Five ways to get ‘special service’ and free upgrades on flights – crew can ‘work miracles’

Ruth Langsford trains as BA cabin crew on Loose Women

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Long-haul travel often includes arduously long flights, so a free upgrade or a little bit of extra special treatment goes a long way. According to airline insiders and cabin crew, there are some ways passengers can better their chances of experiencing such luxuries.

Though free upgrades aren’t as common as they may have been in decades gone by, airline workers say there are still some occasions in which a traveller may be bumped up a class, or at the very least given some free nuts.

Here are five ways passengers could enjoy some special treatment onboard.

Be nice to gate staff and cabin crew

Being polite to staff may seem like common sense but according to crew members, it can make all of the difference.

According to US flight attendant Cierra Mistt, a small gift could be the key to an upgrade.

In a TikTok video, she explained: “There are a lot of ways you can get upgrades to first class.

“One of the easiest ways to get free upgrades is literally just being nice to your gate agent and your flight attendant.

“The miracles we can work when we’re given some Starbucks or a bag of chocolates.

“Especially on those long days when we have back to back flights and don’t even have time to go and get some food.”

Fellow flight attendant Kat Kalami was in agreement, claiming that something as simple as a “Starbucks gift card” could see travellers enjoying the “royal treatment”.

She said: “It means the world to us when customers give us this”.

Ms Kalami continued: “If you don’t have gift cards you can just pick up candy bars, lip balm, anything and give them to your flight attendants.

“We will know where you’re sitting and we will know what you look like and the whole crew will make sure that you’re taken care of.”

Safety reasons

In some instances, the passenger has little to do with whether or not they benefit from an upgrade.

According to Mistt, upgrades are sometimes essential to the safety of a flight.

She explained: “Another common way that we move people all the way up to the front, it’s not just because we are being nice.

“But normally if our flight isn’t full we will have to move people for weight and balance purposes.

“That being said, normally all aircraft are tail heavy so if we’re going to move people up to the front where do you think we are going to take them from? The back.”

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Be a frequent flier

Often, upgrades are given specifically to customers who fly regularly with the airline.

Money Saving Expert recommends becoming a frequent flier with one airline in order to benefit from perks further down the line.

The experts explained: “Even if you have no intention of sticking with the airline you’re flying with, it could still be worth joining its scheme to leapfrog people who haven’t, and nothing stops you signing up for a few different ones.

“If you have no luck with a free upgrade, loyalty schemes also allow you to use any points to buy an upgrade for some tickets.”

Befriend an airline worker

The saying “it’s who you know” can actually be true when it comes to enjoying special airline perks.

Money Saving Expert states: “If you’ve got close friends at the check-in desk, or better still, higher up in the ailing, they may be able to wangle you occasional special privileges.

“Some airlines also give their staff upgrade vouchers, which will effectively buy you an upgrade if there’s a higher-class seat available.”

Dress for the occasion

One unusual tip for getting an upgrade is dressing the part.

According to one airline worker, this can encourage crew to boost passengers to higher cabins.

Nick Caunter, managing director of valet parking service Airport Parking & Hotels (APH), told “For those who dream of flying business class, it’s worth keeping in mind that those who are well-dressed and polite can sometimes be rewarded with a rare flight upgrade.

“So although flip flops and leggings may be the comfiest way to travel, it may be worth keeping these items packed away in your hand luggage and opting for smart casual attire instead.”

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