We think booking a business class flight is a ridiculous, impractical idea. Its price is at least three or four times the economy class seat. But inside us, we have this longing to occupy the limited business class seats, and the closest to that from happening is to get invited through an upgrade of sorts.
The inevitable next question becomes: how do I get a business class upgrade?
1. Plan your holidays on lean season for business travel.
The autumn months, just as summer holiday travel is over, are considered season for business travel. This gives business travelers a break from their usual concerns apart from the big crowds and tendency of flight delays. Outside of this season, theoretically business class seats are less in demand, and airlines have better opportunity to hand them out to loyalty club members or passengers who simply behaved well.
Taking your holidays also doesn’t mean shying away from the business class peak season. By arranging your flight on a less favorable schedule, at least to a business traveler, empty business class seats may be available. For example, booking a flight just after midnight or other red-eye flights might be less desirable to travelers trying to make full use of the whole day or catching a meeting.
2. Sign up with your airline’s frequent fly loyalty program.
Airlines appreciate passengers who have stuck with them along the way. One clear sign is by signing up to its rewards program and availing of flights frequently to get award points. While points are key to upgrades, many members who have yet to reach their loyalty club milestones have been awarded with free business class upgrades. It’s tempting to get the cheapest flight for every flight booking you make, but if your dream is to get that elusive business class upgrade, then by all means get that membership and stay loyal with the airline.
3. Spend more money
You may have brought more luggage than the baggage allowance for your air ticket class. So normally you’d just have to spend more for extra luggage. Spending more for the airline on top of economy class seats could give a passenger an advantage to be on priority list for business class upgrade. This doesn’t guarantee a business class upgrade; remember, they’re only handed out if fewer passengers booked business class seats.
4. Dress appropriately
Back when air travel is a luxury to many people, passengers are well-dressed as though they’re heading for a party. Indeed so sir, the golden age of air travel featured spacious cabins, refreshments and comfort only imaginable to premium class travel experience these days. It is now normal to find passengers wearing comfort clothing and this means shorts and leggings — though the latter could trigger dispute after “girls in leggings” were kicked out of their flight.
By dressing more appropriately (read: business attire), you become more aligned to be part of the business class population. Coupled with other positive vibes such as behaving well, being early in line and charming the check in counter folks, you could punch your ticket into the business class section.
5. Be early in the check in counter.
There may be one or two upgrade slots available, so maximize your chances of getting called to use them by arriving early at the airport, even before the supposed check in counter will open. Better yet, make an online check in and just do a bag drop at the counter, if applicable. This eases the effort for front-line staff who might reward you with that coveted business class seat.
6. Be late for your flight.
Note: this is a risk and gamble on your part. Without reserving a seat, you arrive late for your flight without really intending to miss it. On a busy travel period, you can only hope your flight is overbooked. If this is the case, you’ll be left without a seat but act like a lucky loser; the airline might just grant you a premium seat just to accommodate you in the flight. However, this is risky as one downside is that if you arrive late, you might miss out on check in period, and the airline has awarded the premium seat to someone who shares the same predicament with you, but arrived earlier.
7. Be genuinely nice.
Kindness almost always gets positive response, and it can also mean seat upgrades. Check in counter staff, on a given day, can encounter a people with a variety of attitudes, demands and reasons for flying. As much as annoying passengers — demanding unreasonably for special favors (seats, food, attention) can ruin airline staff’s day, kind-hearted ones (ready with their passports, cooperate in luggage handling, no problem with seat assignments), might just get the nod to the upgrade section.
Even when already seated in the economy section, being nice can get the attention of flight attendants. For example, helping out an elderly passenger with her luggage on the overhead bin, or giving up seat so a couple can sit together, a kind passenger can sometimes get instant karma.
There are many other ways to get an upgrade from economy to premium economy or business class, but they are generally classified as outrageous, immature or unethical. Sticking with the ones listed above can hopefully fulfill a bucket list or a start of an eventful travel adventure.