As my esteemed colleague Leandro wrote a few days ago, long-haul flights in economy class are something of a crash course on survival. Being cooped up in an enclosed space for more than eight hours is bad enough, but when you factor in cramped seats and extremely limited wiggle room, it gets downright hellish.
Perhaps the most effective way to ensure a pleasant flying experience is to purchase a first-class or business-class ticket, but let’s be real, most of us here can’t exactly afford that.
There is, however, one way to experience flying first-class without having to empty your pockets, and that is via an upgrade. So, how does one avail of this coveted, borderline mythical benefit?
Now, there are lots of tips online pertaining to this endeavor. Travelers, for instance, are often advised to dress like they belong in business class. A friend of mine who’s a flight attendant once confided to me that they tend to look for well-dressed passengers in case there happens to be vacancies in first class.
Then there are those who swear by arriving at the airport early and being extra polite to the cabin crew at the check-in desk. Being on some sort of frequent flyer programme with the airline of your choice supposedly helps too, as members are often prioritized in the event of available upgrades.
But, hey, guess what? There are actually two ways that can just about guarantee you a first-class seat and neither of them require dressing nattily or being extra chatty with the ground crew.
The Silver Lining On Overbooked Flights
Airlines are actually allowed to overbook their flights by up to 10% to make up for any no-shows. If you find yourself on one and are in no hurry to get to your destination, it could very well turn out to be a blessing.
You see, when a flight is overbooked, airlines are legally obliged to offer its passengers all sorts of compensation to entice them to give up their seat on the plane. These can include a free ticket, or, more commonly, a free upgrade on the next available flight. It’s basically their way of thanking you for being so flexible.
Should you want to try out this hack, be sure to do so when you’ve got a flexible schedule that won’t get seriously derailed by a delayed flight. And just so you’re aware, peak travel times are usually from Mondays to Thursdays, when businessmen take up seats in economy class and aren’t likely to take the airline up on its offer, leaving you free to nab that free upgrade in exchange for (hopefully) a slight delay.
Can’t quite bring yourself to give up your rightful seat on the plane? Fret not, should you be (un) lucky enough, there’s still a chance for you to get upgraded.
Before you take your assigned seat in economy class, give it a once-over. Are the seatbelts working? Do the outlets for your earphones function properly? Does the seat cover have no rips or snags in the fabric?
Should there be any damage to your assigned seat, notify a flight attendant right away. Provided that the economy class seats are all booked up on your flight (see the previous section), there’s a very good chance that they’ll have to move you up to business class, which is hardly ever full.
Just don’t damage the seat yourself, of course, lest you end up getting arrested and booted off the flight instead.
Lastly, should neither option be viable, you can always just buckle down and consult our tips for making long-haul flights more bearable right here.