No points? No problem: the new route to loyalty-based upgrades

Louise Naqvi
PR Manager

As we head into half-term (an increasingly popular ‘getaway’ period), and with the countdown to the peak summer holiday season not long after, some travellers may be hoping that busier planes might increase their chance of getting a cheeky upgrade. Check-in staff and flight-attendants, already used to this as a frequent question, are also no doubt primed for a rise in upgrade ‘enquires’ during these times.

When flying, especially long-haul, an upgrade is something many travellers dream of and - given the number of articles out there offering ‘tips’ to get one – something that’s well searched online.  After all, who doesn’t want to spend six hours-plus with extra space, quiet and legroom, drinking fine wine, with better food than you might get on the ground?

But for those in pursuit of the mystical free upgrade, looking to the Web for advice is also like opening Pandora’s box, with varying (sometimes conflicting) pieces of advice. Some frequent flyer experts suggest booking what looks to be a busy flight in order to increase your chance of an upgrade. Others say show up at the gate quite early and politely ask/enquire when the agent isn’t trying to board 200 people in 10 minutes. Others still say the exact opposite - and that being late (risky) increases your chances. Of course, the caveat of ‘no guarantees here’ applies in all cases, which may help airlines in managing expectations, somewhat.

We even conducted research on the subject ourselves, and found that 40% of Brits would happily try to ‘blag’ themselves that free pass into Business Class (with fake marriages, bogus birthdays and phoney anniversaries among the top tactics).

First of all, a reality check: free upgrades are very rare these days. The times when dressing up nicely for a better chance of turning left when boarding are pretty much gone (Cathay Pacific are asked this so often they even clarified things in a recent YouTube video). And when there are travellers (usually very loyal customers of the airline) who are paying for that seat, either outright or using loyalty currency such as air miles, that airline, understandably, needs to protect their premium product. So, you really do need to be super lucky to be upgraded for free on a flight. And even then, those who fly most frequently with the airline are likely to be offered one before anyone else.

Airline loyalty schemes and points are a great initiative, especially if you’re a frequent flyer. But until now, for those who are serious about upgrading, or don’t fancy leaving it to fate, collecting points and miles has been the main direct ‘currency’ to a premium seat, without purchasing it outright at a price that, depending on the class, is prohibitive to many. If you have enough points, you can easily save hundreds of pounds on an upgrade. But, like many things in life, redemption will have certain conditions or exclusions which vary by airline, and you may still need to pay some cash on top. So while a great deal is definitely attainable, it often takes time to get the best one aligned to your travel plans, or otherwise some flexibility to those plans.  

But what if someone really wants to upgrade their flight for a special occasion but doesn’t have enough loyalty points? Or what if they don’t fly enough with the same airline for collecting their miles to be of real value. What if a points scheme is not right for some, but other options, such as bidding platforms where they are happy to pay, leave them disappointed?

There is another way.

We created Upgrade Pack to provide just that; a unique platform that doesn’t rely on points, or fate, for travellers who want, and are willing to pay, for a desired upgrade, at a price that works for both the airline and their (existing) customer.

Working with our clients, we help them to reward and retain their loyal customers and employees in an innovative way, and with a travel-related benefit that they really want – through access to our platform for exclusive offers on flight and hotel upgrades.

Our closed online marketplace (accessed via a handy app by the customers and employees of our clients) gives our users the ability to search upgrade options on an existing flight booking and purchase any that are unsold, without relying solely on points, an elaborate ‘blag’ at the gate, or a financial windfall.

What we also offer is a win-win situation for all parties involved: Our airline partners get to sell seats that might otherwise go unsold profitably, our clients get a differentiated, high perceived value reward to keep their valued customers and employees loyal, and best of all our users (as the customers of our clients and partners) get quick, fuss-free, access to available upgrades, and a great deal in just a few clicks. 

For more information about how we can help strengthen your loyalty or employee benefits program, please email our commercial team

For more information on becoming an airline partner, please email our partnerships team

May 24, 2019

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