The Over 50 Lifestyle,  Travel,  Travel for Boomers

10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer

You are walking through the cabin to get to your economy seat and you are thinking, “Who are these people? How do I get up here!” There is that little ping of seat envy as you make it back to “coach”. You look up the cost of a First Class flight and to your shock, it is the cost of a mortgage payment for that seat. How can you ask for an upgrade on a flight for free? Learn 10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer!

Coach Seats on an airplane
Coach Photo by Sourav Mishra from Pexels

Until a few years ago, it was not that difficult to make your way into first class. Often when you checked in as a frequent flyer, the person checking you in would seat you in first-class without an issue.

Now today, it is a rarity to get this privilege. And with many discount airlines, a lot of airlines have scrapped first-class all together while others have upgraded the experience to sell more seats at a premium!

10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer

10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer Pinterest Pin

These days, everything on your flight has a price tag and you are getting feed to death. You’ll pay $99 just for an “upgrade” to the front section of coach. All for the right to get off the plane more quickly or get you an inch or two of extra legroom.

With fuel prices rising and low fare wars, the airlines have created the present environment of no free upgrades. Many airlines are even charging if you would like to select your own seat or sit with your travel companion. The airlines have a new love of fees and surcharges, computerized seat assignments, very full flights, and increased competition for upgrades has literally degraded the state of flying coach.

First Class Isn’t What It Used to Be

Don’t get me wrong, when I am filing past the first few rows of seats on my way to the back of the plane, those big leather seats with folks already drinking wine in them have a strong allure. But those seats come with a higher cost, whether in cash or in miles.

With shorter domestic flights you really do not get all that much more than the people in coach. Wider seats, a little more legroom, free drinks, and the chance to board a little earlier and leave a first. Usually, there are fewer children, although certainly not guaranteed and better conversation as well.

Woman sitting on a plane looking out the window.
First Class

With that being said, some airlines have upped the ante in their first-class cabins on longer domestic routes. Some airlines offer lie-flat seats in first class on some transcontinental routes, while Hawaiian Airlines has lie-flat options on its first-class service to Hawaii. On these types of domestic flights, an upgrade is definitely worth trying for. But I admit, it will be very difficult.

The Do’s and Don’t of Getting a First Class Upgrade

Just because your chances of getting an upgrade have gone down, you don’t necessarily have to give up. 

  1. Dress accordingly. If you are walking up to the agent in a tank top and flip flops carrying your emotional support peacock, chances are they will not want to put you in the high paying section of travelers.
  2. Just ask! POLITELY! And be direct. You could say something like, “If there is any chance of an upgrade on this flight, I would love to be considered.
  3. Be reasonable. Being demanding or a jerk will get you nowhere with a gate agent.
  4. Offer to give up your seat for an overbooked flight in exchange for first-class tickets somewhere else.
  5. Be on time. Skating in at the last minute will not help your cause when there is a line out the door and the stress level is high for the employees. Getting there ahead of the crowd is an excellent way to turn on the charm and ask if there is any availability for an upgrade!

Free First Class Upgrades Using the System

Well, is it ever really free? Or do you pay a price with your loyalty (points) and a higher-priced coach ticket? Here are the ways to legitimately get an upgrade but is there always a cost. There are some things you can do to get the rewards if you “deserve” it.

  1. Be Loyal – Flying the same airline time and time again does matter. You must, of course, join their loyalty program but after time you will be able to get more points to get that upgrade.
  2. Get an airline credit card – There are usually points that come with that application. Most people use it for a free ticket but you can also use it for an upgrade.
  3. Look for a Business Class Sale – I am always getting business class sale notices in my email. You can sign up for those notifications to get BOGO and other discounts on business class seats!
  4. If you have been inconvenienced by an airline then an upgrade may be the way they make it up to you. Most airlines will not upgrade you for no reason, so this may be the reason you need to get the upgrade you crave!
  5. Buy an extra seat – You see a sale for a $49 flight on Southwest on their annual fall sale and you would like some extra room, just spring for that extra seat to be able to spread out. Just remember to check-in for that seat as well as present both boarding passes so they do not give it away on an over-booked flight.

Just because you get a “no” one time, do not stop asking. It is rare you will get the upgrade but it can happen! It only takes a second to put your request out there.

Be sure to check out our Top 10 Packing Hacks for Grandparents for more great travel tips too!

10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer

Tricia worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years before deciding to divorce the corporate world in 2018. Tricia retired early so she could travel with her husband Jack (the Boomer) and Bo, their German Shepherd. They enjoy finding new experiences together and spending time with their family.

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