Cracking The Seat Upgrade Code

Wherever we are in the world, we like a freebie! None more so than when we are in the air. Trying to get your seat upgraded into first or business class is increasingly becoming an urban myth as airlines tighten their budgets and clamp down on those passenger 'extras'.

However, there are ways to work the system or at least try. Here are ten steps to cracking the 'seat upgrade' code:

1. Travel Alone

Without sounding anti-social, if you travel alone you do up the chance of an upgrade, particular if economy is overbooked by the airline. Odd seats in first or business can easily be filled with a lone traveller if check-in is aware of your status.

2. Book Smarter

You can increase your chances of an upgrade by booking your flight at the height of children's or public holidays and when business travellers won't be travelling. Flights at the weekend may well also be free from the business crowd, so timing does help.

Don't forget our long haul flight survival tips.

3. Loyalty Upgrades

Airlines like loyalty, so having a loyalty card will go a little bit longer with accumulated points and extras when you want to upgrade at a later date. So grab a loyalty card as you never know when you may be flying with them in the future.

4. Inconvenience Upgrade

If your seat doesn't work properly, or the entertainment system is a bit ropy, then insist that you would like a seat change or an upgrade. Equally, if you are mucked about on the ground by the airline ask for an upgrade as a sweetener to counter-act any future complaint with the airline.

5. Kind Words

Stressed out check-in staff are often eyed as merely cogs in the flight experience, but they are the gatekeepers to your potential seat upgrade. They have all the details to hand and can either make or break your flight. So smile, offer kind words and subtly drop in if there are any upgrades available. Flattery gets you everywhere!

6. Early Or Late Conundrum

Check-in way ahead of time means you have the upper hand on asking for an upgrade in a less pressurised atmosphere. Ask about the price differential and subtly see if the upgrade could be free. While smiling all the time. You may just hit gold.

Otherwise, if you a real gambler, you may wish to turn up late and get your name on the overbooking list. If you get on the flight, you may just find a seat you get is in business. However, this is only for the bold, mad or those with time on their hands.

7. Simply Ask

You don't get anything for free if you don't ask. So why not front up and tell check-in that you are on a special flight for an important event, whether it's your 50th birthday, a honeymoon or a hen do. It may sway staff to make your flight that little bit better.

8. Dress To Impress

A positive attitude, clean teeth and smart dress will get you ahead of the flip-flop brigade. The airline wants a good image in business and first class so it may well sway check-in to check you out and upgrade you.

9. Pay For An Upgrade

While this is counter to getting a free upgrade, why not ask for the price difference of the two classes and if within budget, buy the cheaper one. You may well find you can jump to a higher class of seat based on your initial gamble.

10. Get Emotional

If all else fails, turn on the water works and become a drama queen. With an overbooked flight and a crying passenger, the airline may well book you on another airline and give you a better seat.

Having a go with a few of these should increase your chances of upgrading your flight and if you've used another tactic or have a suggested approach to upgrading flights let us know below in the comments section.

Andy Probert - The Wise TravellerAndy Probert left the British rat race after a 25 year as a journalist and PR specialist to live in Turkey and now Cyprus, a compulsive traveller his favourite places include Vietnam and India among many. Among the travel Andy continues to write freelance and still maintains a PR client base.