10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer

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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

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90 responses to “10 Secrets of a First Class Frequent Flyer”

  1. Barbara Avatar

    These are great tips! Thanks!

  2. Brian St Pierre Avatar
    Brian St Pierre

    I’m sure if you have an emotional support gorilla you’ll get to first class asap.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      LOL these days I would not doubt it. But you would still have to pay for it!

  3. Cindy Avatar

    Great tips! I have never flown first class. I’d like to experience it once at least.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is hard to go back to coach after flying first class. Especially long distance. I hope you have the opportunity soon.

  4. Trisha Avatar

    Great tips! I’m totally gonna use these next time we fly!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Let me know how it goes!

  5. jody Avatar

    Thank you for sharing these great tips.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Any time! I hope you score a seat!

  6. T.M. Avatar

    Great tips, Tricia!! I flew First Class once, but the flight was so short there was no benefit to it. Here’s hoping one day I get the opportunity to enjoy a luxury such as this.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Definitely upgrade on a flight more than 3 or 4 hours.

  7. Julie Avatar

    Would love to fly first class someday!! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  8. Brianna Fitzgerald Avatar

    First class is pretty fun. I did it once and the best part was not having to wait in a long line for security.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      True… and the lounge… the quiet lounge!

  9. Amanda Avatar

    These are great tips for first class flyer. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Courtney Avatar

    These are great tips!

  11. Hera Avatar

    We love international first class. The delta one is fantastic with the flat bed. So needed since I’m no spring chicken, gotta protect our backs on those long flights. I use points to upgrade all the time

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Absolutely, I have not done the flat bed yet.

  12. Leeanne Avatar

    This is all great info. So true on dressing for what you want. I haven’t thought of giving up my seat for an upgrade on a future flight. I will have to remember that one.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      IF you have the time it is worth it!

  13. Jordin Avatar

    I would love to upgrade to first class. Maybe I’ll look into it for our honeymoon to Europe…

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is the best time for a first-class upgrade!

  14. kmf Avatar

    Love when I get upgraded to first class…still waiting for that upgrade when I travel to Europe. Great tips on how to make it happen!

  15. Lori Nielsen Avatar

    First class is where it’s at! But I’ve actually only flown first class once, and the seats were a little TOO big for me. I would love the lie flat option, though!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      The lie-down seat would be wonderful when flying overseas.

  16. Taci -life Beyond zebra Avatar
    Taci -life Beyond zebra

    These are great tips! I haven’t had the chance to fly in first or business class but it looks so fancy and nice.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is nice. Under 2 or 3 hours it is unnecessary but still nice.

  17. Jordan Avatar

    I have never flown first class and do always wonder how people afford them! Hopefully I’ll get to fly first class one day.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Many people use points or they are flying with their company. It is difficult to justify the cost on a domestic flight.

  18. Stacey Billingsley Avatar

    Great tips! We don’t fly often, and our last few flights have been on Southwest. I really don’t know what I’m missing in first class, but I’d love to try it someday!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Not much on shorter flights. If you ever travel overseas you can feel the difference!

  19. Missy Avatar

    I liked these tips. I would still need to work on my courage to ask. 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      The worst they can say is no! Thanks, Missy!

  20. LaurenGlobe Avatar

    Ah, the elusive upgrade to first class! Right now I’d be happy for a free premium economy upgrade 🙂 Perhaps one day! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Right? I really need an exit seat due to my height.

  21. Jennifer Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your tips about first class flying.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you for looking Jennifer!

  22. Pam Avatar

    I’m not sure I’ve ever flown first class – not that I wouldn’t love the luxury, I just haven’t been able to justify the cost … once I flew business class from Paris for work and that was wonderful!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Business-class works for a Europe trip!

  23. Adrian Avatar

    Great tips. I always try to dress the part to get my upgrades.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Excellent! Thank you, Adrian!

