Here we go again. With the term expert thrown around as casually as loose change, mainstream tips for scoring flight upgrades are worse than ever. We’d attempt to sugar coat how bad they are – but you deserve better. After all, upgrades really are attainable, they just require more work than most people would like. Here’s the latest round of tips which will absolutely NOT GET YOU UPGRADES…

a woman lying in a bedMutter Two Words: Revenue Management

Claim: A British author was quoted in Bloomberg this week toting a near “100% success rate” upgrading from premium economy to business class with Virgin Atlantic. How, you might ask? By saying the words “revenue management” when calling about upgrades. She *claims* this will identify you as an in the know customer, and magically seats for upgrades will appear.

Reality: The agent will not connect you to revenue management, will politely tell you there are no seats available or tell you there in fact are seats available – but it has nothing to do with saying revenue management. They’re there or they are not. Availability changes hourly, but you’re not going to force an airline to give out upgrades. And you need miles to complete them, anyway. We think it just makes you sound like an idiot, with one exception.

a cockpit of an airplane with lights and instrumentsMake Friends With The Pilot At The Gate

Claim: By making friends with the pilot while waiting for your flight, you’ll score an incredible upgrade. Simply saunter on over to the busy people looking over route maps, loads, waypoints and manifests and just interrupt them for a casual chat about how good looking they are. Next thing you know, you’ll be in first class.

Reality: In reality, the pilot of an aircraft has final say over where everyone is sitting. They can move people. But that does not mean they’re going to upgrade you. And let’s be realistic here: if this were true, pilots would be hounded more than Leonardo DiCaprio at the airport. Politeness is always a good idea with every interaction, but if you think this is your magic ticket, you’ll definitely enjoy the seat you purchased.

a large airport terminal with luggage carts and peopleJust Ask For One Nicely Or Mention An Occasion

Claim: Just by rocking up with a big charming smile and asking for an upgrade, you’ll probably get one. And if that doesn’t work, tell them you’re tired or its your birthday. Airline employees love making people smile, so they love moving your seats from the back of economy to the beds of business class just because you’ve got a great smile or are celebrating a milestone.

Reality: Most upgrades happen out of necessity, and every airline tracks who gets upgrades and why. With virtually all airlines, an agent doesn’t even have the power to upgrade anyone, unless they’re forking over miles, certificates or money for the privilege. Sure, there’s no harm in asking but even if they wanted to, the computer probably wouldn’t let them. Unless the flight is full.

a bed in a planeMention An Injury To Jump The Upgrade List

Claim: If you let airline staff know that your old football injury from the glory days is acting up, you’ll be placed first in line for a lovely, champagne sipping upgrade. No airline wants a passenger to be uncomfortable, especially those with broken arms or legs – so playing the injury card is an amazing way to get seated up front.

Reality: Truly injured or disabled passengers are important to airlines. And for the most part, airlines go to great lengths to offer the most beneficial seating position. If a little twinge from your non existent “career” in sports is the issue -worse, you’re FAKING IT, you can join the queue of every other idiot who will not be getting an upgrade. Your request may be highly amusing to airline staff, but this is both a cheap and pathetic tactic. And no, no upgrade for you.

Featured image courtesy of Virgin Australia.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. I never understood why people fail to purchase first class seating outright if sitting there means so much to them. I see the same passengers arguing with the lounge admittance agent trying to gain access for free.

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