Travel Tips: Free Airline Upgrades

Hanoi Airport

The theme of this blog is that I'm not an expert. There's a lot of stuff I like to do and lot of stuff I'm interested in, but in general I'm amateur at best with most things I do. With that said it's still worth noting that I am by no means am I a frequent flyer. There's plenty of business travelers who would laugh at how infrequently I fly by their standards. What is probably true though, is that I fly more than the average Joe and I have picked up my fair share of tricks of the trade.

One of things I always do when flying anywhere from quick flights to California to long hauls over to Europe, is ask for upgrades. Now when I say upgrades, I don't mean I ask to PAY to upgrade, which is what the airline will typically try to get you to do if you ask for an upgrade. What I ask for is a free upgrade. How do I do this? Well, let me explain!

The first thing I do is book my flight. I do that just like anyone else, with cash, miles, cards or vouchers. It doesn't particularly matter how you book it. Using sites like Hotwire, Kayak or any airlines website will be fine, although I do usually have better success if I have a credit card and a mileage plan with the airline that I'm flying. Once I have the ticket booked, I go to the airport like normal and find a seat by the gate.

Once the plane arrives and the airline agent comes out to the service counter, I typically give them a few minutes to get situated. After it looks like they've handled their pre-flight business I go up and ask to speak with them. Now, what I say here is different every time, I don't have a perfect script, but here are a few rules.

Rule 1: Be polite. Say please and thank you.

Rule 2: Be humble. Nobody likes a jerk or someone who feels entitled.

Rule 3: Be honest. Tell them why you want an upgrade, and give them a reason to help you.

Rule 4: Ask again. Even if they say no, if the plane isn't full, they can bump you up. Never hurts to ask twice.

Now, the only reliable way to get an upgrade is to pay of course, but there is one way I've found that has worked most of the time without any money. The best way to get a free upgrade is taking a trip around me or my travel partners birthdays. I simply explain to them, this is a birthday trip, and it would be super awesome if there is room in premium or first class cabins to get bumped up if possible. This has worked for us several times and it's an awesome way to practice if you have never tried asking for an upgrade before. Hopefully with these few rules and a little bit of luck you can talk your way into an upgrade!

CDG Paris Airport