For frequent flyers, sitting in economy is a thing of the past. With a little legwork, you too can experience the finer things in life—like stretching out in spacious comfort with enhanced amenities. Upgrading from coach to business or first class is more achievable than you think with the right strategies. Here are some insider tips for maximizing your chances during your next flight.
Check Your Status
Airline loyalty programs like to reward their most frequent flyers and repeat customers, so if you fly even just a few times per year internationally or domestically, it’s worthwhile to shoot for earning the higher elite status tiers such as silver, gold, or platinum levels within your preferred carrier’s loyalty program.
Reaching these higher levels usually means you’ll have better access to complimentary or low-cost upgrades using your accrued miles or points when seats are available. Elite flyers also report getting complimentary upgrades to more premium cabins like business or first class more frequently than non-elite flyers. Be sure to check your loyalty program account frequently and look for any upgrade award certificates you may have earned toward future travel from earning tier qualification or spending requirements.
Time It Right
Upgrades through an airline’s standby or award waitlist are most commonly available to be booked between two to three weeks before your scheduled flight departure date. This is usually when airlines have the clearest picture of their final aircraft load and can best determine if they have unsold premium seats.
Your chances of scoring an affordable upgrade decrease significantly within the final two weeks as aircraft cabins fill up. However, you may also have better luck requesting upgrades on overnight “red-eye” long-haul flights when first and business-class cabins don’t always sell out as reliably. Being flexible with your travel dates and considering flying on traditionally less busy days of the week can also increase your odds of an open premium seat.
Engage actively and positively with your preferred airline carriers through their verified social media accounts on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Major international airlines frequently run contests and promotions exclusively for their social followers where they will give away first or business-class award flights in a fun engagement like a share, tag, or comment.
Be sure to also check departure airport accounts, as some hold local upgrade promotions exclusively for passengers flying out of that specific hub airport. Just be sure to thoroughly follow all terms and conditions of any contests you enter, but adopting a social media presence with airlines can certainly pay off with perks beyond just staying informed of travel deals.
Use Transfer Partners
Maximize the value of your loyalty program by leveraging transfer partnerships between your preferred carrier and other major companies you may already be earning points or miles with, like major hotel brands and credit card rewards. Transferring substantial balances of points earned from hotel stays can open doors to using those currencies to bid on or purchase upgrades you otherwise may be short on the miles for through your airline program alone.
Likewise, many premium travel credit cards offer lucrative sign-up bonuses and may provide companion coupons, statement credits, or other perks you can leverage toward an upgrade. Take the time to do some math and ensure any point or mile transfers between programs provide good value for redeeming toward your upgrade goals.
Consider Hotel or Destination Partnerships
Explore using points you’ve accrued from partner programs, as major international hotel brands often maintain fantastic seating partnerships with specific airlines. For example, you may be able to redeem stays or nights at Hilton properties for complimentary or significantly discounted upgrades on their partner airline award flights.
Likewise, look into transfer options through tourism boards representing your desired destination, as they frequently advertise premium air travel perks for visiting. Stay tuned to both departure airport and destination marketing accounts on social media for potential upgrade opportunities.
Check Third-Party Websites
Sites like ExpertFlyer let you search by fare class for cheaper/availability upgrades compared to airline sites. Consider expert agents who can source competitive prices and consolidate bookings. Certain platforms offer pay-per-use upgrade bids and first-come-first-served inventory too.
While success isn’t guaranteed, following these insider tips can give your chances a boost. With miles, loyalty, research, and a little charm, you too could be sipping bubbly from an aircraft bar soon enough! Happy travels in style.