Is This the Easiest Way to Snag a Free Flight Upgrade?

Any traveler can follow these steps to fly high and get a better seat. And they all center around being polite and flexible.

Is This the Easiest Way to Snag a Free Flight Upgrade? Photo by kudla / Shutterstock.com

Landing a free flight upgrade often hinges on making a choice that is unrealistic.

You might improve your odds of an upgrade by choosing a particular airline or departure time, for example. But travelers tend to choose flights primarily based on their budget or schedule.

However, there is one way most of us can attempt an upgrade from economy class to business class or other premium class: Simply talk to the airline agent stationed at the gate, according to Consumer Reports.

Gary Leff of the website A View From The Wing tells CR that gate agents focus on getting airplanes out of the gate on schedule. That sometimes entails upgrading coach passengers to the front of the plane if coach is overbooked, but there is still room in first class.

A free upgrade would happen during boarding, but you must take several steps before then. For better odds of getting upgraded at the gate, CR and Leff advise that you:

  • Be prepared to ditch your carry-on luggage. If you get an upgrade, overhead compartments might already be filled by the time you board, requiring you to check your carry-on bags.
  • Get to the gate early. The agent might be less busy or less stressed at that time.
  • Ask nicely. Tell the gate agent you would like to be considered if passengers are being upgraded.
  • Stay at the gate. Remain there even after your row is called. You want to be among the last passengers to board because such passengers are more likely to be upgraded than those who are already on the plane.

If you end up stuck in coach despite your best efforts, check out the tips in:

Have you ever managed a free flight upgrade? Share how you pulled it off by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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