The Blagger’s Guide to Free Flight Upgrades

Who hasn’t sat crammed into an economy seat on an aeroplane and gazed wistfully at the favoured few folk sitting in the premium seats, wondering what they have that you don’t, apart from bigger bank balances, of course? Well, the answer could be as simple as the right pair of shoes or a friendly smile. So what are the best tried-and-tested ways of securing a free upgrade on your next scheduled flight?

Be a Frequent Flyer or Pretend to Be | Join up with as many frequent-flyer programmes as you can and, even if you are flying for the first time with an airline and have joined their scheme but have not received your card, make sure you quote your reference number when you check in for your flight. Also, get yourself a Star Alliance card to get your name known to a huge range of airlines across the world.

Be Pleasant, Not Pushy | Your mum was right when she told you as a child ‘if you ask, you don’t get’. You are much more likely to be offered an upgrade if you come across as pleasant, polite and well-spoken rather than if you blatantly push for premium seats.


Look the Part | Don’t expect to be offered a place in the most luxurious area of the plane if you roll up at the airport wearing torn tracksuit bottoms and a pair of trainers that look like they have spent most of their lives in your dog’s bed. Men must have a jacket and, surprisingly, shoes are one of the most important elements to think about. A bit of well-polished leather is far more likely to get you to the front of an upgrade queue than a pair of whiffy sports shoes. You may look around at the people already destined for a seat in First Class and wonder why they can get away with baggy ripped jeans and a pair of flip-flops when you can’t. The answer, however, is glaringly obvious: they paid for the privilege of wearing exactly what they want.

Pick an Occasion | Many airline check-in staff are now wise to the ‘it’s my birthday, honeymoon, divorce party’ ruse, but if you are genuinely celebrating an occasion — especially if you have some evidence to back up your claim — it can still be worth giving it a passing mention when handing over your luggage. It may get you little more than a raised eyebrow and a mumbled ‘congratulations’, but then again it could be your ticket to a far more luxurious trip.

Dr Ajay Kumar Singh /