Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
12:00 AM 4th May 2024

Travel Expert Reveals How To Get Free Flight Upgrades

Image by Rainer Prang from Pixabay
Image by Rainer Prang from Pixabay
With summer rapidly approaching, many are eagerly anticipating their upcoming holidays while seeking ways to save money on unnecessary expenses, such as plane seat upgrades. That said, a few extra inches of legroom and a comfier seat can make a big difference to your flight - and it's even more enjoyable if it's free.

So, to help maximise the chances of a seat upgrade, frequent flyer experts Flight Hacks have identified their top tips for getting a free flight upgrade and explained some of the mysteries behind the seat allocation system – helping travellers get the most out of their plane tickets.

Travel expert Immanuel Debeer from Flight Hacks says:
"Free upgrades on flights are rare, but not a myth. Not every plane is fully booked, and sometimes, a free seat in first class is just waiting to be claimed. What's more, on quieter flights, airline staff often have to move people into these seats to balance the plane, so you've just got to make sure you're the person they pick.

"There are plenty of simple tricks to increase your chances of getting an upgrade, but the most important thing to remember is that airline staff are human. It may seem obvious, but being respectful and friendly is by far the best way to increase your chances of an upgrade. Presenting yourself as someone they would want to offer a free upgrade to is what underpins all of these tips."

Top tips for free flight upgrades:

1. Stay loyal to one airline

If you fly regularly, staying loyal to one airline can help you maximise your frequent flier miles. Many airlines have a rewards scheme that offers customers free upgrades, early check-in, and even free flights.

A research survey found that 80% of staff said that a customer in the airline's frequent flier scheme would be more likely to receive a free upgrade. Subscribing to the scheme also indirectly helps, as an early check-in reward places you first in line to secure a seat in the plane's front section.

2. Travel alone or during quieter times
This tip might seem obvious once you think about it, but a single person on an empty flight is much more likely to get an upgrade than a family of 6 on a booked-out plane. Flying in the middle of the week or at off-peak times increases the chances of a seat upgrade, as the plane is less likely to be full.

Research suggests that almost three-quarters (72%) of cabin crew are more inclined to offer a free upgrade to a passenger who is flying alone. However, traveling alone or at quieter times might make other parts of your journey more expensive, like late-night taxi fees, so use this tip with caution.

3. Dress to impress
Airlines don't offer free upgrades out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it to gain customer loyalty. Dressing smartly and looking like a frequent flyer is a great tactic to maximise your chances of getting an upgrade.

Business travellers are an airline's favourite type of passenger as they fly regularly and are more likely to spend freely on their company cards. Wearing business attire is a good strategy for presenting yourself as a customer they want to keep happy and loyal. Moreover, data has found that 59% of cabin crew are more likely to upgrade a well-dressed passenger.

4. Don't be afraid to ask
It may seem simple, but one of the best ways to secure a free upgrade is to ask politely. It doesn't hurt to simply inquire if there is any possibility of an upgrade, especially if you are flying alone - your chances are significantly increased by just asking.

5. Be a flexible traveller
Airlines frequently overbook flights to compensate for no-shows and to ensure the planes are full. When everyone checks in and there aren't enough seats, they often offer incentives to passengers willing to switch to a later flight, ranging from seat upgrades to cash incentives. Flexibility with your flight times presents the perfect opportunity to negotiate a free flight upgrade. However, it is essential to act swiftly, as many other passengers may have the same idea.

6. Take advantage of special occasions
The final tip is to use whatever personal advantage you've got. Is it your birthday on the day you fly? Are you on your way to your honeymoon? Is it a special anniversary? Finding a way to casually drop this into a conversation with the check-in staff is a great way to increase your chances of an upgrade.

In fact, research suggests that 58% of cabin crew staff would be more likely to upgrade newlyweds. Chatting with staff about the reasons for your travel is an excellent chance to secure an upgrade, but only if you stick to the most important tip - be polite.

7. Be polite when checking in
There are often no strict criteria on how airline staff choose who should get free upgrades when they're available. Therefore, the number one tip is to be polite when checking in. If a spare seat in first class is available when you come to check in, airline staff can sometimes choose to upgrade passengers; being friendly and nice automatically increases the chances of an upgrade.

In fact, research from a survey of airline staff, which investigated the top reasons staff choose to upgrade passengers, revealed that a huge 82% would be more likely to upgrade a polite passenger.

For more information click here