Air France’s upcoming first class suite. September 2014.
10 Ways to be Bumped to Business or First Class:
1. Be loyal
Airlines like to reward people who side with them and only them. Marry an airline and become a frequent flyer member ASAP. It has its pros and its cons, but in the end, it’s what needs to happen. You’ll earn miles and be rewarded first, but you’ll be off the market and not able to pick the airline with the lowest fares, quickest route or best planes. Tradeoffs, schmadeoffs. If you find it impossible to just stick with one airline, then explore either Star Alliance, Skye Team or One World Airline alliances.
2. Be nice and ask
Sleeping with the pilot may help, but here’s an easier and less invasive way. Put on the charm, bat the eyes, and just ask. Definitely request an upgrade at every level of airport travel: check-in, gate staff, lounge staff, flight attendant. Please don’t embarrass me and ask at security. They are busy looking for knives and other hazardous material. Kindness pays off, so if you pull out these stops, you could be an upperclassman in the blink of a smile.
3. Dress the part
If you want to fit in with business class, you must dress like business class. A well heeled traveler is more likely to get bumped up than anyone clad in old jeans, flip flops and an Arcade Fire t-shirt. Business casual is definitely SFU status (suitable for upgrade).
4. Check in late or early
I never liked the game of Risk. Here’s one similar. If you check in late AND your plane is full or oversold, you’re more likely to get bumped to business class in order for the airline to make room for all patrons. This could, however, result in having to take another flight if you’re too late. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the early bird gets the worm. If you check in first and upgrades are available, they may offer you the upgrades as you’re the first to arrive. Have a book or movie readily available to wait it out.
5. Be single
This one is a no-brainer. Traveling solo will give you a much higher chance of scoring a seat with the elite.
6. Be a diplomat
Using your title will get you more than just flight upgrades, but if you have one, I’m sure you already figured this out. You’re most likely already flying first class if you’re a diplomat but hey, letting the check-in attendant know will put you in the running to becoming the airline’s next top upperclassman. And if you aren’t a diplomat, the next best thing is marrying one.
7. Get fat
I’ve heard of this happening. It’s real. Super-sizing yourself can have higher upgrade probabilities (and cholesterol) than being rail thin. Let’s be honest, if you’re rail thin you probably aren’t going to take advantage of the full menu First Class boasts, so it’s probably best for 1A to go to somebody who could use a little bit more space up front. McDonald addicts, there is hope yet.
8. Pay for lots of excess baggage
Maybe you’re moving. Maybe you’re a travel mule. Perhaps you’re like me and have chronic indecisiveness and who packs their whole closet at times. Either way about it, sometimes you just have to invest to get a return. If you spend a lot in baggage fees, check-in attendants may just feel sorry for you and your depleting bank account.
9. Have friends in high places
If you have a friend who works at an airline, then your life just got a whole lot easier. That is, if you’re the lucky few who received their buddy-pass – the golden ticket to low priced airfare. I know various people who have been graced with this ultimate gift, however it has not happened to me. Yet. Share the wealth friends. I’m buddy-pass available!
10. Have a compelling reason
Maybe you’re 6 foot 5. Maybe it’s your 30th birthday (you can’t lie either – it’s on your passport.) Maybe you and your new spouse are on your romantic honeymoon. Maybe you’re pregnant (pregnant enough to be showing but not so pregnant that you can’t fly). Maybe you’re a first timer and you’re just getting your wings. Whatever the reason, you’re more likely to be bumped up if the attendant feels sorry for you or wants to make your day extra special.
To summarize, just be the person who checks off most of these boxes and you, too, could be sipping champagne while ordering off the First Class menu.