My parents often remark after I travel “did you get upgraded again?” Between them and a lot of other people in my life, the question usually is, how are you getting upgraded and what are you doing that I can do? It’s always more comfortable to fly in Business or First class than coach, so today I’m sharing my secrets and all my tips for how to get upgraded on flights and what you can do to make it more likely!
Be Loyal to 1 Airline
This is by far the most important thing you can do if you want to be able to travel a lot and get upgraded – stick with 1 airline and stay loyal to them! It might seem easy to buy the cheapest flight, not worrying about what airline it’s on and fly on all different airlines throughout the year, but in reality, that’s actually holding you back. By buying the cheapest flight, you’re missing out on the opportunity to gain loyalty to an airline, rack up points, and get access to upgrades and other amenities by becoming frequent flyers with that airline.
Personally, I’m loyal to Alaska Airlines and I will go out of my way to fly Alaska if I have to. Not only are they an amazing airline, they are based in the Pacific North West where I live and being loyal to them and only flying Alaska allows me to become MVP Gold with them most years. I fly a lot, so racking up their loyalty and points, allows me a lot of perks when flying. I get upgraded on at least half of my flights with Alaska and moved to First Class throughout the year without me even having to ask. I also get bonus points on all flights just by being elite with them and those points rack up super fast to use for trips all over the world.
As an Alaska Airlines MVP Gold elite member, I also am One World Sapphire, meaning that I have access to airlines around the world as an elite flyer. This allows me lounge access in airports all over the world and gets me on the upgrade list, as well as early boarding and a lot of there perks. Being loyal to 1 airline when you fly to and getting to their elite status makes a huge difference when trying to get upgraded on flights.
Take the Earliest or Latest Flight
Another way to get upgraded is to take the flights that other people don’t really want to. If you’re elite with an airline, even the bottom tiers, you’ll get put on an upgrade list and if there are people with higher elite status than you, you’ll get moved to the bottom so you want to pick flights that you have a better opportunity to get upgraded on. For example, usually the earliest morning flight and the latest night flight are the ones no one wants, so if you are flying to a destination with multiple flights options and you’re an elite flyer, you’ll have the best opportunity to get upgraded on those flights where there will be extra seats. The main flights in the middle of the day, that’s when everyone is flying and there won’t be open seats available for upgrades.
Even on flights where I don’t have elite status, I always ask at the gate counter if there are upgrades available. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you may get lucky! On our recent trip to London, I asked at the counter and they had 2 business class lie-flat seats for purchase left which we bought. Sometimes, it’s worth asking as it will be cheaper than it would be to buy those seats outright – for example, our upgrade to Business on our Portland-London flight cost $500/person. And while that might seem like a lot for a one way, we bought our flights on Alaska points, so we actually only paid about $150/person for the entire round trip from Portland to London. Even with our purchase of business class upgrades on the way there, we still only paid $650/person for the entire round trip ticket using miles, way cheaper than even what a coach seat would cost on that route. The key to asking at the gate though is to be there early because someone might come along before you and grab the seats that are available!