8/30/2012 7:30 PM ET|
5 tips for getting upgraded
Some frugal fliers have lots of legroom and sit near the front of the plane. You too can improve your chances of getting first-class treatment on a budget.
Today's overcrowded planes, high-priced flights and extra fees for everything from luggage to a bag of chips mean air travelers don't often feel as if they're on cloud nine.
But all is not lost. It's still possible to get something for nothing -- free or cheap upgrades to business or first class.
If you follow our travel experts' advice, you may be winging your way to better service and more legroom. As it turns out, it's possible, at least sometimes, to fly frugal and first class.
1. Act the part
Want to fly first class? Be a first-class act. A smile and a kind word go a long way toward landing an upgrade, says former flight attendant Carolyn Paddock, who now owns In-Flight Insider, a travel website. "Be nice to everybody from the moment you walk on airport property," Paddock says. "You're talking to people who are decision-makers."
John DiScala, who runs travel website JohnnyJet.com, agrees. "I'm amazed at how poorly (travelers) treat gate agents and flight attendants."
DiScala, who visits about 20 countries each year, sweetens the pot -- literally. "Every time I fly, I bring a box of chocolates," usually given to a gate agent or a superintendent.
Upgrades are sometimes a case of "who you know," DiScala says. If a gate agent recognizes you, the chance of an upgrade takes off, he says. So get to know one or two. "A gate agent can do anything," he says.
If it doesn't happen before you board, then be a good sport about being in coach, says Paddock. Your upgrade request to harried flight attendants preparing for takeoff will be "the biggest turnoff ever."
2. Look the part
When it comes to upgrades, the way you dress can lead to success. Paddock says that many of the decision-makers at airlines today took to the skies decades ago, when airline travel was something people got decked out for.
If coach is overbooked but there are empty seats in first class, some passengers may receive an upgrade. It's only natural the crew would turn to people who look like they belong there.
"No crew member is going to want to upgrade you if you're dressed in your pajamas or yoga wear," she says. "It can make other people resentful," especially if they paid big bucks to travel in first class or business class.
That doesn't require women to hike down the ramp in spike heels or guys to don a Windsor knot. Just dress nicely and neatly, as opposed to "supercasual or sloppy," Paddock says.
3. Time the part
While many flights are stuffed to the gills, there are still days and times when empty seats can be found. Typically, that is more likely on flights that rise before the sun, or on off-peak travel days such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, says Joel Frey, a spokesman for Travelocity.com.
Gate agents tend to feel less pressured early in the day, says Lauren Sullivan, the North American site editor for CheapFlights.com. They may be more inclined to dole out upgrades if available.
DiScala always checks his flights 24 hours before departure to gauge how full they may be. If a flight is completely oversold and the airline is looking for volunteers to catch a later flight, that's a perfect time to negotiate for an upgrade, he says. Furthermore, a weather delay can work to your advantage if you're rebooked on another flight and the only seats available are at the front of the plane.
And don't forget to play an emotional trump card. Let the airline workers know if you're celebrating a special event like your honeymoon, Sullivan says.
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I forgot the Directors name, it was years ago, but, I had one of the FBI's Big cheese , head honcho, with his bodyguards on Board. I had a couple of open seats in F/C (this was before the big frequent flier giveaways, we have these days). I offered F/C to him, and his guards, and he said no thanks, the American people don't pay us to fly F/C. Man, I was awed. That guy should have run for President. he got my vote.
I did upgrade Eddie Money to F/C ,and scored some free concert tickets for that. So, sometimes we have our own agendas..lol. The article is right, treat people with respect, and that can be helpful on a crowded flight. You may not land a F/C seat, but, maybe a exit row seat with lots of legroom, which I would take anyday over F/C. I deadheaded (ride as a passenger to work a flight downline), and when we deadhead, we get F/C if seats are available (rare these days) .The agent offered it to me, because I was the most senior of the crew. I declined, as my crew had the choice exit row seats, with a middle empty seat. We all declined, and the lower seniority employee traveling on her day off... got F/C.
Be nice, dress ok, and maybe it will be your lucky day. Be demanding, and enjoy the last row by the lavs, middle seat between two 300 pound guys.
I don't know why they act this way because in my observations they got a great gig; just make a few announcements, pour a few drinks, then spend the rest of the flight chit chatting in the back galley behind a stupid curtain that airlines have installed over the past few years. That curtain didn't used to be there as I had a habit of standing in the back on a flight. Now they pull this curtain as if this is their private break room. They've even told me I can't stand there as they're 'on break.' On break? Really?
I could go on and on about how airlines have managed to ring all sense of humanity out of flying; wrong forum though. Apologies...
A box of chocolates goes a very long way with cabin personel. I have used it many times, even to get 4 of us upgraded to first class. Gotta love surf and turf on the airplane.
I was looking for other ways to save money. I found this. Have you ever purchased a Happenings book? I recently became a referdia 2.0 customer. It's an social commerce site like a Happenings book on steroids. Over 500,000 active deals from companies like Target, Best Buy, Taco Bell, etc.
Here is the link. my.referdia.com/49239 Happy savings.
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