Home The ETG Take On Travel How to Get an Upgrade: Tips from an Insider

How to Get an Upgrade: Tips from an Insider

by Abi Northage

Our newest Travel Advisor, Abi Northage, previously worked as Cabin Service Director as well as in the Head Office at British Airways. Armed with such insider knowledge, she is privy to one of the most coveted secrets in travel: how to get a free upgrade. Here, she has decided to share a few tips with you…

Sea plane flight

1. Join a frequent flier programme. 

Choose wisely, find one that has alliance with lots of other airlines, so you can maximise your options when you travel whilst still being able to collect points. The higher your status in your frequent flyer program the more likely you are to get an upgrade. If the airline requires to upgrade passengers due to over booking or broken seats, or Inflight entertainment issues on the day they will look at the highest status frequent flyers first.

2. Make sure you maximise gaining your points on your frequent flyer programme.

Know all the opportunities that are available that give you points. Buying your Duty Free shopping on board a BA or BA code share flight, for example, will give you points, or sometimes booking your hotels or car hire through your airlines website may give you extra points. Getting a credit card that has an allegiance with your airline is also a very good way to gain points.

3. Keep an eye out

Sales on 241 deals on upgraded tickets are fairly frequent, especially during peak season (such as the January sales).

4. Dress smartly.

There are equal benefits to being early to check in and late, check in staff can upgrade you on the spot if they need to. Top tip for this is dress smartly! You don’t have to wear your Sunday best, but smart casual, no ripped jeans or sportswear will give you an advantage.

5. If you have any special circumstances, let the check in agents and Cabin Crew know.

Make the relevant people aware of a special occasion like a honeymoon or birthday, or equally an exceptional circumstance like illness. There is no guarantee with this but worth politely letting staff and just volunteer that for the reason you have given you would love to be considered should they need to upgrade anyone. A common problem for Cabin Crew is having a problem with the seats not working in flight. It maybe the seat isn’t reclining properly or that the inflight entertainment system isn’t working, you can always say you would be willing to take on of these seats for the reason you mentioned.

6. Stick to the menu!

Having special dietary meals ordered can reduce your chances of being upgraded, as it is unlikely they will be able to upgrade your meal. Airlines don’t like it to be obvious to other customers that have paid for a full fare in a more expensive cabin that they have upgraded customers and by serving them a meal from a different class cabin makes it very obvious. So, if your diet does allow it, try to stick to the menu provided.

7. If you can, offer to be bumped off.

If a flight is oversold, if you are able, the airline will be looking for volunteers to come off their original flt & rebooked onto the next available one. If you offer to be bumped off, this gives you a strong chance of an upgrade.

8. Upgrade as compensation

If you have been inconvenienced by the airline in some way, including issues that may occur onboard, its worth asking for an upgrade, upgrades are used for compensation (if there are seats available), depending on the issue, but always be polite.

9. Work those connections…

If you know anyone who works for the airline you are travelling for, its definitely worth asking them if they are able to help you get an upgrade.

10. Splash out one way

Book a higher class cabin one way, and you have status, you are on the higher upgrade list.

11. A smile goes a long way…

Always remember to be polite and friendly – no one wants to help people who are being difficult! Also, it’s good to remember that the check in staff talk to the gate staff who talk to the cabin crew and they will write comments against your name, both good or bad. It is worth asking about the possibility of an upgrade at different points in your journey, i.e. check in and on board, but if you make a nuisance of yourself this information will get passed on. This is not by way of gossip, but from a safety aspect; staff are very vigilant and want to warn of anyone who could be problematic on the flight.

To summarise, most of the above is luck, be it good or bad, but worth thinking about. If you are looking for the most sure-fire way of getting a regular upgrade, your frequent flyer status is KING! Get collecting those points from anywhere and everywhere you can and stay loyal to that program.


Curious to find out more sneaky tips that might get you bumped up? You can get in touch with us directly here or give us a call on 0207 924 7133. 


You may also like