10 Ways To Get Bumped Up to First Class On Your Next Flight

First class airline tickets can cost four times the price of coach. Don’t splurge–try these 10 things and get upgraded for free.

Inc.com 10/16/15
IMAGE: Getty Images

Admit it: Flying first class can make the hassles of air travel so much better. I’ve been bumped up to first class twice: once while traveling solo on a business trip to Boston and once with my husband on our honeymoon. Let’s just say I liked it very much. Who wouldn’t appreciate a glass of cabernet while waiting for everyone else to board?

While I love flying first class, I don’t exactly want to pay for it. First class tickets can cost four times the fare, and it doesn’t seem worth it for a short flight.

So how do you increase your odds of getting moved up? Here are ten things you can do to increase your odds of flying first class for free:

1. Dress the part. Pack your yoga pants, torn jeans and flip flops, and wear something that belongs in first class. You don’t have to wear a suit (although it wouldn’t hurt.) Just wear something professional, and shows that you belong.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at TravelSupermarket.com advises sticking to the “smart casual” code and that “a cashmere shawl or linen jacket can make all the difference.”

2. Ask for an upgrade. Sometimes if you want something, all you have to do is ask. When you check in, tell to the agent: “If you are upgrading passengers on this flight, I would like to be considered.” Be sure to smile. Many of the people gate agents deal with are complaining; you’ll stand out if you’re friendly and polite.

“Be nice to everybody from the moment you walk on airport property,” former flight attendant Carolyn Paddock, founder of the website Life in Flight told Bankrate.com. “You’re talking to people who are decision-makers.”

3. Be early. The early bird gets the worm. Instead of trying to get the attention of the agent while he or she is busy with other passengers, show up early and be the first one to ask. Your flight may only have one or two upgrades available.

4. Travel solo. There is a greater chance that just one or two seats will be available in first class. If you frequently travel with coworkers, your odds of getting singled out are slim. Instead, fly by yourself to improve your chances.

5. Travel during peak times. If the flight has fewer passengers, chances are no one will be moved up. Airlines are more likely to upgrade people to make room on flights they oversell.

6. Sit next to the baby or take the middle seat. If a flight attendant is moving passengers, he or she may look to make the trip more comfortable for someone by moving them from a less desirable seat.

7. Give up your spot. When the gate agent asks for people who are willing to give up their seat, volunteer if you can be upgraded on the next flight. You will experience the delay, but it might be worth it if you can fly first class. This works especially well if there aren’t other people volunteering, Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor at travel website Orbitz.com, told Market Watch.

8. Check your seat. When you sit down, make sure your armrests, recliner, tray table and seat belt are in working condition. If they’re broken, let the flight attendant know. Passengers in broken seats will be reassigned-and it could be to first class.

9. Join the airline’s loyalty club. Even if you don’t travel often, it doesn’t hurt to become a member of an airline frequent flyer club. You’ll often receive upgrade opportunities, and if agents are looking to move someone, they could look to their list of members first.

“If our airport staff are looking to upgrade passengers on the day of departure there is a process that they follow which generally sees passengers that are frequent flyers of the airline-or those that have paid for a fully flexible ticket-benefitting,” Harriet Bevis, Virgin Atlantic spokesperson, told the Daily Mail.

10. Let flight attendants know if it’s a special occasion. If it’s your birthday, anniversary or honeymoon, let the flight attendants know. And if you don’t get an upgrade, you just might get a free drink.

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