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How To Get A First-Class Airline Upgrade

Posted by JenW On June - 10 - 2009

I don’t know of anyone who likes to sit in a coach-class seat. When you are checking in at the airlines kiosk, you may be asked if you would care to pay extra to upgrade to a first-class seat. I personally have taken advantage of this from time to time, especially on long coast-to-coast flights, but who wants to pay anything extra for their flight?

There are some tips you can try to get that precious upgrade into luxury airline seating. I have compiled some ‘off the record’ ideas for getting into first-class without it costing you a penny. While this will not guarantee you success, it doesn’t hurt to try!

Tip #1 – Avoid the kiosk and speak to a ticket agent!

Keep in mind, airline ticket agents are mostly the unfortunate target of irritable, tired passengers who are looking for handouts. A little courtesy and kindness will go MILES with a beleaguered agent!

Tip #2 – Mention any “Special Occasions”

As I checked in for my honeymoon flight to the Caribbean, I casually mentioned to the ticket agent the purpose of the flight we were about to board. As she tapped away at her keyboard, she smiled and told us that there just happened to be some room left in first-class and would we like a complementary upgrade? Of course, we did not turn this fabulous offer down, and could not thank our agent enough.

Tip #3 – Avoid looking too casual

My greatest upgrade success stories have come when I was traveling the country for trade shows. Not only did my little rolling carry-on luggage look the part, but I was also dressed like a first-class passenger, which helped my case tremendously!

Tip #4 – Take advantage of your “Frequent Flyer” Program

Don’t be afraid to flash your airline loyalty ID card and ask if you can cash in some miles for an upgrade. If there is availability, you will be surprised how often your friendly ticket agent will move you to a better seat.

Tip #5 – Be aware of empty first-class seats while boarding

We are all familiar with boarding procedures when your flight is ready to leave. First-Class passengers always get to board leisurely before anyone else. Then row by row, the remaining seats in coach are announced. As you make your way to the seat all the way in the back that doesn’t recline, keep your eyes open for space in the first-class section. It can’t hurt to ask the flight attendant for an upgrade at that time, especially if you are traveling alone.

Tip #6 – Weigh the cost of paying for that upgrade

As I mentioned earlier, I have taken advantage of the offers of upgrades from time to time at the do-it-yourself kiosks. I’ve paid as little as $25 to as much as $150, depending on the length of the flight and how many passengers have reserved seating. If you know you have a lousy seat, in the middle of a row of 6 people, go for the extra fee!

There are great resources for booking discount airfare that you should definitely consider when booking your next flight, whether it is for business or for pleasure. Online booking allows you not only the option of securing a great price, but you can select your seats at that time as well. With this information in hand when it is time for you to fly, you can hopefully do so while sitting in first-class!

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