Insider tips on how to get an upgrade on your next flight

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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TRAVELLING for business can be time consuming and stressful, especially if you’re stuck in an undesirable seat. To make the experience a bit more pleasant, we’ve gathered a few tips on how to go about getting yourself upgraded

Choose the right flight

Passengers queue for the check-in desk at Edinburgh Airport. Picture: TSPL

Passengers queue for the check-in desk at Edinburgh Airport. Picture: TSPL

The majority of upgrades are offered when economy is full or overbooked but the other cabins aren’t. This is far more likely to happen on busy routes to, say, a popular city or during the school holidays. If you’re travelling to a remote destination on a weekday afternoon, the chances are there will more than enough seats in economy, though.

Be loyal

Most airlines run a loyalty scheme that are worth signing up for. Research suggests that most airlines check passengers lists beforehand and determine upgrade eligibility. Regular fliers, businessmen or women and celebrities who may fly with them again are usually top of the list.

Dress well

Formal or business casual is the best way to go. If there are a limited number of spaces in a different class, it’s likely that the crew will upgrade someone who looks like they belong there.

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Be early

It’s possible that there may only be a few seats eligible for upgrade so to maximise your chances get to check-in before anyone else. Of course, the downside of this that if you don’t get an upgrade, it adds extra hours onto your time spent at the airport.

Be nice

It may seem like an obvious piece of advice but simply being nice, polite and chatty to staff can secure you a ticket to a better seat. It could require as little as a compliment or a quick question how they’re day is going to get you bumped up. And even if it doesn’t work, you may still make someone’s day.


Complaining can have its benefits – but do it politely, whatever you do. Whether your flight is delayed or your chair isn’t reclining, it’s worth mentioning it to staff - especially if you’re on a long-haul flight.

Become a VIP

Upgrades are easy to come by if you’ve got the right name. Diplomats, travel journalists and celebrities are often treated to an extra special arrangement. If you have friends in high places such as working for the airline, it could get you the coveted upgrade, too.


If all else fails, there’s always the option to ask for an upgrade at the check-in desk. Protocols on those asking for upgrades differ from company to company. While some say there is little scope for seat changes as lists are already finalised before check-in opens, according to Money Saving Expert nearly one in five flyers received a free upgrade in the past two years.