August 2015, London: Dressing extra nicely, flirting with the airline staff, or simply finding the courage to ask? There are many myths about how to be upgraded on a flight, but is there really any truth to them? The travel experts at Expedia.co.uk, one of the world’s largest full service online travel sites, reveal the truth behind upgrade tactics and offer a few tips on how to increase your chance of success.
- 1.Myth: Asking for an upgrade at the check-in desk is the best way to secure a free upgrade
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, asking for an upgrade at the check-in desk is very unlikely to land you a seat in the premium cabins. Instead, the majority of seat changes are decided internally by the airline the day before the flight takes off. You are more likely to be selected for an upgrade if you are travelling alone and the airline can see that you have travelled with them on a regular basis. The easiest way to demonstrate this is to become a member of the airline’s frequent flyer or rewards programme. The number of complimentary upgrades depends largely on how oversold the economy cabin is and how many spaces are available in the premium cabins.
- 2.Myth: Asking for an upgrade at the boarding gate is the best way to secure a free upgrade
Fact: Even more so than asking at the check-in desk, it is usually far too late to secure a free upgrade by the time you get to the boarding gate. However, occasionally airlines sell upgrades at the gate for a reduced fee so you might be lucky enough to bag a premium seat for a reduced fee.
- 3.Myth: If I dress well, I am more likely to be upgraded
Fact: As most changes to allocated seats will have probably been made well before you arrive at the airport, a fancy suitcase and designer outfit will not put you to the top of the list. Essentially, the more money you have spent with an airline, the more likely you are to enjoy perks such as complimentary upgrades.
- 4.Myth: If I’m super polite and chatty with the airline staff, I am more likely to get upgraded
Fact: Although airline staff will no doubt appreciate your friendly manner, this is unlikely to secure you an upgrade. The reality is that, as well as loyal customers, celebrities, journalists and other VIPs will be seen as a priority as they are more likely to bring in business for the airline in future.
- 5.Myth: If I tell the airline staff that my partner and I are on our honeymoon, they will try to upgrade us
Fact: It is rare for a couple to be upgraded to a premium cabin just because they are on their honeymoon. Furthermore, as this is such a widespread myth, airline staff are likely to be a little dubious of your honeymoon story as they will have heard it several times before.
So what can I do to increase my chances of being upgraded?
- 1.Make sure you sign up to an airlines’ frequent flyer or rewards programme to demonstrate your loyalty to the carrier and how much money you have already spent with them.
- 2.Try to travel regularly with this airline to build up as many points as possible.
- 3.If you do decide to treat yourself to an upgrade, Expedia’s research conducted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation revealed that the gap between premium and economy fares is smallest on flights within Europe or when flying from North America to the Caribbean or Mexico. For these routes over the summer premium class fares are around 55% - 65% more expensive than economy fares compared to around 200-300% more expensive for intercontinental long-haul routes.
- 4.If you have a contact within an airline who has the authority to upgrade customers, reach out to them as early as possible with your upgrade request and dates of travel.
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