With airlines trying to charge extra for more legroom, seemingly ever-diminishing seat sizes and the extortionate cost of upgrades, it can seem like we’re all doomed to discomfort at 35,000ft.
But there are ways to score a free upgrade or even just secure a better seat in economy without having to spend any extra money if you follow some easy insider tips from professional travellers.
From joining a rewards scheme to simply asking for one, these are the best ways holidaymakers can improve their chances of securing a first class seat without paying for it.
Airlines handle upgrades differently, but as a rule of thumb it pays to a) join a loyalty programme and b) accumulate as many air miles as possible.
The more points you have, the more desirable your status within the programme, with regular customers generally given priority when upgrades are available.
Fly outside of commuter times
Regular business travellers tend to get preference over casual holiday-goers in the Battle For An Upgrade. They’ve got the air miles, they know the airport staff and they look the part.
To give yourself a fighting chance book flights that laptop Larrys are less likely to be on. Think midday, midweek and on weekends, not early mornings or late afternoons.
Dress well, and travel alone
Dressing well definitely helps when it comes to upgrades – although if your request fails, it’s no fun flying economy in a three-piece suit.
Don’t even try requesting an upgrade when tipsy or drunk, and unless you’re a gazillionaire, football shirts, flip-flops, tank-tops and hygiene failures are also no-no’s.
If a single seat becomes available up front, solo travellers are more likely to benefit than couples or groups, so lonely souls are at a definite advantage there.
Sit near a baby
Not that you have much control over this, but if the worst happens and you find yourself sitting next to a bawling child ask to move. You might get a worse seat near the loo or you might strike First Class gold. At the very least you’ll probably get a complimentary drink to drown your sorrows.
Make a song and dance
If you’ve got a good horror story about getting to the airport, had a security hassle, suffered poor service or just some plain bad luck – share it with the attendant or check-in desk and they might want to improve your day.
If you’re on your honeymoon or it’s a big anniversary it’s worth a mention too, but only if it really is. Check-in staff and air stewards are old hands at spotting fakers.
(NM rewind – From archives)