The only reason I ever get calls from mainstream media are for upgrade tips. The reason they call is because everyone on earth wants to fly in a better cabin and doesn’t want to pay for it. There are fewer seats than ever up front and more and more people hoping to snag one, which means less people getting upgrades. Here’s why people realistically don’t get upgraded and what you can do to improve your chances…

There Are Rules And Systems…

Honeymoon? Congrats. 40th Birthday? Happy Birthday. Neither mean that an entire monitored system will be uprooted to make you happy. Upgrades are a function of how many miles you fly with a given airline in a year, how much you spend with them and how many people are already sitting up front. Go ahead and mention your happy day, but you can do better than that…

You Haven’t Been Strategic With Your Booking…

The smartest travelers look for upgrade space (using miles) before they pay for their flight, so that they can immediately upgrade. Perhaps there’s no upgrade space on the morning flight, but there is on the evening flight. I know which one I’d book. Obviously some flights won’t have as much flexibility as others, but if you’re willing to leave within a two day, or two week radius there’s probably going to be a flight you can upgrade…

You Haven’t Made An Offer…

I get the “there’s no harm in asking”, but let’s be real again, everyone wants an upgrade, which makes them a valuable commodity. The people who get them have instruments to acquire them, such as cash, miles or certificates earned from previous flying. If you want something be realistically armed and prepared to make it happen. Charm and a polite demeanor can’t hurt but if you think it will get the job done you’re a dreamer…

You Chose To Fly When Business Travelers Fly…

Monday morning is a terrible time to fly. So is Thursday night, even occasionally Friday. Why? Because that’s when business travelers, the ones who have elite loyalty status, tons of miles and expensive tickets to score upgrades are flying. If you’re competing with peak business travelers your chances of upgrade are lower than ever. Shoot for mid day flights during the week, weekends and other off peak times. 

You Booked Your Ticket Somewhere Else…

The most frustrating scenario is when you’ve avoided all the pitfalls above, you have miles, you call about an upgrade and they say “oh yes, we have upgrade space, but you booked your ticket through a different airline or ineligible fare”. These days there are VERY few scenarios where you’ll find meaningful savings by booking through a third party site, and even then it’s often not worth the hassle. Try to book direct, it makes upgrades easier, amongst other things.

You Gave Up Too Soon…

Remember that bit earlier where I said you call and ask about upgrades before you book? Quite often the answer when you call is “no” for any flight that will work, but it doesn’t often stay that way. If you really want an upgrade set alerts, or call every day prior to your flight and ask if any upgrade space has been released using miles. You can also check your airline’s mobile app to see if they’ve sent you any exclusive paid options that are palatable. The person who checks bag regularly gets the upgrade while everyone else sulks…