You have likely heard stories from friends or colleagues who claim they got a free upgrade. These stories are likely tall tales. The truth is, there are ways to get upgrades with hotels and airlines – but you have to pay, one way or another. Let us share some tips with you that will likely help you get an upgrade. Hotels and airlines reserve the upgrades for those customers who are loyal to them and those customers generally pay for upgrades at a much lower rate than others can get.
If you are going to ask for an upgrade, be prepared to offer up a valid reason. Whether you are going to claim it’s your birthday, your anniversary, or some other celebration, if the space is available – you might be in luck as agents have latitude based upon availability. You have a better chance of getting an upgrade if you have a specific reason for wanting one, rather than just demanding one. According to the Money Saving Expert website, those traveling for an anniversary, honeymoon, birthday, or other special occasion may receive an upgrade or some other type of perk.
Be kind, be humble, be polite and be nice. Hotel staff and airline agents are hit up every day, all day long for upgrades. Many people are aggressive and demanding. Don’t say you are a frequent customer when you’re not. They have access to your history, and no one likes a liar. Your definition of “frequent flyer” might differ with theirs. If you travel six times a year, you’re not even in the ballpark of frequent flyer status. James Wysong of MSNBC claims that he’s seen people upgraded just for being nice to the workers. The Money Saving Expert states that “airline staff are more likely to give treats to people they like and who treat them with respect.”
Check in the day before or at the very last minute to increase your chances of getting an upgrade. According to the Money Saving Expert, if the economy seats fill up and you check in late, the worker may move you into a seat in a better section. The same for hotels. Everyone books a standard room. Suites may be the only rooms open if you reserve a hotel last minute.
Don’t be shy about sharing your loyalty with hotel clerks or airline agents. Remember, they can confirm your story so never lie. Instead, casually mention that you only stay at Marriott Hotels or American Airlines if those are indeed your choices. They will check your recent travel history and you just might rewarded based upon your loyalty and availability at that moment.
You will have much better luck in obtaining an upgrade if you are a member of a loyalty program that accrues points. Frequent flyer/guest programs are free to join and, when it comes to upgrading people, those who have “status” based on the number of points earned are more likely to get the upgrade than one-time or occasional customers. Members of American Airlines loyalty program can pay a $50 fee, redeem some points and move to First Class.
As shallow as it may be, you will be judged by your attire. You are less likely to get an upgrade while wearing jeans, a T-shirt and flip flops than if you present yourself in business attire. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo, but if you are wearing business attire instead of jeans and a t-shirt, you are more likely to be bumped since you fit in with other business travelers.
Speak the lingo and ask for a “Y-UP” ticket. Y-UP tickets are slightly more expensive coach tickets that often result in an upgrade. The tickets are generally not bookable on online booking systems.
Airlines are notorious for overbooking flights. When airlines begin offering vouchers for those willing to take a later flight, be patient. They may offer a $500 voucher for anyone willing to give-up their seat. If there are no takers, they will up the amount until there are takers. You might make your own offer. You can ask for a $1000 voucher. They may give it to you, or they might hold out. Instead of a voucher, consider asking for a rebook to a First Class seat on the next flight out.