Insider Travel Tips and Hacks

4 Insider Tips for Scoring an Upgrade to First Class on Your Next Flight

Travel pro Johnny Jet spills insider secrets on how to get upgraded to first class and business class.

Johnny Jet (real name: John DiScala) is the expert and blogger behind the eponymous siteJohnnyJet.com. He appears onForbes' list of Top 10 travel influencers, and flies an average of 150,000 miles and visits 20 countries annually. Jet Set has teamed up with the professional globe trotter to bring you an exclusive collection of Johnny Jet's pro travel tips and hacks. Here's Johnny...

Thanks to computer systems getting more complex and airline executives becoming more business savvy, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to get upgraded. Just ask any frequent traveler. However, the good news is that most airlines have invested in their premium cabins so if you can get up front, especially on long-haul international flights or the New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco route, you will be flying more comfortably than ever. So how can you enjoy those lie-flat seats? There are a number of ways, including these four tips for how to get upgraded to first class and business class on a plane. (Make sure to press play on the clip above for more!)

1.  Stay loyal.

As airline executives are devaluing their frequent-flier programs, the truth is it’s not really worth it any longer to be loyal to just one airline... unless of course you fly 100,000 miles a year or more. If you do fly that much, then it’s worth becoming an elite frequent flier with one particular airline because many airlines give their elite fliers free upgrades or access to affordable ones. If you aren’t happy with your airline, or you have a job that requires a lot of travel, ask the airline if you can do a challenge to fast track you. They might charge a small fee and give you a three-month window to fly a certain number of miles but it’s much easier and quicker than the traditional way of earning status. Also, applying for the right travel credit card can give you some elite perks and help you top off frequent-flier account.

2.  Price it out.

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s actually cheaper to buy a first- or business-class ticket than it is to purchase a coach ticket! Always double check the prices and even if it’s not cheaper, sometimes airlines charge just a little bit more. So, it might be worth it to spend the extra money, especially if you factor in the cost to check bags, buy food and drink, and assign yourself a decent seat if you have an economy class ticket. Don't make assumptions before you check out your options!

3.  Buy an upgrade.

When you buy your ticket or when you arrive at the airport, always ask an airline agent if they are selling upgrades for cheap. Some airlines will sell heavily discounted upgrades at the last minute or offer some kind of bidding system. So instead of paying a few thousand dollars to sit up front, you could get it for just a couple hundred dollars. Always ask and don’t be afraid to ask more than once or to query different employees.

4.  Be nice and volunteer.

My top travel tip is to always be genuinely nice to everyone you come across — from the reservation agents to the flight attendants and everyone in between. You will be surprised how far a big smile and being genuinely friendly will go. If you’re not in a hurry and the flight is full, ask the gate agent if they are looking for volunteers to be bumped. Airlines sometimes oversell seats betting that there will be no-shows, and so when everyone shows up and there aren’t enough seats, they offer compensation to those who are flexible and willing to take a different flight. Sometimes for moving to a flight that’s just an hour later, you can get a cash voucher for future travel and if the airline is really desperate, you can ask to be bumped to first class.

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