5 tips for getting upgraded to first class

How to Get Upgraded to First or Business Class on a Plane

Traveling by plane can be expensive and lately it seems like there are extra baggage fees and charges for everything. Planes are crowded and there are longer waits at security. There is, however, one silver lining that remains: upgrades. Sometimes it's possible to get the first-class experience for the cost of a ticket in coach. Check out our travel advice and you can upgrade to more legroom and better service.

Try out our budget calculator.

1. Look and Act the Part

When you approach the ticketing desk, it's best to look sharp and be nice to everyone you interact with. You don't have to go over the top, but wearing smart or business casual clothing can help you fit in with the passengers who have the most expensive seats.

2. Be Loyal

upgrade to first class

Individuals who fly the most are more likely to be rewarded. Flying regularly with the same airline can help you earn elite status through a loyalty program. The higher your status, the more likely it is that you'll be able to move up to first class.

To get the best results, it's a good idea to stick with the bigger airlines. You don't have to fly every week to get access to benefits. With a co-branded credit card, for example, you can earn elite-qualifying miles without setting foot on a plane.

Find out now: Which rewards credit card is best for me?

3. Be Flexible

Want to get out of coach? The best thing you can do is travel at a quiet time on an off-peak day like a Tuesday or a Wednesday when seats are less likely to be filled. Volunteering to give up your seat if the flight is overbooked or if families or couples are sitting apart from one another can help you get bumped to first class.

4. Know How to Ask

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. It's all about attitude when you approach a gate agent. It's a good idea to be polite, friendly and appreciative. Airline workers also respect direct, quick questions.

Even if there are delays or other problems, it's a good idea to keep the same enthusiastic expression on your face if you want the first-class treatment. Staying cool in the face of delays can go a long way in the eyes of flight attendants and gate agents. Even if you don't get the upgrade, you can still get better customer service just from being positive.

Related Article: Thrifty Travel: 3 Quick Tips for Saving Money on Hotels

5. Pay a Little to Get a Lot

Be on the lookout when you check in for vacancies in first and business class. If you're really looking for that upgrade, it never hurts to be willing to cough up a little extra cash or some of your credit card or frequent-flier miles. Since an empty seat is lost revenue to an airline, they might sell deeply discounted upgrades close to departure.

Bottom Line

While there is no way to guarantee an airline upgrade without paying the hefty price tag, there's no harm in increasing your chances with the strategies we've discussed. As long as you stay courteous and respectful, you have nothing to lose by asking for an upgrade.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Predrag Vuckovic, ©iStock.com/sturti, ©iStock.com/IS_ImageSource

Related: How to save money on a road trip

How to save money on a road trip
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5 tips for getting upgraded to first class

1. Calculate your expected fuel cost before your trip. It’s always wise to get an accurate estimation of how much to budget for gas beforehand. GasBuddy's fuel calculator is an excellent tool to get an expected price point. Just enter your vehicle information, startpoint and endpoint, and the app will calculate how much you’ll spend.

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2. Don’t fuel up near popular areas. You’ll find inflated gas prices near popular tourist destinations and metropolitan areas, so it’s worth venturing to the town over for more affordable prices. For example, gas costs on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in California are considerably higher than the stations a few miles off the main highway.

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3. Fill up your tank at truck stops. You'll often find the cheapest gas prices here. 

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4. Download gas apps. Apps like GasBuddy and GasGuru come in handy by computing the cheapest station in relation to your current location.

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5. Drive efficiently to save gas costs. These 5 fuel-efficient tips are proven to maintain a full tank longer:

           1. Turn off your AC

2. Engage cruise control in low-traffic areas

3. Avoid rapid acceleration and braking

4. Inflate tires close to maximum

5. Avoid speeding

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6. Travel with friends. Traveling with a few buddies is an efficient (and fun) way to save cash by splitting the cost of a tank.

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7. Grocery shop in advance. Pack water and snacks beforehand in a cooler -- inflated convenience store prices will eat away at your budget.

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8. Bring reusable water bottles. Filling up a water bottle is cheaper than buying a Poland Spring at every stop.

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9. Buy fountain drinks over bottled drinks. If you’re craving a Mountain Dew, fountain drinks give you a better bang for your buck over bottled soda.

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Use Yelp: Download Yelp on your phone to see the best restaurant offers in your area.

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11. Take advantage of restaurant deals. Chances are there will be tons of chain restaurants along the way, so use sites like Groupon and GiftCardGranny to get a deal on the road.

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12. Load up on free coffee and breakfast from hotels for the road. Take advantage of a free meal and avoid Starbucks and other expensive coffee shops.

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13. Avoid staying in popular areas. Tourist-driven and metropolitan areas are often paired with inflated prices, so find a place to sleep in surrounding towns.

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14. Check out sites like Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and Kayak to score the best low-cost lodging deals.

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15. Rent a car. If you don’t own your own vehicle, renting a car beforehand for as cheap as $22 a day on sites like ExpediaHotwire, and Travelocity can be a great deal.

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16. Alert your bank. Sometimes banks will deem charges in new cities as fraudulent and cancel your cards.

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17. Stick to budget-friendly activities. Some ideas include hiking national parks, visiting beaches and checking out a town’s culture by walking the streets and venturing into a street fair.

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18. Take advantage of student discounts. If you’re currently a student, bring your student ID for maximum discounts.

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19. Download road trip planning apps. Apps like Roadtrippers are a great way to help plan and finance your new excursion.

Photo credit: Getty


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