Flying First Class or Business may be a way of life for the privileged of the world, but for the vast majority of those that travel in Economy Class, it’s a pipedream that’s just out of reach. Of course, we’ve all heard the stories about a ‘friend of a friend’ who managed to get the golden ticket of a free upgrade, a pass to enjoy the world of fully reclining chairs, metal cutlery and quality food and drink. But how likely are you to get a seat upgrade? And what do you have to do to get one?
The good news is: a seat upgrade isn’t an urban legend. The bad news is: there’s no rock-solid, guaranteed method to get one. The worst news is: they are a lot harder to get your mitts on than they used to be. However, there are a few top tips that might help you on your way…
As long as you’re flexible with your travel plans, an over-booked flight could be your ticket to the best seats in the house. If a flight is over-booked, the airline will have to bump someone and, as compensation for missing their flight and changing their plans, they are likely to be offered an upgraded ticket instead.
Over-sold flights are, unsurprisingly, most common during peak travel periods such as the school holidays when families are all trying to get away at the same time and business travel is much lower. Sites such as Expertflyer.com can even show you how many seats are left in the cabin on any flight. Get seat alerts from Expertflyer.com, you might just grab yourself a free upgrade.
A seat upgrade is so much more likely to be on the cards if you collect air miles – a task that many might believe involves long and regular journeys that are more in-keeping with the jet-set crowd than regular folk. However, you don’t actually have to travel to collect points. Instead, you can actually collect miles as you do the online shopping with an air mile reward credit card. Just make sure you investigate the airlines your card is affiliated with. For example, the British Airways American Express card allows you to collect an Avios point for each £1 you spend whilst the Flybe Credit Card simply offers free flights in return for certain levels of spend.
If an upgrade becomes available, reason follows that airlines will prioritise regular, loyal customers. Research from Expedia found that, in actual fact, many airlines organise upgrades 24 hours before a flight, prioritising regular fliers and business travellers who may well choose to fly with them again, thanks to the treat of a better seat.
It figures that you’re much more likely to receive a seat upgrade if you’re travelling alone than as a family of four. If you’re travelling with a companion or your partner and aren’t too concerned about sitting together, booking and checking in separately might strengthen your chances. If one of you seals the deal and then mentions the other, the airline could extend the offer – stranger things have happened! Maximise your chances by booking a flight on your birthday – don’t try faking it, the dates are right there in your passport.
There’s no harm in asking directly with a smile and a little friendly chat at the check-in counter. You might just brighten someone’s day enough that they allocate you a better seat than the one you were expecting. Additionally, although the classic advice to dress well for your flight might seem out-dated, travel experts such as Skyscanner still make a case for choosing the suit or cashmere scarf over your torn jeans and flip-flops. Dress for the seat you want, not the seat you have.
No matter which class you end up flying in, there are rare occasions when things might go wrong on your trip. A cancellation might mean you are out of pocket or a luggage mishap could mean the loss of valuable personal possessions.
In order to safeguard against anything that could turn your dream holiday into a nightmare, ensure you take the time to research and book the right travel insurance for your trip. A comparison tool like the one we offer at Medical Travel Compared can help make this task a whole lot easier.
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