Get an upgrade on your flight

3 March 2010

In one memorable episode of US comedy show Friends, Chandler and Monica – about to embark on their honeymoon – are horrified when the newlyweds in front on them at the check-in desk are offered a free upgrade.

To avoid disappointment, there are a few tricks you can pull to get yourself an upgrade when flying on a scheduled carrier. There’s no guarantee of course, but it’s worth giving them a go.

First of all, use your connections wisely. If you know someone that works for an airline, then make a friendly enquiry to see whether they can help you out.

Even if they can’t pull any strings in advance, they may be able to place notes in the booking that state you are suitable for an upgrade. Then if the airline needs to move people you may be the lucky one picked out.

Checking in early and travelling in smart clothing is another good way to try and bag an upgrade.

“If a cabin is overbooked, they will move people early to avoid operational issues on the day – so, where possible, check-in online as early as you can,” says Bob Atkinson, travel expert at

If you are travelling for a special occasion – for example, your honeymoon, birthday, or hen or stag party – then ask your travel agent, the tour operator or airline to ensure a note is attached to your booking.

Remember, however, that most upgrades go to people travelling on their own rather than groups.

If you are a regular traveller, then Atkinson recommends you join the frequent flyer scheme: “The higher the rating you have as a member, the higher the chance of you being rewarded with an upgrade.”

You should also try and stick to one airline group when you fly, to maximise your chances of being upgraded.

Finally, pre-booking meals or special assistance could hinder your chances of being upgraded, as it may be seen as too much hassle to move you.

If you are happy to pay for an upgraded seat, then remember to shop around as premium economy, business and first-class tickets are sometimes sold at a discount. Tour operators also offer upgrades at low rates, especially on packages.

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