Sometimes you get the best of both worlds with a first class seat on a later flight and compensation for taking a later flight.

#9). Ask for an upgrade

Hacks for scoring a free upgrade

I’m not saying this one frequently works but it never hurts to ask. If you do ask, don’t ask for a free upgrade. Instead, just ask what it would take to get an upgrade. The best case scenario is they offer a free upgrade (especially if coach is oversold), worst case scenario, they might offer a discounted upgrade. Well, technically worse case scenario is they tell you to get lost, but you get the point!

 

Okay, use these hacks and keep your fingers crossed for some free or discounted first and business class flights. And, don’t forget to share, just not with people you fly with frequently.

 

-Want to check out my experience flying Business Class to the Maldives? Check it out RIGHT HERE!

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