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
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.
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.