Top 10 Tips for Getting Upgraded to Business Class


A well dressed, single guy in his 30s is more likely to be upgraded to First Class than a group of teenage girls, a survey by SkyScanner reveals. So – other than a sex change – what can you do to increase your chances?

It has only happened to me twice.

Once, many, many years ago, the brother in law of my best friend was working at the check-in counter of Philippines Airlines, which I was flying back to the United States from Hong Kong by way of Manila.

As a result, I was upgraded from Cattle Class to First Class, but only for the Hong Kong – Manila segment of the flight.

What I remember most about that flight was being served champagne while the Economy Class passengers were herded past me.

“This really is the ONLY way to fly,” as those old Western Air Lines television commercials used to put it. 

Many years later on Korean Air, I had asked for an aisle seat. Instead I was given a seat in front of the bulkhead, with absolutely no leg room. Seeing that I couldn’t sleep, a sympathetic flight attendant allowed me to move to Business Class.

“But you will have to return to Economy Class when the lights come on,” he said. “You won’t be able to eat breakfast there.”

I will never forget the feeling of settling into that comfy Business Class seat. It was the first time that I ever fell asleep on an airplane.

Tricks of the Trade

Is there a trick to scoring an upgrade to Business Class or – better yet – to First Class?

According to Singapore based travel website SkyScanner, gender, age, and how you dress can all be parts of the equation.

SkyScanner surveyed 700 cabin crew, and this is what they found. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of cabin crew would be more likely to upgrade a single guy traveling alone than a group of women flying together.

“For those who don’t fit the bill, crew have outlined how passengers can up their chances of getting that elusive free upgrade.” the SkyScanner press release says.

Solo Travelers

“While a few manners will go far, frequent flyers and solo travelers are odds-on favourite to get bumped up to premium, when seats become available.”

More than seven out of 10 flight attendants would be more likely to offer a free upgrade to a passenger flying alone. Other factors that might increase your chances are being a member of the airline’s frequent flyer programme and having an injury.

“Not many of us are lucky enough to bag a free upgrade, but if you’re a single guy in your thirties, you have a better chance than any of us,” says Skyscanner’s Victoria Bailie.

“Whilst an upgrade is never guaranteed, cabin crew have revealed that there are a few things you can do to give yourself a better chance of grabbing the premium seats, such as dressing smartly and joining the airline’s frequent flyer scheme before you fly.”

How to Score an Airline Upgrade

1.       Be friendly and polite – A massive 82% of crew say it makes a difference

2.       Join the airline’s frequent flyer scheme – 80% of crew said that this helps to improve your upgrade chances

3.       Travel alone – 72% are most likely to upgrade a lone traveller

4.       Point out that sprained ankle – Having an injury or illness is likely to increase your chances of an upgrade according to 65% of crew

5.       Dress smartly – 59% are more likely to upgrade a well-dressed passenger

6.       If you’re on your honeymoon, make the crew aware – 58% would be more likely to upgrade newlyweds

7.       Make friends in high places – 55% of crew admit that they are more likely to upgrade a friend or family

8.       Travel at unpopular times – If there are lots of seats available in premium class, you’re more likely to have that request accepted according to 47% of crew

9.       Give the crew a sob story to gain their sympathy – 35% of crew say it can sway their decision

10.     Look your best – 31% are more likely to upgrade a well-groomed, attractive passenger


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