Get A Free First Class Or Business Class Upgrade On Your Next Flight

You don't necessarily have to pay money or use airline miles to enjoy an upgrade to first class or business class

Get A Free First Class Or Business Class Upgrade On Your Next Flight
Image: Pexels
August 28, 2018

If you're like most people, you don't get first class or business class tickets when you fly. But it can be hard walking through the first class or business class section when trying to get to your seat in the back of the plane. The people sitting in first class or business class may have paid for their tickets since the cost for those seats has fallen, but some of them may have gotten a free upgrade. How can you get a free first class or business class upgrade?

Want to get a free first class or business class upgrade? Dress the part.

When you walk through first class or business class, take a look at the people sitting there. You probably aren't seeing many people in tank tops and cargo shorts. You don't have to be in a suit, but if you dress neatly you have a better chance of having someone upgrade you!

Don't compete with business class travelers during popular times.

Business class travelers who make frequent trips may have elite status and are therefore more likely to get a free flight upgrade. To improve your chances of getting a business class upgrade, schedule your trip for times when business class travelers are less likely to be flying. The best days are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Avoid flights on early Monday mornings and Thursday and Friday evenings.

Get to the gate early and hang around.

Though many airlines use automated upgrade systems, gate agents can still upgrade you to first class or business class when coach is overbooked. The gate agents are most concerned with getting the plane out on time, so they may upgrade you during boarding if there are seats available in the front of the plane.

Get to the gate early when agents are not as stressed and politely, but firmly, tell them that you would like to be considered for an upgrade if one is available. Then wait at the gate even after your group is called to make sure you're one of the last to board. You might have to gate check a bag, but if you already boarded you won't get the upgrade. If you show up late after everyone has already boarded, forget it.

Take a flight that isn't empty if you want an upgrade.

If the flight is relatively empty, your chances of getting a free first class or business class upgrade are slim. The airline has little incentive to move you and would rather you pay. But if the flight is heavily booked, they'll want to get more people onto the plane.

Consider a foreign airline that flies the same route.

Foreign airlines typically have more space. In fact during 2015 the average foreign airline was only 62 percent full. So you'll have a better chance for a first class or business class upgrade on a foreign airline.

Travelers who are enrolled in an airline's frequent flyer program get upgraded more often.

If you are enrolled in a frequent flyer program with the airline you are flying, you are a loyal customer of that airline. Would you give a free upgrade to a customer who flies once per year or one who flies frequently?

Helpful and flexible flyers are more likely to get a first class or business class upgrade.

If you are willing to give up your seat when a flight is overbooked, you are more likely to be compensated by the airline. You'll typically get a travel voucher for a future flight and possibly a meal voucher, but you're also likely to get a first class or business class upgrade on your rebooked flight.