How to Score a Flight Upgrade

2.87min read

Published 10 October 2013


As if going on a vacation isn't already sweet enough, scoring an upgrade (especially on those long-haul flights) can make your holiday that much better. Whether you fancy flying the skies in Premium Economy or Business Class, we share a few techniques that may just help you towards getting an upgrade on your next flight.


Join a Loyalty Program

Have high hopes of an upgrade? Unless you're part of that airline’s loyalty program, odds are not in your favour. Although it's not strictly necessary to be in an airline's Frequent Flyer program, you’ve got a much better chance of having those three magical letters: SFU (Suitable For Upgrade) beside your name if you’re a regular card-carrying passenger. The best thing you can do to maximize the benefits of a frequent flyer program is to choose one program and use it exclusively. Benefits continue to increase the more you travel and, in addition to earning points, regular travellers can attain a higher ‘status’. This can come with added benefits such as lounge access, upgrade credits, and priority service levels.




 "I was thrilled by the prospect of “stretching out,” and got a bit button happy as I explored my space. We were given a travel kit featuring a toothbrush, lotion, warm socks and massive headphones that make the Economy ear buds look so lame." -Andrew Dobson, DobbernationLoves


Consider Your Flight Time

Opt to take a flight during a less popular time, and even if you don't secure an upgrade, you may be lucky enough to have empty seats beside you in economy. Many airlines over-subscribe flights, leaving midweek mornings and weekend evenings the best times to land an upgrade. Also consider flying on bank holidays as there tend to be less business class passengers travelling during that time.


Dress to Impress

Nothing screams unprepared for Business Class like being under-dressed. If you plan on scoring Business Class or Premium Economy seats, wear business casual clothes to the airport and bring a comfortable change of clothes to put on once your flight takes off. Surveys show that well-dressed travellers are most likely to score a move to a superior class. This means no jeans, athletic shoes or other casual attire. Airlines are more willing to upgrade passengers who look as though they will fit-in with those who willingly paid the extra money.


Check-in at the Counter

Our lives may be more convenient with the invention of online check-in and airline apps, but have you ever tried to sweet-talk a machine? Although there are countless ways to check in for a flight, none of them are likely to result in an upgrade unless they involve speaking to an actual human being. Arrive at the airport earlier than you need to, and check-in using the airline's kiosk. You will be able to modify your seat assignment, and if there are any other seats available, you may be able to purchase an upgrade at a significantly reduced cost.


Be Flexible

It's pretty safe to say that all airlines over-book their flights, and when everybody actually shows up for a flight, they need to find people willing to be bumped to a later departure. Consider this a good thing; if the flight is overbooked, your bargaining position is strong. Approach the gate agent and be as genuine and sympathetic as you can. Ask them if they would consider re-booking you in return for an upgrade voucher in addition to whatever other incentives they might be offering (sometimes you can score a free hotel stay and meal voucher if the flight is the next morning). This will be more likely to work if you don't have checked luggage, which would require much more work on the part of the airlines (and the agent) in order to bump you.


Don’t Forget to Smile

With millions of people taking flights every year, it's noticeable how few travellers give airline staff even the most common courtesy of a smile. In a busy, often crowded environment, being the stand-out passenger who smiles can prove the make-or-break difference when it comes to securing an upgrade. Manners cost nothing, so even if you fail to leave the economy class section behind, you’ll still have brightened someone’s day by being pleasant and offering them a smile. Remember, you are about to fly to another destination, which is merely a dream to some people. Enjoy the romance of being above the clouds. It's a pretty special thing.


The End Result

At the end of the day there are no hard rules when it comes to bypassing economy to receive an upgrade. However, a combination of forward planning, sensible attire and a respectful demeanour will have you in the running – if not for an upgrade, then at the very least a pleasant flight.


Have any other great tips that have worked for you? Share them with us!


For specific details about Premium Economy or Business Class flights, contact a Flight Centre airfare expert at 1 877 967 5302, who are available 24/7 to help you plan and book your next flight.

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Flight Centre

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