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Tips on Getting Upgraded to First or Business Class

general travel tips on how to get upgraded when flying

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Travelling comes in all shapes sizes and forms. We all have different tastes, some of us prefer small personalised hotels, others large and gold gilded hotels, others all inclusive and the list goes on. One thing that must be a constant though, comes in the form of air travel - we all enjoy being upgraded.

Whether you normally travel in economy, or business class, it is always something that comes as a pleasurable surprise when we learn that we have been upgraded, at no cost to ourselves. 

Although pleasurable, and not something that most of us would turn down, upgrades can be a rather damaging thing. If you normally travel in economy class, due to the price of the ticket, then an upgrade to business will open your eyes to a new world that can very easily damage your view and enjoyment of travelling back in "coach". The same applies to a certain extent from business to first. We have heard many a frequent traveller praise the airline for upgrading them and then admit ' I wish they hadn't as it is going to be so difficult to fly again in the back of the bus.....'

Of course this is what the airlines are hoping for, they are hoping that the upgrade they have given to you, will convert an economy class traveller to business and business to first. The upgrades are also used as a loyalty bonus and a way to say thank you for your business, or if you want the truth - a way to get the airlines out of a spot of trouble because of over booking.

Most airlines upgrade passengers because they overbook their flights. This happens because the airlines have to count into their figures a certain amount of cancellations and a few no shows, when the passengers do turn up then the airline needs space, especially at the back of the plane and this is when the upgrading begins.

The first thing you need to do is join the airlines frequent flyer programme. Almost every airline in the world has its own frequent flyer programme, and to make our lives as complicated as possible they are all different! Not to make things any simpler these programmes then fall into different world alliances that include many different airlines each, such as the largest, Star Alliance and the more recent One World (as this topic is so large we will cover it on a different page, in the airline section).

Joining the club is free and normally will mean points for each mile of travel earned, and lots of other bonuses that can be used towards free flights and other goodies. Regarding upgrades, then the holders of the airlines frequent flyer club will have priority. That is to say if the airline needs to upgrade, then they will check who is a member and then upgrade them subject to their status. So if you are the only member on the plane, you stand a very good chance of turning left rather than right upon boarding.

The complication to this rule is in the status of the membership, most clubs have different membership levels, and obviously the higher your status the more priority you have.

If you are fortunate to be of the higher membership level, then there are a few little tricks to help you get upgraded. These tricks do not always work, and may even  have a little risk attached, but are worth a try and are probably the best shot you have of being upgraded. If when you book your flight ask the airline if the flight is busy, if you can get onto the busiest flight or even ask to be waitlisted and you do manage to get onto that plane then there is a very good chance that you will be upgraded, for the reasons mentioned earlier. This also means however that if you are not upgraded then you will end up on a very busy plane!

The search for an upgrade does not stop here, however. Whether you are a member or not it is worthwhile being nice to the person who checks you in, they may not (and normally do not) have the authority to upgrade at their own discretion but the check-in staff can help. Ask the staff to put a message in the system that if there is to be any upgrades you would really appreciate being included.

At this stage of the flight (check-in) it does help to be dressed suitably although not as helpful as most people would have you believe. There have been many reports on how to get upgraded and a lot do stress the importance of your appearance, it is not half as important as being a member of the club or even just being nice to the man or lady at check in, but does help.

First and Business class has improved enormously over the past few years. Virgin offers massages in flight and is introducing double beds to its Upper Class cabin, All Nippon Airways has two work stations on some of its' flights that allows you to sit at a desk and work on your lap top using a special electric supply, Singapore Airlines has a full bed in its first class cabin that has a 17 inch television with remote to give you a real media experience in-flight, and the list goes on an on.

At the end of the day getting upgraded is not an easy thing to achieve, however joining the frequent flyer programme will definitely help and will offer you a whole world of other benefits. Good luck and happy travels!

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