February 17, 2020

Flight Upgrades – Advice from a newbie

Nick Richardson
PR Manager

Until two months ago, my knowledge of flight upgrades was based primarily upon a couple of transatlantic flights whilst on a family trip to California when I was 14.

However, a lot can change in eight weeks. In June I joined Upgrade Pack and quickly became immersed in the world of flight upgrades.

If you are questioning if there’s even a ‘world’ when it comes to upgrades, let me assure you there is. There’s an enormous amount of content online from tips, hacks and offers, to in-depth YouTube reviews showcasing the latest business and first-class cabins from the world’s leading airlines.

And the reason for this wealth of content is because demand is so high. Our research shows the one thing 95% of travellers want when traveling is an upgrade. I mean, who doesn’t want more leg room, better food and a flat-bed as you jet off on your next holiday?

What’s struck me is the range of advice out there, much of it conflicting, some of it unethical, all of it claiming to give you the inside scoop on securing an upgrade. Some of the worst I’ve found include: 

·     Dress smart, but not too smart
·     Arrive six hours before your flight
·     Arrive late to check in
·     Flirt with the check in staff
·     Say you’re on your honeymoon (even if you’re not)
·     Pretend you’re ill
·     Sit next to a baby (seriously)

While some of the above ask you to bypass your moral compass, they all require a large slice of luck to get that much desired upgrade.

Working for a company that’s transforming how travellers can get their hands-on upgrades for less, I’ve quickly learned much of the advice out there is simply clickbait. So, here’s five realistic pieces of advice I’ve learned over the last two months in the upgrade game:

1.    Ask, but keep your expectations low

The times of you rocking up to check-in and being rewarded with a free upgrade for simply asking are a thing of the past. If you scrawl social media for long enough, you’ll probably find someone, somewhere, who’s blagged one. But unless you’re a frequent flier AND part of an airlines’ loyalty scheme, your chances are incredibly slim. Ask at check-in by all means, but keep your expectations extremely low.

2.    Sign up to loyalty schemes

Signing up to an airline’s loyalty programme or frequent flyer programme (FFP) will help in your quest for a free or discounted upgrade. Most, if not all airlines have an FFP which enable you to earn and accumulate points from your flights. The more you fly, the more points or miles you get which can be used to purchase flights or upgrade your seat. Some airlines like American Airlines even allow you to combine points and cash to upgrade, giving you greater flexibility in how you secure that premium seat.

Even if you only fly a couple of times a year, sign up to FFPs. If there are spare premium economy, business or first class seats on your flights, you’ll have a better chance of being bumped up than others.  

3.    Be careful with credit cards

Credit cards are a staple of the upgrade game. Retail banks and airlines offer cards that help customers earn points/miles. Like the FFP’s except with spending; the more you spend, the more points you earn.

However, the thing with credit cards is you need to repay that spend at the end of the month. And cards that offer miles typically have a higher APR than most - a standard Amex has 57% APR. Miss one payment and before you know it, your interest puts you significantly in the red. There’s plenty of horror stories online of people borrowing money to pay against a credit card in the mission of earning more points.

My advice - be careful. Credit cards can be a very useful tool to help upgrade but to take advantage of some of the higher bracket offers you really need to know what you’re doing. In short, if you can’t afford to pay it off with money in the bank, don’t get one.

4.    There are some great sites out there

If you are going to search the web for tips and advice, there are some fantastic writers and bloggers who publish hard-to-find offers to help you securing an upgrade for less. My top three are  God Save the Points, Turning Less for Less and The Points Guy. They can also help navigate the world of cards, but do still heed point 3 above.

And even if you don’t upgrade your next flight, check out a fantastic Sam Chui’s YouTube channel to see first-hand reviews of the world’s latest premium cabins.

 5.    The revolution is coming (cue Upgrade Pack plug!)

We’re on a mission to deliver a simpler, quicker, and exclusive way to access discounted upgrades from the world’s best airlines. We’ll be rolling out our app in the coming weeks and working with banks, credit card providers and companies to deliver Upgrade Pack to their customers and employees.

If you’d like to find out how you can get Upgrade Pack, or if you’re interested in rewarding your customers or employees, let us know here.

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