How to Increase your Chances of Getting an Airline Seat Upgrade

Not so long ago, free seat upgrades were not that uncommon but this was before the era of airlines’ strict cost savings and many surcharges. A few weeks ago, our marketing manager was granted a seat upgrade as she was flying to Geneva for vacation. That was her third time in 18 months! She began to wonder if there was anything she was doing without even realizing it that was triggering those upgrades. After doing some research, she shares with us tips on what might have helped her get these golden tickets. 


Book through the airline’s website

Forget about Kayak, Expedia or Orbitz. They usually get group discounts on flights and travelers are at the very end of the upgrade waiting list. I usually use these sites to compare prices and head over to the airline’s website to book my flight. There might be a slight price different but in my case, it has never exceeded $10 or so. 

Sign up for the airline’s loyalty program 

Competition among airlines is tough and airline companies are fighting for each customer. When booking my tickets, I make sure to enroll in the loyalty program if I haven’t already done so. After filling out a quick online form, you should receive a traveler membership number by email. Make sure you enter this number anytime you fly with this airline or one of its partners. 

The upgrades I received thus far were with one specific airline, my favorite one to fly with when traveling to Europe. Even though I don’t travel internationally that often (twice a year maximum), I try to book my flights through this airline when I do so. It seems that my loyalty has paid! 

Dress up

Don’t just hope for the first class, look the part too! Airline companies work hard to build their first-class image so avoid flip flops and sweat pants when you check-in. I am not saying I dress up as I would for a work interview, but I always try to wear a comfy, yet smart-looking outfit. 

Get your timing right

Your flight may only have one or two upgrades available so make sure you’re one of the first in line. Looking back, I realize that each time I was upgraded, I arrived at the airport well in advance for my flight and there was no line at check-in. 

A full flight might be your best ally

Airlines don’t give away upgrades for no reason. Usually, they do so to please a very important or loyal passenger or because the flight is full or overbooked. If, like myself, you are not a regular elite traveler, look for full flights for which your chances will be greater!

Avoid business travel routes 

Usually, business travelers are all members of an elite program. Fly when there are fewer business travelers such as mid-days, weekends or holidays. 

Simply ask nicely and politely

Sometimes, a smile and a friendly attitude go a long way! Simply ask the agent to be considered if upgrades are being granted for your flight. I have not personally try this trick but I have always been polite and friendly with the staff. Never forget the important “please” and “thank you” topped with a genuine smile!

Posted: 9/8/2017 5:01:13 PM