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Everyone always wants to know how they can get upgraded to business or first class. If I had the fool-proof answer, I’d be a millionaire. Unfortunately, I don’t. Airlines have cut capacity and taken away a lot of control from their agents. Gone are the times where you could just finesse your way to an upgrade. Today, so many people hold elite frequent flier status, so it’s very hard to get upgraded–not impossible though. Here are some tips to help you get upgraded and enjoy your next flight a whole lot more.
1. Become a frequent flier
The simplest way to get upgraded is to become a low-level elite frequent flier with a single airline. Most airlines give their elite fliers free upgrades or at least access to affordable ones. If you fly less than 25,000 miles per calendar year, consider getting an airline credit card that offers perks instead. For example, Delta’s SkyMiles Platinum Amex offers 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) towards elite status. This puts you just 10,000 miles, or two roundtrip transcontinental flights from elite status, which means you qualify for free upgrades when seats are available.
2. Use miles
Even if you aren’t a frequent flier, you can still earn a lot of miles by applying to certain credit cards and using them for typical everyday uses. Some cards offer up to 50,000 bonus miles just for signing up, which equates to a first class domestic ticket. I always sign up for credit cards that offer big bonuses. Once I meet the required spending but before I get charged the annual fee (typically after the first year), I cancel it. The key is to pay off your bills each month–if you can’t do that, don’t get an airline affiliated card. This obviously takes discipline, but I still have perfect credit.
3. Get bumped
If you’re travel schedule is flexible and you know your flight is going to be full, ask the gate agent if they need volunteers to be bumped from the flight. Airlines sometimes overbook a flight thinking that people won’t show up, so when everyone does, they don’t have enough space for all the passengers. They offer compensation to volunteers who are willing to take a different flight. In this scenario, only accept cash vouchers, not free tickets, which are heavily restricted and don’t allow you to earn miles when used. I typically give up my seat for $400 and a guaranteed seat on the next flight. If there aren’t a lot of volunteers, ask them to sweeten the deal–like a first class seat on the next flight. Delta did this the last time I got bumped.
4. Travel during off-peak times
The key to being upgraded is to fly when frequent flier business travelers are not. It’s nearly impossible to get upgraded during peak business hours during the week since those seats usually aren’t available. The first flight Monday morning and Thursday and Friday afternoons between 5 and 7:30 pm. If you want to upgrade without competition, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are your best bet and middle of the day.
This is one of the main reasons I fly so often on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s also because these tend to be the cheapest days of the week to fly.
Check out the rest of my tips here.
Johnny Jet is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of JohnnyJet.com – The Travel Insider. In this video, Johnny gives you the advice you need to upgrade from coach to first class and the benefits of taking a cruise instead of a traditional vacation. For more insider trips, visit www.JohnnyJet.com!
Johnny Jet, JohnnyJet.com | May 11, 2016