Let this be a lesson to every travel journalist and wannabe expert travel pundit. In the words of DMX – talk is cheap. Results bring in the big bucks. I can unequivocally say that not a single person who read the Bloomberg story about saying “revenue management” has since scored an upgrade because of those words. And the piece failed to mention that even if their fake news headline was accurate, you’d still need about 35,000 frequent flyer miles, just for a one way upgrade. It’s not like they hand them out for free for knowing two words. This story was disproved days ago, but now Virgin Atlantic, the specific airline in question has confirmed this latest hoax as nothing but falsity.

Public Comment

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 


I may appear naive here, but I believe I’ve been around long enough and seen enough to say I’m not. I don’t realistically believe that anyone will offer retractions or apologies. But with most news stories, if something is falsely reported, there’s some form of accountability or responsibility to come clean.

Usually, from opposing news agencies. But the world is silent here. Other than the UK’s Independent, not a single story has offered an insight that this story was fake news. In fact, new stories continue to run in Cosmopolitan, Business Insider and daily papers all over the world that the tip actually works.

Never True

You may not have seen me this worked up before, and I’ll tell you why. I simply roll my eyes and move on when people suggest dressing up, asking nicely or other generally untrue, frowned upon advice, but it may work. It MAY. I can’t say for sure that no one ever gets upgraded because of their outfit. It’s not practical, it’s gotta be less than .001%, but if you’re ridiculous and want to sit uncomfortably, go for it.

But this particular story was simply never true. Not a shred of truth. It wasn’t even attempted to be validated by the author. He never tried the method described, ask another expert, nor did he reach out to Virgin Atlantic for comment on its efficacy. I’ve received countless emails from Revenue Managers, phone agents and other employees who sing the same song.

The person supplying the expert tips was not:

1) an airline employee past or present

2) a legitimately frequent traveler

3) a person with intimate knowledge of upgrade systems

4) not even familiar with how her preferred airline handles upgrades

5) not a source which has ever been used in travel advice.

6) forthcoming with need to actually have points to complete said upgrade.

Lesson learned

I’ve been a part of more than a handful of stories which made similar if not larger rounds to global news outlets. For this reason, jealousy has no part in this equation. This is purely a fascination that without questioning, considering or attempting to validate a big story, a piece of news has (dis)graced the pages of many beloved news outlets. Bloomberg has long been one of my favorite, most trusted sources of information. I believe many of their journalists are held to the highest ethical and fact finding standards. If only this story received the same wash.

With direct statements from the witness, video evidence of the crime and plenty of flames thrown on Twitter, I’ll finally be putting this story to bed.


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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