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4 Tips on How to get that First Class Upgrade on your next flight

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

First-class upgrades used to be given away almost at the whim of the gate agent when the seats were undersold. Those days are gone for the most part, and you are much less likely to get a free upgrade simply for dressing nicely or having a pleasant demeanor. Fortunately, upgrades are still available, but nowadays they require more planning than charm.

Departure Time

First-class cabins are much more likely to be full when business people tend to be traveling. By flying at alternate times, you are much more likely to encounter an empty first-class cabin with upgrades available. Consider flying on midday or late-evening flights when there are fewer business travelers on board. Saturdays and holidays are also great times to avoid the business fliers, increasing your chance of an upgrade.


If you have a title or an important position in politics, business, academia, a religious institution or some other organization, you can increase your chance of getting an upgrade. Consider adding an OSI (Other Significant Information) message to your PNR (booking record) with your travel agent. The OSI will say if you are a CIP (commercially important passenger,) increasing your chance of getting an upgrade.


Customer Loyalty

Airlines court customer loyalty, and if you show yourself to be a loyal customer you might be rewarded with free upgrades. Take all of your flights with the same airline whenever possible and join that airline’s frequent flier club. Read the frequent flier emails and keep an eye open for free upgrade deals. As you accumulate frequent flier miles, you might qualify for free upgrades at certain flight times or for first-class upgrades at a discounted rate.

Gate Agent

Free upgrades are far less common than they used to be, and many airlines are more likely to sell upgrades to coach passengers than to give them away outright. It never hurts to ask, though, and a gate agent is the best person to ask for an upgrade. The gate agent has a fair bit of discretion in seating passengers. Wait until he or she is not busy and politely ask if there are any free upgrades available. If there aren’t, ask what upgrade deals are offered for the flight.