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This blog captures the musings and anecdotes of the daily life of a Malaysian who is now living in Melbourne, Australia.


Getting an Airline Upgrade.

Been skimming through the Internet. Most of the advice is similar, so I will just regurgitate it here.

1. Frequent Flyer Miles-
Be a member! Become a member of your airline's frequent flyer program and try to reach 'elite status'. Top-tier frequent flyers will generally have priority over normal passengers when it comes to getting upgraded on an operational basis. Some loyalty programs give elite members automatic upgrades on certain domestic flights; others give out a limited amount of upgrade vouchers which can be redeemed on flights.

2. Dressing the Look
Lisa Ferrari: “Upgrades are a rare travel experience in this day and age. To increase your chances, ditch the backpack, thongs and tracksuit pants; present yourself neatly and polish up your manners and you may find yourself sipping on champagne in either first or business class.”

“After you board the plane, you can always change to more comfortable clothing. Make sure you put your change of clothes in a small carry on bag.”

3. Flirt your way to a better seat
Phil Derner, President of aviation group NYCAviation: “A ‘pretty please?’ has helped me once or twice, and flirting helps too.

“Once a flight attendant moved me up right after departure and gave me full privileges after using those tactics. It also gets you free snacks.”

A smile can go a long way- Ann Lombardi: “Smile at the gate agent or ticket agent at the check in counter. Address the agent by first name and find something positive to say to them, as they really appreciate that rare compliment.

“Having been an airline employee myself, I know how many complaints these hard-working folks have to handle on a typical day.

"If there are empty seats in business class on board and you weren't upgraded at the gate, re-apply the techniques on board. Two of my cycling clients and I were upgraded by a European carrier on a transatlantic fight last year mainly due to our happy, appreciative

3. Location, Location, Location!.
If it's a major airport, you'd be competing against other FF members, so chances of a free upgrade is minimal. 

4. Get on an overbooked
If they are overbooked on the economy section, but empty on the business class cabin, possibilities maybe higher. Also are flights just before a holiday period can come under this category as business travel recedes. You can use flight availability tools on the web to check the loads on a specific flight a few days before to assess your chances.

5. Volunteer to get "bumped"
Especiall if its on an overbooked flight. If you do get bumped, you usually get a free flight to use within a year, and some spending cash. If they end up not needing you to get bumped to a later flight, they may upgrade you for your willingness to get bumped.

6. Travelling Alone
Travelling alone - higher chance of upgrade. Travelling with children - zero.

7. Checking in Online
The airline will knows you will be on the flight and may need to pre-upgrade some passengers before they arrive at the airport. Of course, this only applies if you have some kind of elite status for this to work.

8. Booking a Premium Economy Ticket
Depending on which airlines sells that. The number of premium economy seats are limited and you are deemed as a higher revenue passenger. Any potential overspill from an overbooked economy cabin could result in an upgrade to business class.

9. Subscribe to the Airline's Email Subscription.
Be in the know. Airlines have specials throughout the year. You might even encounter a special that allows you instant status in their frequent flyer program. This refers to a higher level than just basic frequent flyer membership. For example, American Airlines has these levels: Member, Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum.

10. Buy an upgrade.
Many domestic carriers, in an attempt to earn more business, will happily sell first class seat upgrades on a first-come, first-serve basis. Obviously, they want to earn as much money as possible and they will release first class seats typically only at the airport and only on the day of the departure.You may only need to pay a fraction of the cost than the entire RRP.

* Keep in mind that there are specific rules for who can use them and how they are used. You need to read the fine print carefully.

* Upgrades for most major carriers can be purchased on eBay, in travel forums, and some can be found for sale in classified ads. In some cases you can purchase an upgrade for as little as eight dollars, but as usual, these upgrades can only be applied to your ticket at the check in counter once you arrive at the airport. Other more expensive upgrades will allow you to confirm your upgrade over the phone before you arrive at the airport.

11. Buy a full fare coach ticket and ask for a first class seat.
Many airlines have a fare code that automatically grants first class privileges, but you have to ask. Call the airline directly and ask them how much a coach class ticket with first class seating privilege will cost. This will be much less than a first class ticket. Be careful though, like most coach tickets it will probably be non-refundable.

12. Contacts are IMPORTANT. 
Get to know the airline employees you deal with regularly. Do you fly into/ out of a certain airport regularly? If so, getting to know the agents you deal with often yields rewards. When a delay occurs, you will be the first they think of to upgrade, or at least put to on an earlier flight. They will appreciate your loyalty and friendship, and will accommodate you accordingly.

13. On Your Honeymoon?
Then contact the airline in advance and get a note put in your booking. Ask again at the airport - you have nothing to lose and honeymoon couples have been known to get upgrades. Honeymooners are much more likely to get a hotel room upgrade than an airline upgrade though.

14.  Late Because of Competitor
Make sure the airline is aware of that. They will try to give you a good impression of their airline, especially after your bad experience with one of their competitors.

15. Legitimate reasons to change/upgrade seats.
Ask a flight attendant for an upgrade if you see a seat available. Typically flight attendants never upgrade passengers and simply asking for an upgrade is not going to work. However, there are legitimate reasons why a flight attendant will upgrade you. Here's one:

*A problem with a fellow passenger If by chance you are sitting next to a passenger and you have a legitimate complaint, the flight attendant can, at his/her discretion, move you to first. I should have done this when I was flying on AirAsia, as I paid much.. but maybe next time.

17. Book with a Travel Agent
Book with a travel agent. When you book with a travel agent, it is possible, with a valid reason, to have the agent mark your reservation with a comment, such as OSI (Other Significant Information). The record may indicate that you are a VIP or CEO of a big corporation.

Airlines like to see this information as they are trying to win more and more business away from their competition. If there is a chance that an important decision maker is flying with them, it could potentially mean extra revenue for the airline as they may want to try to win your company’s account. This may lead to a free upgrade.

18. Special Code on Your Ticket

In most cases, on most airlines, the ticket agent is not authorized to upgrade passengers unless you have frequent flyer status and even with frequent flier status, you will most likely need to use miles to get your upgrade. However, you might be able to ask the ticket counter agent to kindly add a code to your ticket.

Why? Because the code signifies to the gate agent that you as a passenger are potentially eligible for an upgrade. It works with the right airline and you will need to know which code to use, as each airline uses different codes for different situations that are independent of other carriers.

19. Book Directly.
Book directly with the airline. When you book directly with the airline, there is the possibility of also adding an OSI to your record. If you are a travel agent, travel writer, or event planner, it certainly won’t hurt your chances.

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