The Upgrade Game: How to Get a Better Airline Seat

September 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Flying business or first class is a dream scenario for many business travelers. For a variety of reasons that cushy seat just isn’t in the cards. But what if there was a way to get said ticket economically or even free?

British Airlines New Club World Airplane Seat

British Airlines New Club World business class seat

Over 30 airlines offer travelers the option to bid for a better seat. Knowing how these systems work, following their rules, and not getting caught up in the emotion of bidding (think eBay) will help you figure out if there’s a way to make an upgrade possible. U.S. News and World Report offered these suggestions on how to play the upgrade game.

First, do your homework. There are numerous online forums where you can educate yourself about how to go about this. Once you understand the process and know what you’re willing to spend, go directly to your airline’s site and investigate whether upgrades are available. All that’s necessary is to list what you’re willing to pay, supply your credit card information, and wait to hear. The window for this opportunity varies from airline to airline, but for most it’s open 24 to 72 hours before the flight.

So that the dream of the upgrade doesn’t cloud your logic, determine ahead of time what you’re willing to pay for the upgrade and be sure you know what the list price of the seat you want to upgrade to is. It would be foolish to pay more for an upgrade than the fare would cost if you’d bought it from the get-go.

According to Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of The Points Guy, a points and miles advice website, only place a low bid if you’re really fine with your original seating choice. Even though the system hinges on supply and demand, higher bids tend to get more attention. The airline is trying to make whatever revenue it can on unsold seats, and the airline can “always choose to leave that seat empty.”

If you’re not interested in the whole bidding game, becoming a member of a frequent flier rewards program will net you upgrades without the hassle. Members of three major carriers’ programs all receive complimentary upgrades, if available, once they reach a certain status within the program.

Do you upgrade seats on your business travels? How do you manage it? Leave us a comment below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Richard Moross (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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