The common mistake that means you'll never be upgraded on a flight

Sarah Coles
business class Seat with champagne waiting for a Passenger
business class Seat with champagne waiting for a Passenger

We all dream of the day we go to check in for our cheap and cheerless cattle class flight, and discover we've been upgraded to hours of luxury instead. However, while we show up at the airport with our fingers crossed and a smile on our face, we are likely to have made a common mistake that means we'll never be upgraded - because we have already booked a specific seat when we checked in online.

A report in Cosmopolitan has revealed that by doing this, you are ruling yourself out of an upgrade, because the airline considers you to be dealt with already, and will not make their lives harder by moving you from a pre-booked seat into something more luxurious.

This leaves you with a dilemma: you can either pre-book your seat and be certain of the best seat possible - nearest the front of the plane or in an emergency exit row in order to get more legroom. Or you can take your chances with whatever is left over - in the hope of an upgrade.

This is particularly risky when you are flying at popular times, when every seat may be booked, so you end up in the worst possible place.

The alternatives

If you opt not to book a specific seat and hope for the best, this alone is unlikely to secure you an upgrade, so it's worth taking five other steps to bag your luxury flight.

1. Join the airline's loyalty programme
Even if you only have one flight on your loyalty card, this will give you a marginally better chance of an upgrade than everyone else.

2. Fly with the airline more often
If you're a very regular traveller, then you are in with a good chance of an upgrade. If you only fly occasionally, then if you always choose the same airline, you'll get credit for every flight. Of course, this will need to be weighed up against the extra cost of not shopping around for a cheaper fare.

3. Be very early or very late
If you are first in the queue, and they have a couple of spare business class tickets - you will be first to be considered for them. If you are last, and they have run out of seats in standard class, they may offer you an upgrade. It's worth emphasising that the second option here is the most risky. If all classes are full, then your strategy could see you bumped from the flight altogether.

4. Stand out
The experts are divided over whether you should ask for an upgrade or just hope for one. Whichever option you pick, you need to stand out from everyone else. There are two options here. First is simply to be charming, because airline staff admit they offer upgrades to people they like. The second option, if you are asking for an upgrade, is to provide a reason, such as a special occasion or very long limbs - just try to be charming about it.

5. Fit in
The staff aren't going to bump anyone up to business class unless they fit in - or they risk upsetting everyone in business and in economy. Therefore, it's worth dressing and acting as if you can afford to fly business class.

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