There’s a limit to pop culture upgrade tips – and we’ve finally reached it. It’s not that we don’t care about ad revenue – we love it – but there must be *some* substance behind the clickable headlines.
Somehow, the collective minds of (real?!) travel writers everywhere exploded when they saw the headline “two words guaranteed to get you a business class upgrade”, and even years later, they’re still writing about how dressing up can get the job done.
It won’t, and your flight in economy will be even more comfortable from it. Not only are these headlines patently false – they will make you look like an idiot for even asking. Here’s proof. Like, quantifiable proof.
Let me level with you on a personal level. My current favorite movie is The Big Short. It’s the one with Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell and Christian Bale where they analyze the collapse of finance in 2008 – and then most of the world with it.
In that movie, basically a few guys called “BS” on what was going on in the finance world – and they won. In a very small, very meaningless way, Idid the same thing in travel – but it proves a great point. And PS the Virgin Atlantic agent actually offers the BEST upgrade advice…
“We’ve heard some pretty tall tales from people trying to get a sneaky upgrade over the years – and this is certainly one of the most creative! As helpful as our lovely revenue management team are – they don’t handle upgrades, and customers can check the latest availability of our reward seats by calling our contact centre or via our website.”– Virgin Atlantic
It sounds so good doesn’t it?
I called Virgin Atlantic to see the real deal here. I called anonymously via Skype. I asked about an upgrade and got a no. So, after reading this life changing headline, I asked about the two magic words: revenue management.
It turns out (as every real travel expert already told you) – it’s complete, utter BS.
Not only is it BS, the advice fails to mention that a passenger would need roughly 25,000 frequent flyer miles each way for the upgrade, even if they said “sure” to the revenue management request (which they never would). Oh, and you’d never be able to travel with a partner. Getting one seat would be an act of God, let alone two.
In fact, I asked the author of the original story about the validity, to which he said “Tilly swears by this”. PAUSE – that’s all it takes to be in a serious media feature?
This is about a (HUGE) media outlet, and usually a credible one, turning drivel into clicks. Now, T&L is running a story about dressing “smart, but not too smart”, chic but not designer, in hopes of bagging an upgrade. Don’t bother. If there are 100 things which define an upgrade, what you’re wearing would be somewhere between 97 and 100, well after the 1 or 2 potential upgrades per flight, due to things like overbooking might be dished out.
Swearing something to be real? That’s all it takes?
So now, I ask the question: If I swear that wearing bondage gear and checking seven bags will guarantee an upgrade, can I have one? I’m just a guy trying to prove a point, so I’ll take what I can get.
In reality, even if the person on the other end of the phone had mysteriously said that I could upgrade – any economy ticket would require more than 35,000 miles per person each way from economy to Upper Class. The article makes no mention.
That’s more than 70,000 miles per person, which is the equivalent of flying around the world almost 3 times on expensive tickets. Or of course, you could spend up to a cool $70,000 to earn those points as well. That’s an expensive upgrade.
It’s possible that ringing Virgin Atlantic incessantly could cause someone to query revenue management for a seat, but they won’t put you through to them – and it won’t be confirmed by the revenue manager to you. It’s just not how it works. You can ask if they can open up seats, but don’t bank on anything other than a “we don’t do that”.
If there’s availability, there’s availability, if not – not. We’re told this ONLY could even potentially happen if more than half the business class cabin is unsold.
But it’s honestly all about the learning process and taking those 20 or so minutes to figure out what’s real – and what’s not. The truth is, if two words could do it, everyone would be in business class. If you really want to upgrade, we have the best tips going – and they’re free. But thanks for clicking, I’m glad that at the very least, we earned it.