Tuesday, June 25, 2024

I’m an expert – these 7 things will get you a free first class flight upgrade

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A travel expert has shared advice on how to get free flight upgrades (Image: Getty)

A travel expert has shared seven useful tips that might help you in getting a free first-class upgrade. on your next flight.

Flight Hacks, renowned experts in frequent flyer strategies, have unveiled their top recommendations for securing a complimentary flight upgrade and demystified aspects of the seat assignment process. 

Their insights aim to empower travellers to maximise the value of their airfare purchases.

Travel expert Immanuel Debeer from Flight Hacks says: “Free upgrades on flights are rare, but not a myth. Not every plane is fully booked, and sometimes, a free seat in first class is just waiting to be claimed. What’s more, on quieter flights, airline staff often have to move people into these seats to balance the plane, so you’ve just got to make sure you’re the person they pick. 

“There are plenty of simple tricks to increase your chances of getting an upgrade, but the most important thing to remember is that airline staff are human. 

“It may seem obvious, but being respectful and friendly is by far the best way to increase your chances of an upgrade. Presenting yourself as someone they would want to offer a free upgrade to is what underpins all of these tips.”  

Below are the seven useful tips for free flight upgrades.

Stay loyal to one airline

If you fly often, sticking to one airline can boost your frequent flyer miles, the experts have suggested.

Airlines often offer rewards programs with perks like free upgrades, early check-in, and complimentary flights.

Research shows that 80 percent of airline staff are more inclined to give a free upgrade to customers in the airline’s frequent flyer program.

Being part of the program also helps indirectly, as early check-in rewards prioritise your seat selection in the plane’s front section.

Travel alone or during quieter times

This advice may seem straightforward, but it’s worth noting that a solo traveller on a less crowded flight has a higher chance of getting an upgrade compared to a large family on a full plane. 

Choosing to fly during weekdays or off-peak hours also boosts the odds of an upgrade, as planes are usually less crowded then. 

Studies show that about three-quarters (72%) of flight attendants are more likely to upgrade to a solo traveller. 

However, flying alone or during quieter times might increase expenses for other parts of your trip, like late-night taxi fares, so it’s wise to use this advice carefully.

Dress to impress

Airlines give free upgrades to build customer loyalty, not just to be nice. Dressing nicely and appearing like a frequent flyer can improve your chances of getting an upgrade.

Business travellers are highly valued by airlines because they fly often and tend to spend more using their company cards. 

Wearing professional attire is a smart way to show that you are a customer they want to keep happy and loyal. 

Additionally, research shows that 59 percent of flight attendants are more likely to upgrade a passenger who is well-dressed.

Don’t be afraid to ask

It’s straightforward, but asking politely is one of the most effective ways to get a free upgrade. 

Simply asking if there’s a chance of an upgrade, especially when travelling alone, significantly increases your chances.

Be a flexible traveller

A woman at the airport holding a passport with a boarding pass

Airlines often sell more tickets than there are seats to account for no-shows and ensure full flight (Image: Getty)

Airlines often sell more tickets than there are seats to account for no-shows and ensure full flights. When all passengers show up and there aren’t enough seats, airlines offer incentives like seat upgrades or cash to those willing to take a later flight. 

Being flexible with your flight times gives you a chance to negotiate a free upgrade. 

However, it’s important to act quickly because many other passengers may have the same idea. 

Take advantage of special occasions

The last tip is to leverage any personal advantages you have. Is it your birthday or honeymoon? Mentioning these special occasions to check-in staff can boost your chances of an upgrade. 

Research shows that 58 percent of cabin crew are more likely to upgrade newlyweds. 

Talking to staff about your travel reasons is a good opportunity to secure an upgrade, but remember to always be polite, as it’s the most crucial tip.

Be polite when checking in

When airline staff decide who gets free upgrades, there are usually no strict rules. That’s why the most important tip is to be polite when checking in.

If there’s an empty seat in first class when you check in, staff might decide to upgrade passengers. 

Being friendly and polite automatically boosts your chances. Research from a survey of airline staff found that a whopping 82 percent are more likely to upgrade a polite passenger.

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