Travel CEO’s tips for free flight upgrades including booking the middle seat

When flying most of us opt for economy seats to save money – as flights can be as cheap as £20 on some European routes.

However, when travelling long-haul it can be a nightmare to squash into the tiny seats with little recline for upwards of eight hours at a time.

But many travellers aren’t aware that often airlines upgrade economy tickets to first class due to over-booking and as a loyalty ploy – all for free!

READ MORE: 'I'm a flight attendant and these are the reasons I upgrade people to first class'

Flight attendants have previously explained that you need to be careful about what you wear on your flight – as the wrong thing could mean you don’t get upgraded.

They suggested your outfit is key – and avoiding sports wear or flip flops is a must.

But, the CEO of travel company Stasher, Jacob Wedderburn-Day claims there’s more to it than just what you wear.

He shared his tips to help you get that coveted seat in first class…

Just ask

As the saying goes, if you don’t ask you don’t get. It may seem obvious but simply asking is the best first step in getting an upgrade.

Often airlines overbook economy seats to make sure every flight is full and making money. They gamble on not everyone showing up, but sometimes they are left with too many travellers for the available seats.

When you check in, tell the attendant that you’re interested in an upgrade. You can always ask again at the gate if they say there’s no chance. The worst they can say is no.

The key is to be polite and humble. You don’t want to come across as demanding or entitled. Be friendly and let them know that you would really appreciate an upgrade, especially if it is a special occasion. This won't always result in an upgrade, but you may possibly get a free glass of champagne and some special in-flight treatment.

Dress the part

For paying customers in first class there are certain rules around looking presentable. This means you too will have to dress the part if you want to up your chances of securing an upgrade.

Dressing well doesn’t mean you need to wear a three-piece suit, or a dress fit for Ascot, but you should avoid wearing anything too casual like sportswear. Smart casual will do the trick.

Pick the middle seat

If you don’t like the uncertainty of waiting until a few hours before your flight to check in, then make sure to select the middle seat.

Airlines are more likely to upgrade passengers who are sitting in the middle seat as this is generally considered the least desirable place to sit. So, if you don’t mind being wedged between two other people, it might pay off to book those seats.

Use airline rewards points

Try to fly with the same airline as often as possible. If you fly with an airline that you have status with or are part of their members’ club, this will make it more likely that you’ll be upgraded.

If you have airline rewards points or a travel credit card, you may be able to use them to upgrade to first class. Each airline has a different system, so it’s worth checking with your carrier to see what’s required.

Loyalty clubs also offer the opportunity to use points for upgrades. For example, American Airlines AAdvantage members can use their points to upgrade to first class on any flight, regardless of carrier.

Travel during peak times

If a flight is empty, there is no need to offer an upgrade. Airlines are more likely to offer upgrades when the flight is full or close to capacity.

This means that you’re more likely to get an upgrade if you travel during peak times, such as school holidays or weekends. You’re also more likely to get an upgrade if you’re flying on a popular route. Still, be aware that the airlines may charge more for an upgrade during these periods too.

Don’t pre-order a special meal

If you order a special in-flight meal in advance, you may destroy your upgrade potential. Flights rarely carry more food than they need, especially for higher-class seats whose food is more expensive. Consider bringing your own food on-board if you’re serious about sitting in a better class.


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