How to Get an Airline Upgrade Free

Everyone wants to buy a cheap economy ticket and get an upgrade to business class for free. Every so often airlines will give out free upgrades for operational reasons. Are there any tricks to getting that free upgrade? Not really. Free upgrades go to passengers who are frequent flyers with upgradeable fares. Once in a while there may be an element of luck, but by and large the upgrades go to those who "earn" it. Here are some tips for increasing your chances of getting that elusive upgrade. But remember… no guarantees.

  • Become a member of the airline's frequent flyer program. Try to reach the top or elite status as quickly as possible, as airlines like to reward their top tier members first.
  • Don't fly from your airline's hub city, as you will be competing against many other top status members.
  • Travel on a full-fare economy ticket. This will increase your chances of getting an upgrade. Airlines upgrade full-paying passengers before upgrading discounted-ticketed passengers.
  • Book a flight that will probably have a full economy section. Try flying on a wide-bodied aircraft with plenty of first-class and business-class seats. Dress in business attire on the day you travel. Sit off to the side alone, but within sight of the ticketing agent. If there's an opportunity for an upgrade, the agent may very well give it to you.
  • Don't badger the gate agents for an upgrade. If you agitate them, they will probably not give an available upgrade to you.

[sources: Cheap Flights, Air Travel Genius]