In the bygone days of the mid-Twentieth century, airplanes were basically little flying Ritz’s, what with the fancy ashtrays and wood trim, and everyone dressed for a cotillion and talking like they aren’t British but they aren’t exactly American either. While there’s plenty about that time to not get sentimental about (racism, sexism, unbearable, constant Cold War tension), you also had a much higher likelihood of getting upgraded on a flight! This is mostly because the airlines hadn’t thought of overbooking flights yet (ideas that evil take time to develop). Here’s a few travel tips on how to get upgraded, for as little money as possible.
1. Always compare ticket prices carefully.
Depending on the destination, time of year, closeness to the departure date, or just plain randomly, premium-class fares might not be such a huge jump in price from economy. A lot of the time, premium tickets include a whole bunch of features that you’d have to pay for in economy, like checked baggage, for example. If that’s something you think you’d need regardless, deduct it from the difference in price. Maybe it won’t be such a chunk of change to get considerably more comfort! Stay updated on ticket prices by subscribing to email updates from your airlines.
2. Dess nicely.
This may seem like a minor thing, but perception is important. If everyone else is in sweats and you’re the slick corporate traveler looking all “Mad Men”, you’ll really stand out, in a good way.
3. Be aware of how things work.
A lot of people expect an emptier plane to mean a free upgrade is easier to get. It’s actually the other way around! If a flight has oversold their economy-class seats, they’ll move passengers into empty first-class seats, so they don’t have to bump as many people. This is your opening! Ask very politely, and maybe it’ll happen for you.
4. Be a hero!
If your flight is oversold, offer nobly and compassionately to give up your seat (in exchange for an upgrade on the next flight). If your schedule is flexible, this is a great option. Try and do this discreetly so you don’t end up in an “I am Spartacus” situation.
5. Buy an upgrade.
Say you’ve booked economy. You might be surprised to learn that the price of the upgrade to premium will probably go down as you get closer to your departure date! If you purchase your upgrade at the last minute, you might end up with a deal.
Free upgrades are rarer than ever. The important lesson is to always observe the situation carefully. If you see an opportunity, jump for it. The legroom alone will be worth the effort.