Flights: Six easy moves to boost your chance of a ‘free flight upgrade’

First class travel: How do people get upgraded?

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Travellers might dream of relaxing in a seat that turns into a bed, or unlimited champagne for the duration of their flight. Unfortunately, for many holidaymakers, a first or business-class ticket might be beyond their current budget.

According to travel experts from Forbes Advisor, however, there are some simple tactics travellers can try to boost their chances of being upgraded on a flight for free.

Check-in early

According to the experts, how early you check in could influence your chances of an upgrade.

They explained: “Chances are if the economy cabin has been overbooked, airlines will want to rectify this sooner rather than later to avoid causing delays.

“If you arrive several hours early for your flight, you’re most likely to beat off any competition for first class or business tickets – and avoid missing out to someone who got there before you.”

Be flexible

In the event your airline has overbooked a flight, being flexible could work in your favour.

If you don’t urgently need to be somewhere, Forbes Advisor recommends volunteering to take the later flight.

The expert team explained: “It’s not uncommon for some airlines to overbook flights leading to them needing to ‘bump’ passengers to another flight.

“If the airline is looking for volunteers to take a later flight, take the opportunity as it could lead to a free upgrade for your troubles.

“If a first-class ticket isn’t offered and you have been bumped (voluntarily or not), it’s always worth asking if they can upgrade your ticket due to the inconvenience.”

Fly solo

Due to the premium price of first-class seats, you have much better chances of getting an upgrade if you’re flying alone. Forbes Advisor said: “It’s unlikely airlines will want to lose out on money to upgrade a large group, so are more likely to offer a free first class ticket to individuals.

“Alongside this, seating in first class is often limited, meaning there is less chance of a group of seats becoming available.”

Pick your flight time wisely

Though it isn’t a sure way of getting an upgrade, the experts say busier flights could mean a greater chance of an upgrade.

Forbes Advisor explained: “There are certain conditions where first-class seats are less likely to be fully booked up.

“For example, if economy class is overbooked you’re much more likely to be offered a free upgrade.

“Consider occasions when this might be the case – for example, flying during peak times for families such as school holidays – most families won’t shell out to sit in first class and routes will be busy, increasing the likelihood of an overbooked economy cabin.”

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Dress smart

While dressing in your finest clothes is no guarantee of an upgrade, a smart outfit will certainly enhance your chances of being chosen, according to the experts.

Forbes Advisor said: “Top paying customers will often be dressed sharper, and airlines will want to ensure anyone they bump to first-class looks the part.

“Don’t feel the need to dress in anything extravagant. However, just make sure you avoid items that are too casual like flip flops and cargo shorts.”

Consider special occasions

Although it is not always possible for the flight crew to upgrade passengers for special occasions, it isn’t unheard of.

The expert said: “If your flight is for a special occasion, why not try your luck by mentioning it?

“Many airline staff will help to upgrade you if they can to make occasions such as honeymoons, anniversaries and birthdays more special.”

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