How do you Really Score an Airline Upgrade?

08th May 2017

We would all love an upgrade to business on our next holiday, particularly a long-haul one wouldn’t we? Unfortunately snagging on isn’t as easy as some online forums might have you believe. Between dressing for it and not having a special meal request, there are plenty of dos and don’ts flying around about it, many of which don’t usually work. We’ve sussed it out however, and there are a few things you can do that will put you in better stead for being invited to the pointy end of the plane.

Book on a Popular Flight

Most upgrades, especially free ones, happen when the flight is fully booked. Do your research and find which days and times are the most popular for the route you want to take, then book on that. Forget holiday time however, like Christmas and Easter, as chances are at those times every class will be booked out. The fuller the plane is in economy, the more chance you have of being bumped up to Premium Economy or Business Class. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s definitely a factor that influences your chances!

Travel Solo

If there is only one of you to upgrade, you’re in for a better chance. That said, if the airline has overbooked the flight and needs to move multiple people, flying as a couple or group can also put you in with a good chance as it’s easier for the airline to move more people at once.

Join Frequent Flyer Programs

Most airlines will only offer upgrades, paid or free, to members of their frequent flyer program. If you’re a gold or silver Virgin velocity member you’ve got the most chance, but being a red velocity member also puts you ahead of other passengers who are not members.

Book the Right Ticket Class

Some ticket classes are more eligible for upgrades than others. If the price between two classes isn’t too big, go for the more expensive class. Not only will you have a better chance of being upgraded, you might also earn more miles for your journey – a great way to boost your points faster!

Volunteer to be Bumped

When flights are overbooked or one is cancelled, something has to give. Before you get kicked off by the airline, offer to be bumped to a later flight. There is a chance you’ll be upgraded on the next flight, or you might even receive a voucher, so this flight ends up being free.

Be Nice

I once worked as a check-in agent, and there is truth to the rumour that if you’re nice you’ll have a better chance at an upgrade. Just being nice won’t always work, but if the flight has been overbooked or there is an issue with seating, chances are the agent will remember the nice guy when looking for someone to upgrade. 

Offer to Pay for it

This is a big one. Some airlines have introduced a bid system, where you can bid for an upgrade using cash and points in the week leading up to your flight. If you don’t get this option or forgot to do it, you can always ask how much an upgrade to Premium Economy or Business might cost at the airport. You may be turned down, or you may be in luck- whether you have to pay for it or not. 

Images courtesy of Virgin Australia


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About Vicki Fletcher

An Australian travel writer and photographer, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, following locals to the best food in town and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's obsessed with colours, stops to admire flowers and dreams of one day restoring a chateau in France. Her top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram at @vickijanefletcher