10 Smart Ways To Score An Upgrade

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Airlines have gotten stingy. Meals on flights are things of the past; blankets, pillows and legroom are rare.It’s also more difficult to score a business class upgrade. Simply hoarding frequent flyer miles and showing up early won’t cut it.

But worry not, tired business travellers.

With some careful planning, timing, and luck, you can still snag a seat that allows you to stretch your legs.

Fly when you're most likely to get bumped.

If you have a flexible schedule, boost your chances of getting an upgrade by flying during the busiest travel times.

When gate agents start asking for volunteers to be bumped from overbooked flights, volounteer yourself and ask for a free upgrade for the trouble.

Don't check your bags.

It may seem obvious, but remember, if you're hoping to get bumped, keep your luggage with you.

Passengers with carry-on bags are more flexible and often more appealing as potential bump candidates.

Be a frequent flyer.

Join frequent flyer programs.

Don't forget to join the frequent flyer programs of any airline you fly.

The perks that come with being a member of a frequent flyer program aren't limited to a free flight -- members often have access to the VIP airport lounge, priority bookings, discounts and other perks.

Also, elite members of frequent flyer programs sometimes have access to cheap upgrades they can purchase.

Use airline mileage credit cards but read the fine print first.

Using a credit card affiliated with an airline is a traditional way to rack up additional miles or points that can be used for a seat upgrade.

Make sure you read the fine print first. The amount of miles needed to get an upgrade vary by airlines. You also have to consider the type of seat you buy, because airlines differ on which seats can be upgraded.

Some programs, like those of American Airlines and Continental Airlines, appear to offer more flexibility than Delta Air Lines, says the New York Times.

Travel solo.

Being a solo traveller helps make you an appealing candidate. Single travellers are easier to move or bump to a later flight.

Whether you'd like to abandon your travel companions voluntarily or not, the airline will probably choose a solo traveller first, says WhyGoBusiness.com.

Dress the part.

You may be comfortable in pajamas or sweats, but the suit-clad (read: well-dressed) passenger is more likely to get the upgrade, say travel experts.

Wearing professional or business casual attire is not enough to guarantee you'll be bumped up to business class, but it certainly can't hurt, says Cheapflights.com

Check in early.

When there is one upgrade available and two elite flyers are requesting it, the one who checks in first gets it.

Smart travellers bypass the check-in counter and self-service kiosks by checking in online 24 hours before their flight.

Purchase upgrades or miles.

Free upgrades are becoming increasingly rare and hard to get. Especially if it's a long flight, it may be worth it to buy an upgrade.

Airline policies vary, so check the website of the airline you're flying to find out what their rules are about buying upgrades. You may be required to join the airline's frequent flyer program before you can purchase an upgrade.

Another thing to look into is whether the airline you've accumulated miles with offers the option of buying additional miles, which you can then use to supplement the miles you have and more quickly get to a free business class or first class ticket.

Finally: be tactful.

Irritating the gate agent by frequently asking about an upgrade will reduce your chances to nil.

Be respectful and tactful. Never demand an upgrade. Rather than declaring 'I need an upgrade!' try: 'Am I eligible for an upgrade today?

Now take a look at what business travellers should demand:

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