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STA Travel Blog

6 Insider Tips on How to Blag a Free Flight Upgrade

It’s the dream scenario: you wander up to the check-in desk at the airport, and are informed by the check-in staff that they are able to upgrade you from your economy seat into business class, on this occasion.

You try to remain cool with a friendly smile and an ‘Oh, thank you very much’, when inside you’re jumping with excitement like a 6 year old who’s OD’ed on Skittles.

At least, that’s how I imagine it would happen, because I am yet to experience that euphoric moment (sob).

It does happen though. It’s not an urban airport myth — we all have friends who have not only just returned from a trip that will make you cry a little inside through sheer jealousy, but they also can’t help but look a little smug when they inform you that they were also upgraded on the flight too. URGH. (I mean, yay for them!)

So, is there any way you can entice an upgrade? I grilled Ali, our Air Product Executive, and general superior knowledge on all things flights here at STA Travel, to spill any tips she could think of to make our upgrade dreams a reality.

Ali’s Tips for Getting a Free Flight Upgrade

Ali’s not let us down yet. Last year she revealed the cheapest days to fly, and now she’s back to offer up her tips on blagging a free upgrade.

*But. I feel like I should add in a disclaimer here: these are just tips. We are not saying that if you do these things, you will be upgraded — they are simply a few tricks you can pull, to heighten your chances. Maybe.

1. Become a Frequent Flyer

Join the frequent flyer scheme of the airline you’re flying with – they are always more likely to upgrade those with points.

2. Fly at Busy Times

Book yourself onto busy flights (i.e. those departing on Friday nights or before school/public holidays), and be prepared to fly the next day if you can.

If the flight you are travelling on is overbooked the airline will be looking to offload people to take a later flight, and may upgrade you as an incentive, if you agree to be flexible.

3. Dress Smart

Avoid denim and hoodies, or other informal clothing. Airlines are very unlikely to upgrade those wearing boardies and flip flops. Dress to impress, and you may find yourself turning left upon boarding the aircraft.

4. Don’t Order a Special Meal

If you’re keen to increase your upgradeability, don’t pre-book a special meal, if you can help it. Airlines almost never upgrade people with special meal requests, as they are unlikely to have their required meal on-board in the business cabin.

5. Be Fashionably Late to Check-in

If the flight is over-booked, there’s a chance they will move you up to the next class, if all the other seats have been taken. But there is also a chance you will get bumped off the flight and placed on the next available one, so approach this one with caution.

Oh, and don’t be so late to check-in that you miss your flight!

6. Flirt with the Check-in Staff

Well, it can’t hurt right? “Why, helloooo. Are you an air steward, or a special agent from heaven?” works every time. Try it, and come back and tell everyone how successful you were.

If you’re planning on taking a flight somewhere exciting soon, check out our cheap flights page of our website to find a deal and give us a call to make sure you don’t miss out on a bargain!
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Showing 10 Comments

  1. Fab tips – I take it i’ll have to leave the kids at home to be in with a chance of an upgrade, right?!

    1795 days ago
  2. Tim Beckett

    I once flew back to the UK from Washington DC. I lived out there and so had a fequent flyer. I was expecting to get on my economy seat. But then *Will Tim Beckett please make his way to one of the Crew* I went over and they told me that I not only had been upgraded, but to 1st class!!! I was wearing trackies, trainers and a hoodie. It was brilliant. Seat converted to a bed, great food, hot towels. The whole sh-bang. I’m about 90% sure it was just my frequent flyer card.

    1795 days ago
  3. Sandra

    I think this is the greatest load of rubbish regarding travel. As a former flight attendant, then gate agent and ticket check in agent we don’t work that way. These days even the million milers (and yes there are many who travel more per year that flight crew) they find it difficult if not near impossible to get upgraded. The truth is there are less flights and more people booked on these flights. Airlines are code sharing and saving millions in the process. Even when staff travel it has changed. We no longer have to dress up, jeans are perfectly acceptable. I’ve worked for 3 airline and have been in the industry since 1989, and many of my friends are in the industry worldwide with a variety or airlines. I showed them this article and they all agreed with me, this information was true in the eighties and early nineties but not these days.

    1795 days ago
    • Lisa Crowther

      Hi Sandra, thanks for your feedback base on your experience. As we mentioned in the article, these aren’t rules, just tips to help you stand out among the other passengers if the chance for an upgrade does present itself. We’ve had tonnes of feedback from people on social media that have been upgraded so it does happen, and these tips are just meant to be a light hearted look at how you can help it be you that benefits.

      1782 days ago
  4. Ken Harper

    Agree about the frequent flyer. I was a BA Silver Card holder and got upgraded to Business from World Traveller Plus on Singapore/Sydney once. Also I twice got selected to join a flight that was “overloaded” as the previous one was cancelled, leaving others behind. The other suggestion I would make is travel alone!

    1792 days ago
  5. david harts

    Just another tip el al israel airlines will upgrade you to buissness class for $200 on the plane which is a bargain

    1792 days ago
  6. Voke Abulary

    @Christina Baird – you will obviously never get upgraded!!!

    1789 days ago
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