  24. Brianna Creef Avatar

    My husband is 6’6” and doesn’t fit well in normal seating, so if the trip is more than a couple hours, we either need an exit row or first class! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I hear you on that one. I am 6′ and my son is 6’9″!! I just flew to NY and had the guy in front of me slam down on his chair. I was asleep so I did not see it coming and my knees were on the back of his chair. OUCH!

  25. Wendy Robinson Avatar

    I might ask for an upgrade now. Never asked before because there are always 2-3 of us.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You should always try! Thanks, Wendy!

  26. Maria G Avatar
    Maria G

    You made me laugh out loud with the emotional support peacock line! I’m still laughing just thinking about it!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I am so glad I was able to make people chuckle with that one! Thanks Maria!

  27. Katherine Wolfe Avatar
    Katherine Wolfe

    I have to leave my emotional-support peacock at home if I want to fly First Class?!?!? 😉

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Hey, you might get a sympathetic agent at the gate! lol You never know!

  28. Suzan Avatar

    Great tips! Never thought of dressing the part!

  29. Lisa Avatar

    Great tips!! I have never flown first class before.

  30. Justine Avatar

    Interesting tips! My husband flies all the time for work and we have a credit card with the airline. He’s just begun getting automatic first class upgrades for some of his flights because of his status now.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! That is the way to do it!

  31. vanessa Avatar

    Great tips. I flew first class a few times and sigh longingly when I can’t….

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I hear you! It is not fun moving to the back of the plane!

  32. judean Avatar

    Great tips! 99% of the time I don’t fly airlines with first class because I am so frugal and those airlines are generally the more expensive ones and charge baggage fees. However, if I ever start traveling a lot for work again – this is great information to know!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! Thanks, Judean!

  33. KENDRA Avatar

    Great tips! “Emotional support peacock” gave me the serious giggles!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      LOL, I am glad I gave you a chuckle!

  34. Lora Avatar

    I never would of thought I could just go up to the agent and ask to move up? I do not fly that much but my husband travels a ton for work. He probably does all these things!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, it can happen! Although much more rarely these days.

  35. Lee Anne Avatar
    Lee Anne

    Emotional support peacock!! Great info here and you are right, there’s always a cost!

    1. Tonya | the Writer Mom Avatar

      The only time I flew first class was when my flight was overbooked and we got bumped to the next flight. It was certainly nice to have the bigger seat!

      1. Tricia Snow Avatar

        Oh cool! I am glad that worked for you!

  36. Jennifer Avatar

    That would be nice. I struggle to get out of the seats in economy.

  37. Kareena Avatar

    Getting an airline credit card has always been on my ‘to do’ list. This was a great post! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You are very welcome Kareena!

  38. Lisa Manderino Avatar

    Great tips., I may try these next time I fly.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I can’t wait to hear about it!

  39. heather Avatar

    I never even thought to buy an extra seat if there is a great sale. I need to remember this, especially on Southwest. Their seats are a bit small.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes! I can barely fit being 6 ft tall.

  40. Lucy Avatar

    I’ve heard of that you can sometimes manage to get a free class upgrade but have never tried it myself. I usually don’t dress the part, even when rravellyon business 😅 maybe I should next time though!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You should try it! The worst case is you get a no!

  41. Lora Rovegna Avatar

    Good tips! Yeah, people seem to think that how they act shouldn’t reflect what they get. Impressions are everything. I have no issue flying coach but I can see where it would be nice to be in first class for a long flight.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It really is nice on the longer flights. I get stir crazy in coach overseas.

  42. Debbie Avatar

    I may have to use my points for 1st class upgrade on a long flight one day. Good idea!

  43. jen Avatar

    THIS is legitimately useful information. SO much garbage out there…. it’s true flying first class is not what it used to be and policies are different. Well laid out information! Thank you!!

  44. Sydney Delong Avatar

    Great ideas! I have never asked to upgrade- usually my flights are less than two hours. I would definitely want to upgrade for longer flights.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Under two hours it is definitely not worth the cost.

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