How to Get an Upgrade
First of all, do you actually need one? If you have gone through the last section you might already have a great seat.
If you have a heavily discounted ticket, then you stand no chance of getting to sit closer to the pilot. To increase your chances join the airlines’ frequent flyer club and fly frequently. These types of passengers are very important to the airlines.
There may be a last minute upgrade available for a cash buyer at the check-in. Even though you’re paying it may still be a bargain.
Do not board early and sit in your allocated seat. Hang back until the aircraft is nearly full. You’ll then be able to see if any ‘decent’ seats are free. This may mean a couple of empty seats next to each other, thereby giving you extra room.
Economy may be over booked and any upgrades will go to passengers suitable for an upgrade (SFUs). You could risk a late check-in as hopefully all the economy seats will now be occupied. However this may mean sitting away from your travel partner if two seats are still left. Dress smartly, but this is not a guarantee!!
Remember to join the airline’s frequent flyer club. Be polite when requesting an upgrade. A special meal request will probably prevent you from getting an upgrade, as there may not be a suitable meal available.
Honeymooners have a good chance in getting upgraded, and experienced staff can easily spot fakers. The likelihood of a honeymoon upgrade is reduced when flying to popular honeymoon destinations.
Despite what they say, check-in and gate staff do have the power to upgrade, so be polite, but don’t just blurt out ‘any chance of an upgrade?’ They hear it all the time. Instead say something like ‘I’m worried about turbulence, can I have a seat as close to the front as possible?’
- Travel alone. One seat is a lot easier to find
- Leave the kids at home.
If you’ve still had no luck, then it might be worth haggling for an upgrade at the ticket desk as the price can drop the closer to take off.
A high risk strategy
If you are feeling really brave (and I don’t recommend trying this), you could try a massive bluff which I found in an article written by Stuart White in Business Destinations magazine.
Only get to the gate just before it closes. Then say that you were promised an upgrade. If the gate staff doesn’t give you the upgrade, tell them that you are not flying. This will cause delays as your luggage will have to be removed from the plane. The plane may miss its slot and this will cost the airline in time and money. The gate staff will know that they will get the blame so may cave in under the pressure.
However, there is a chance that there may be a delay in loading the passengers’ luggage, which the gate will know, and you may be banned from that airline if you don’t fly.