Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Who doesn’t want to know how to get a free flight upgrade?
It’s the holy grail of anyone who has ever flown.
You want to get the cheapest price for your ticket but, particularly if you’re flying long-haul, you then desperately want that extra leg-room, nicer food, comfier seats and general toadying from the staff that comes with business and (cue the angelic harps) First Class!
How do you do it?
The first, and most obvious, way to get a free upgrade is to use your Avios to do it. Avios is what used to be Airmiles and you can build them up by
But I wish I were better at getting free upgrades. Some people manage it all the time.
There are a few credit cards around that are connected to specific airlines and give you airmiles any time you use the card.
Quite often these cards offer free companion flights once you’ve saved up enough points for a trip. This means spouse or friend could travel with you for free.
You might also get access to a particular airport lounge or a place in the priority boarding queue, although that tends only to be with cards that charge an annual fee.
They’re particularly good for people who travel a lot and pick up miles regularly.
Cards that are worth considering include:
Virgin Atlantic Black – gives loads of extra miles (including 18,500 the first time you use it) but costs £140 a year to have!
Virgin Atlantic White – you get 3,000 miles the first time you spend on it but it doesn’t cost to own.
American Express British Airways card – you get a companion voucher every year when you spend at least £10,000 on your card. You also get18,000 bonus Avios when spending £3,000, but you have to pay £195 a year for it!!
MBNA Emirates Skywards card – you get 10,000 extra miles when you make a purchase and Companion Reward Business Class or Economy Saver Reward ticket when you spend more than £15,000 in a year, but the card costs you £150 a year!
MBNA Etihad Guest card – you get 5,000 bonus Etihad Guest Miles when you spend £250 on card purchases within 90 days and 0% purchase offer on Etihad flights for up to 12 months from the date your account is opened. There’s no fee.
A recent survey by Avios found that about 6% of people believe the best way to secure an upgrade is to bribe employees at the airport!
They also found that in the last five years only 6% of British passengers have managed to get the coveted complimentary upgrade.
So what are the tricks? Well here are some that Avios came up with from their survey. No guarantee that they will work!
…that is, according to research by Avios. Apparently, these are the top five ways people in the UK think will get them a free upgrade. They don’t always!
1. Be polite to airline staff at check-in and on board and to the hotel reception manager.
2. Dress smartly and wear shoes, not trainers.
3. Arrive early.
4. Contact the company in advance to mention you are travelling on a special occasion (Honeymoon, birthday etc)
5. Pay a little extra when booking i.e. pay for a premium economy ticket in the hope that a further upgrade will be granted
Actually, most of the ideas above have worked for some people.
However, the bad news is that there are far fewer chances to get a chance upgrade at check-in than there used to be. This is because a lot of upgrades are done electronically, dependent on certain rules the airlines already have.
Randy Petersen of the American flight website InsideFlyer says:
“Most airlines state, in no uncertain terms, that their policies prohibit arbitrary upgrading, both at check-in and onboard, …This becomes understandable when you consider that upgrading is now often done electronically, rather than by queuing up at the check-in counter.”
Shame. Still, there are some occasions and some airlines that make it possible to upgrade. Here’s how to put yourself in the way of those potential opportunities (according to seasoned travellers):
Well go on, try it and let me know if you manage it. I’m looking for ideas!!