Airport Booking Strategy

What’s the Secret to Getting a Free First-Class Upgrade?

Ever wonder why some people get upgraded to first class? Wonder no more. Here’s what you need to do.

Dear Jessica,

What’s the secret to getting a free first-class upgrade?


Dear K.H.,

We’ve all heard stories of travelers with economy tickets being surprised with a free upgrade to first class. But it hasn’t happened to most of us, so it leaves one wondering if there really is a way to snag a free upgrade at the airport?

Unfortunately, the days of free anything from airlines are long gone. On many airlines, everything from meals to headphones, blankets, and pillows now has a fee associated with it, so as you might suspect, the airlines aren’t eager to hand out free upgrades on their priciest seats. Elite-level frequent flyers have the best chances of being upgraded to first or business class, and even they usually need to use miles in such cases.

RELATED: 7 Shameless Ways to Get an Upgrade

However, if you still hope to be the exception to the rule, here are some methods that may help: sweet-talking check-in or gate agents, dressing nicely, arriving early, registering for your airline’s frequent flyer program, and just generally being really pleasant to the crew and your fellow passengers.

If you’re a frequent flyer, you may be able to use your miles to upgrade. To learn how, read our frequent flyer upgrade guide.

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Last Updated: October 27, 2015

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