5 First-Class Tips to Getting Upgraded
Now departing? 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 like 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 leg room. As it turns out, it's possible, at least sometimes, to fly frugal and first class.
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 InflightInsider.com. "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, DiScala 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."
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 someone who looks 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," 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 the "super casual or sloppy" manner common today, Paddock says.
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