Free Flight Upgrade Guide

I love flying. My name is Craig Moore and my hobby for the past 35 years is travelling. Here are a few tips to help you plan your next adventure. The only certain way to get a flight upgrade is to pay for it.

photo of long haul Aircraft seats

Yet, free upgrades DO happen. I have been upgraded on a trip and so have members of my family. Of course they are rare, but there are ways to increase your chances. Most modern non-budget airlines operate up to four classes of travel on long-haul flights.

Most upgrades are only up one level, as airlines are more likely to move someone in the class above up too, though occasionally if you're the only single traveller, it can happen. This did happened to my mother-in-law on her way back form Canada. Straight from economy to 1st Class. She was on her own and always dresses as an elegant older woman.

Dress Smart and be charming

Smartly dressed lone travellers are more likely to be upgraded. You do not have to wear a suit. Most first-class long haul travellers dress smart casual for the plane and change just before landing or in the airport lounge on arrival.

If you look scruffy you will not be upgraded. You have to make an effort to fit in. Always be polite, charming and friendly with a cheeky smile. In the rare event that airline staff have the power to upgrade someone they will not choose passengers who do not treat them with respect.

Many members of staff find it irritating when people keep asking for upgrades, demand an upgrade or invent a contrived story to improve their upgrade chances. They have heard it all before. If staff ask you to move from your seat do not ask why. Just comply with their request.

You may be one of the lucky few who has been picked for an upgrade. For obvious reasons they cannot announce that you have been chosen to be upgraded in front of all the other passengers who are staying in Economy without starting a ;why did you pick him and not me' argument.

You cannot guarantee to be upgraded but here are a few things that increase your chances.

If you have close friends who work in the airline ask to see if they can get you put on the upgrade candidate list. Some airlines give their staff upgrade vouchers which they might be able to pass onto you.

If you are a Doctor, Professor, Reverend, retired military officer, Lord or lady use your title when you book your ticket. My brother flies all over the world on business. He is hard to buy presents for so one Christmas his wife purchased a one meter square plot of land in Scotland which came with the title lord of the manor and salmon fishing rights.

He changed the name on his credit card and uses this title when booking his business flights. He has been upgraded five times to seats with full length beds on trips to Taiwan from London.

If you order a special requirement in-flight meal you have just destroy your ability to be upgraded. Planes very rarely carry spare special requirement meals in higher class seats where the food costs more. You will be overlooked for someone who is less picky.

When you book in try to let it slip that you are flying because of a special occasion like a 60th Birthday, honeymoon or you are going away to get married. If you do not get upgraded there is still a chance of getting some special in-flight treatment like a free glass of champagne.

Members of an airlines frequent flyer scheme who build up points or miles and get to the upper top levels like 'Gold' or 'Premier' are given huge status at check-in. It is one of the best ways of being one of the first people to be considered for an upgrade if one becomes available. They are usually free to join.

Flight's are regularly over booked. Check-in staff will look for people to volunteer to come off that flight and take the later flight. They may offer an upgrade on the next flight as compensation for those who volunteer or an extra free flight. If you are very lucky it might be both

If there is a problem with your seat or seatbelt let the air steward know about it. This also goes for the person you are sitting next to. If they have bad body odour problems or are a person of great size they may move you up if the problem warrants it and there's no spare space in your current area.

You may not like what you get

My wife and I were upgraded on a trip to Paris with British Airways. We were very excited and looked forward to the meal. When it arrived it was Salmon. There was no alternative. I do not like fish. I would have enjoyed the chicken served in economy much more.