How To Get Upgraded On A Flight

June 17, 2016

Wider seats, more legroom, better meals, free drinks, newspapers, and the pièce de résistance: beds. What’s not to love about turning left.

Upgrades aren’t given out so easy but there are steps you can take to increase your probability of getting bumped up to business or first.

Below are several tips, a few of which you will want to combine, depending on your circumstances and, of course, the level of risk you are willing to take.


Book A Flight Which Has Business Class

aer lingus a330 seat map on seat guru
Budget airlines don’t offer business or first class.
It may sound obvious, but to be in with a chance of getting upgraded, you’d better book yourself on a flight with a business class seat.

To find out if your flight offers business or first class check out Seat Guru


Become A Loyal Customer

Join an airline’s frequent flyer program and use the airline regularly. Join other frequent flyer programs, even if you don't fly often with the airline: you'll still stand a better chance of getting upgraded than someone who didn't bother.

ba executive club cards improve chances of seat upgrade

Join BA's Executive Club Programme Today

Sticking to one airline and getting to an upper tier will push you to the front of the queue when free seats are available in business and first class. Getting to an upper tier requires a lot of travel, and is usually achieved only by those with jobs which demand very regular international travel.

A survey of moneysavirngexpert users who received upgrades found that the largest section of the group (7.7%) who were given a free flight upgrade were simply offered an upgrade with being asked any questions. The second largest group (4.4%) were members of the airline’s frequent flyer programme.


Dress The Part

dress smart to get a seat upgrade

Scruffy and crusty won’t bag you a free upgrade next to someone who looks like they belong in business class. So, get your style on and you'll be in with a chance.




 Travel When Flights Are Quiet

To increase your chances of getting upgraded, work out when business class will be quieter, for example on bank holidays, and if you can fly then.

Share Your Good News

share your good news for a chance of an upgradeIf you’re celebrating a milestone like a significant birthday, a honeymoon, or anniversary let the airline staff know about it. Consider taking along some evidence to show airline staff as this one gets used a lot.




 Monitor Your Email

At times airlines send emails to customers offering cheap upgrades. Although not free, it is still worth keeping an eye out for a good deal. These emails can be sent out up to a couple of hours before departure, so keep checking.

Being Nice Pays Upgrade Dividends
angry abusive customers at a check in desk

People in service positions regularly suffer demanding and abusive customers. Show them some kindness and you might be surprised how well they will treat you in return. Remember, they have all the power.

If you ask for an upgrade make sure you are super polite and do with a little bit of a cheeky smile, like you’re trying your luck and you're a million miles away from being demanding.

Voice Genuine Problems

Voicing genuine concerns over the seat, seatbelt, or neighbouring passenger may get you moved up a class if no more free seats are available in yours. 

Express Your Dissatisfaction

If your flight is overbooked and you are bumped off to another explain to the airline why it is so important that you fly soon. Show them how annoyed / upset you are and it may pay off.

Use Your Impressive Credentials
use your credentials to get an upgrade

If you happen to be a doctor, judge, or VIP, be sure to note this at the time of booking but only if it matches your passport.

If you haven’t changed your passport from Ms. to Dr. what are you waiting for?!

Got a diplomatic passport? Jump to the front of the upgrade queue.


Check In Early

Some people report that they received an upgrade because they checked in early. The reason is that by checking in early the airline is made aware that you are definitely flying. By upgrading you in advance it saves the airline on administration at the airport.

Check In Late
check in late for a chance of getting upgraded

By checking in late there is a chance that all economy seats will be taken and you will get bumped up to a more expensive class. This is a risky strategy however as you may not be allowed on the flight at all.


Fly Solo For An Increased Chance Of An Upgrade

Solo passengers are easier to move, so if you travel with a group but still want to be in with a chance of getting a free upgrade, book your ticket separately.

Couples receive free upgrades on occasion but solo travellers have the highest chance of receiving a free upgrade. Groups can forget about it.


Busy Economy, Quiet Large Business Class

Ideally you want to book a flight where economy is busy and there is a large, empty business class.

Seat Expert and SeatGuru catalogue the seating plans of all major airlines.

Avoid early morning routes between business hubs.


Pay For An Upgrade At The Airport
pay for a flight upgrade

Paying for an upgrade at the airport may be less expensive than you think. Because seats are perishable airlines like to sell them. So, the more seats that are available in a more expensive class the better the price you are likely to get one for.

Bonus Tip

Even if you don’t get upgraded, for less than £20 you can enjoy access to an executive lounge before your flight. Swissport operate lounges across the world including several UK lounges. Although you may not be flying business, you can still get some of the trappings at a price that won’t break the bank.

Diners Club also run lounges and charge just £15 but that is subject to an annual £50 membership.

You may also like: How To Get The Best Price For Flights

Got an upgrade tip you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.


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