Act fast in an over-sold situation
If you’re on a flight and they are offering to bump people to a later flight, act fast and ask for an upgrade rather than being bumped. In order to save money and not lose passengers airlines often abide by these upgrade requests. It helps if you have something to offer the airline – such as upgraded or gold status with the airline. If you are a frequent flyer, they will definitely be in more of a mood to go along with your request.
Hint that you might go to the competition
If you are late for a flight and have also flown on any competitor airline make this point known at check-in. Airlines are always trying to outperform each another and in order to you be your preferred airline they may give you a first class seat upgrade. It is somewhat unusual, but it has happened – and once again it’s more likely if you are a frequent flyer on the airline in question.
Be kind and courteous to airline staff
This is simple and surprising to some, but airlines often reward passengers who make extra efforts to accommodate other passengers. For instance, if they are asking for volunteers to change seats, offer to do it. In some cases this seat change will result in a an upgrade. This means you do not have to do much; a little kind gesture can give you more than you expect. Besides, it’s the nice thing to do, right?
Sign up for airlines rewards programs
Always enroll in airline rewards programs before you fly, even if you don’t expect to fly often on the airline. If an particular flight is oversold and they are looking for people to bump, they will often inspect the reservation list to look for people with airline reward status to get the upgrade award. If you are on the list it will not be uncommon for you to be immediately moved into first class. This does not cost you your points as this step of yours is creating a favor for the airlines, and the frequent flyer programs are generally free of charge to join. The more miles or points you have, the higher your chances are to be upgraded to first class.
Dress for success
Take care with what you wear, dress well – good grooming and dress enhances your chances to get an upgrade. People who fly first class tend to be wealthy or business travelers, and the airlines don’t want you to look out of place. The airlines also don’t want to offend those already in first class by upgrading someone who will be disruptive. Some airlines actually have a special dress code for flying first or business class!
Perhaps our least obvious tip, but definitely our most successful tip, too, is to just ask for your upgrade. Be very polite – the desk agents are the ones with the power to issue upgrades, and they won’t upgrade jerks. Politely say something like “I have a lot of work to do on the flight, is there any chance of getting a first class upgrade?” If they say that there’s nothing available, respond with “Well, if something comes up, I’d love the option. Thank you!” They’ll remember you if someone doesn’t show for the flight, and no shows in first class happen on almost every flight!
Randall Pinkston is Founder of Neotravel.