How to Score an Airline Seat Upgrade on Your Next Flight

An airline seat upgrade is the best thing that can happen to you when you’re flying. I’m sure most people who have flown before, wished they had a seat upgrade. With those small, uncomfortable seats, and limited leg room, finding yourself stuck in the back in economy class, it’s not always the most comfortable seat to be sitting in. If only you had an upgraded seat, your flight would be so much more enjoyable. Well below are some tips that hopefully will make it easier to score upgraded seating on your next fight.

Ways To Upgrade Your Next Flight

1. Upgrade Your Seat With A Treat

One of the best ways to score an upgrade and other in-flight perk is by bringing some type of gift for the airline crew members. It’s pretty easy to forget about the cabin crew and they actually have to deal with a lot of rude and obnoxious passengers almost daily. So travelers with treats are often well taken care of. This can mean anything from free beverages to free seat upgrades.

Seat Upgrade on Your Next Flight

And don’t forget about the gate agents. When flights get canceled or delayed, gate agents get the brunt of anger and bad attitudes from passengers. Bringing gate agents gifts or snacks to lighten their mood might help your chance at landing a first-class seat upgrade. Keep in mind, being nice doesn’t guarantee flight attendants or gate agents will give you treats.

One more thing to keep in mind is not to bother baking treats. Eating homemade food is something flight crew members are warned not to do. Bring something store-bought for them instead. Things like packaged candy or even a $5 gift card to Starbucks can go a long way towards getting you set up in business class, or even first class.

2. Give Away Your Seat for An Upgrade

It’s become quite common for airlines to overbook their flights, and that can cause some serious problems if you aren’t properly prepared. If flights are overbooked you may want to volunteer to give up your seat. By doing so you can negotiate compensation for the next flight. You can ask for things like an upgrade in seating or maybe be granted access to the lounge. A lot of times the gate agents are sympathetic and are willing to help get you upgraded on your next flight for the inconvenience.

Another way to go about this technique is by offering your seat to a member of a group if they are not all sitting together. Swapping seats might be an easy solution for both parties. They get to sit with their group and you get a better seating arrangement. This technique, however, is really only good if the member you are swapping with has a better seating arrangement than you currently have. Otherwise, it’s basically a wash and only worth it if you deem it to be.

3. Dress Your Best to Upgrade

Dressing nicely is not a guarantee to get upgraded seating, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The truth is, you are more likely to be upgraded dressed nicely than if you were wearing a pair of sweat pants. Of course, there are times when we have all seen someone who looks sort of out of place in first class because of their clothing. Or you may have seen the guy in the extra sharp business suit struggling to get comfortable in the middle seat in economy class.

Airline Seat Upgrade

This tactic works best if you are an elite level status member of a frequent flier loyalty program. Granted this is not a sure-fire way to get upgraded, but it does make the odds of an upgrade more favorable for you.

4. Bad Flights Mean Seat Upgrades

Has the airline lost your luggage? Or maybe did the flight have technical issues that spoiled your business trip? Anytime you have a less than great flight, make sure to let a supervisor know about the incident. Now, this is not a guaranteed way to secure an upgrade, however, this technique does work from time to time. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may be upgraded to a higher level than you expected.

5. Travel at Quiet Times to Upgrade

Upgrade Your Seat

Picking a time to fly that may be a little inconvenient to you may work better in your favor. Things like avoiding Monday mornings and other times when business travelers are active. A large majority of businessmen and women fly during peak hours and days. In order to get upgraded without paying there needs to be a seat available to upgrade to.

6. Special Occasion Upgrade

Sometimes luck is on your side. If you and your partner are taking a trip to celebrate a momentous occasion, feel free to let them know at the ticket counter. They might offer, or you might suggest an upgrade in lieu of the special occasion. As long as you smile and are courteous there is a decent chance for an upgraded seating arrangement. Events like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and honeymoons are good reasons for an upgrade when seating is available.

7. Fly Solo to Upgrade

Upgrade Your Next Flight

Sometimes traveling by yourself is a good thing. Especially if you are interested in getting a seat upgrade on your flight. As a solo traveler getting your seat upgraded to the next class is a lot easier than trying to do the same with a group. It’s easier to upgrade a single person because a lot of times, upgraded seats are not always located next to each other. A lot of the times most groups members want to be next or near their party.

8. Get Bumped into An Upgraded Seat

Getting bumped is another way of getting a seat upgrade. When looking to book flights, it’s not a bad idea to look for overbooked flights. This is because the airline will at some point attempt to ask people to volunteer to take a later flight, which could lead to an upgrade. The perfect scenario would be an overbooked economy class and an underbooked business cabin. Business travel is pretty slow around the holidays and is a good time to be able to receive an upgrade.

When flights are overbooked the agents will often ask for passengers to volunteer to be bumped to another flight. In most cases, getting bumped results in you getting a voucher for future travel or sometimes cash. Instead of taking the voucher for being bumped, you could instead see about getting a seat upgrade if there is space available on the next flight. As long as there is room, most of the time they have no problem getting you an upgrade to your seating. Sometimes they might even give you some kind of in-flight upgrade too, but that is not something that happens very often.

9. Check in Early For an Upgrade

Airline Seat Upgrade on Your Next Flight

Although this is not a guaranteed way to gain an upgrade, it has worked for some folks in the past and is worth mentioning here. Checking in early can gain a sought-after exit row seat in your class. Generally, airline employees are less pressured and are more likely to make a decision in your favor. Checking in early also means less competition from other passengers who are also wanting to upgrade their seats as well. Again, if you have elite status with the airline, that will greatly improve your odds of getting an upgrade.

10. Using Points to Upgrade Your Seat

The number of points that it takes to upgrade your seating can vary from airline to airline, and depends on the type of ticket you purchase. The cost in points can range anywhere from 15,000 to 35,000 and more. Also, most of the time, you cannot use points to upgrade an already heavily discounted ticket. As long as you are paying the full price, you are eligible to use points or miles to upgrade to the next class if there is still room available.

11. Stay Loyal for A Seat Upgrade

Being an elite level status member of a frequent flier loyalty program will give you significantly better odds for an upgrade.  It may not be a significantly better upgrade but it’s an upgrade nonetheless. Not to mention some loyalty programs will offer you a certain number of upgraded boarding. Southwest Airlines, for example, has a loyalty program with its Rapid Rewards Card. Every calendar year Southwest Airlines will give its Rapid Rewards Priority Cardholders four upgraded boarding.

12. Buying an Upgraded Seat

Finally, paying for upgraded seating is a harsh reality most people are going to face. As awesome as it is, having the airline foot the cost of the upgrade happens far from often. Purchasing the upgrade yourself is your best option at scoring a seat upgrade. However, don’t be discouraged because it’s not all bad. If you have an airline credit card or a Rewards Card that earns points, paying with your card to upgrade will earn you points. A lot of times those points can be applied towards a booking upgrade in the future. Depending on how many points you earn, it may or may not be worth the cost of the upgrade.

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