Not all of us have the ability to afford luxury travel. Many of us see first-class airfare as something that is reserved for the wealthy and business traveler. Fortunately, for the rest of us, there’s always the possibility of receiving a luxury upgrade.
Free first class upgrade? Don't mind if we do...
We’ve all heard stories about friends or friends of friends receiving a free first class upgrade. It may seem too good to be true but with a little bit of strategy and a little bit of luck, you might be able to find yourself in first class as well. It used to be more common years ago when airlines had a more difficult time selling luxury seats. With our improved economy, many more travelers have been buying first class and business class seats, but there are still some tricks you can use in order to receive an elusive first class upgrade and experience how the other half lives. These are the best ways to get upgraded to first class.
Travel at off-peak times
One of the best ways to get upgraded to first class is by booking a flight on statutory holidays or other times when business travelers are less likely to fly. Monday mornings, as well as Thursdays and Friday afternoons between 5 and 7:30pm are prime times for business travel. If you want less competition for luxury seats, try traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday.
Fly a lot
Frequent flyers are the most common recipients of free upgrades. Most airlines reserve some space on each flights for travelers who fly at least 25,000 miles per year, with the best perks going to 100,000 plus flyers. Airlines usually prioritize who receives upgrades based on how many miles a passenger flies per year, so business travelers usually receive the upgrades over leisure travelers. If you’re on a flight with fewer business flyers, you’re more likely to receive an upgrade.
Check in early
If you’re a frequent flyer and qualify for a potential upgrade, the one who checks in first is the one who is more likely to receive it. If you want a chance to receive an upgrade, it’s best to arrive at least three hours before your flight is planned to depart.
Experience technical difficulties
While it may be frustrating at the time, if your plane malfunctions or if your airline’s computer system crashes, this is another one of the best ways to get upgraded to first class. During these stressful times, customer service agents may be more willing to extend annoyed passengers an olive branch by offering free upgrades.
While this doesn’t happen too often, occasionally, airlines overbook coach, which means a few lucky passengers may get bumped up. If an agent feels as though giving you an upgrade will make it easier for the plane to depart on time, you might just find yourself in first class.
Sometimes it pays to travel alone. Travelling by yourself is one of the best ways to get upgraded to first class as it is easier to upgrade a single passenger than a family of three or four.
While it may not be worth breaking an arm or leg for, one of the perks of having a cast is that you’re more likely to gain the sympathy of the crew, which may be enough to lead you to a first-class upgrade.
Volunteer to switch flights
Sometimes being accommodating pays off. If your flight is overbooked, instead of freaking out, offer to switch flights. Sometimes, the agents will be so grateful for your act of chivalry that you’ll be rewarded with first-class tickets on the next flight.
Ask for an upgrade
What do you have to lose? If it’s your honeymoon, anniversary or birthday and you’re wanting some special treatment, let the agent know. What’s the worst an agent can say? No? While this may not appear on the top of the list of the best ways to get upgraded to first class, it still doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there.
Buy an upgrade
While this technically isn’t an upgrade, the most guaranteed way to end up in first class while on a budget is by looking for discounted first class tickets online. Occasionally on less popular flights, you’ll find first class tickets available for the same price as coach. This is why it’s always worth checking multiple flights and comparison shopping before purchasing your tickets.