Flying high! 5 Tips For Getting Bumped to Business On Your Next Flight

A few months back, as I waited to board my plane to Siesta Key, I heard my name being announced on the loud speaker, beckoning me to visit the boarding counter. Oh, crap I thought, they’ve overbooked and I’m going to be booted onto the next flight. In my head I was starting the negotiations for food certificates and some money back for my troubles. How surprised I was, when the attendant behind the counter thanked me for showing up and proceeded to tell me that I’d been upgraded to business class! They’d accidentally sold me my seat after it had already been booked by a family traveling with a young infant, said the gentleman behind the counter apologetically, re-printing my ticket. Three months pregnant, hungry and standing at 6 feet tall, I sure as hell wasn’t complaining.

As I sipped on the complimentary wine and nibbled on my free hot meal (while those behind me in economy had to fork out cash for their on-board snacks) I thought to myself, in today’s world, where every aspect of flight is for sale, especially seats, what are the odds of being bumped to business?

When it comes to being bumped to business, the odds are never in your favour

With pre-selected seating and opportunities to upgrade flying at you from every direction, it’s nearly impossible to get bumped up to business these days. I remember days gone by when airlines would boost you if you pleaded long enough or looked like you were heading somewhere special – honeymooners, lovebirds, pregnant women, you name it. Nowadays, it seems like everything is for sale, and the odds of getting moved from economy into the land of luxury are slim to none.

That being the case, when surfing the net, I stumbled across a few tips for those of you who want to try their hardest to get an upgrade! Here’s what I found…

5 Tips that could get you bumped to business

1. Join a frequent flyer program: A frequent flyer program is a loyalty program offered by various airlines throughout the industry. There are also loyalty programs that apply to multiple airlines through networks like Star Alliance.

2. Be well dressed: For a woman who defines airplane attire as the most comfortable outfit she can find, this had to be the most disappointing, but apparently it’s true. If you’re well dressed, you are more likely to be offered an upgrade. Maybe it’s because they think you’ll fit in with the bankers on board? Whatever the reason, it could be worth wearing flats instead of runners, and jeans instead of sweats-yes, that’s as far as I’ll go. You couldn’t pay me to wear heels on an airplane and if you ever see me fly for leisure  wearing nylons and blazer, just shoot me on the spot.

3. Smile at check-in: Now this is a tip I can get on board with! Smiling at everyone who helps you as you check-in, pass through security and reach the gate is the easiest thing in the world to do and, without knowing it, you might just be making their day. This in turn makes it ten times more likely that they’ll choose to upgrade you when given the opportunity. This is one tip that takes little to no effort, but can go a long way towards getting you bumped on your next long-haul overseas.

4. Don’t ask for an upgrade: This particular piece of advice was debated among travel enthusiasts. While some argued that you should never, ever ask for an upgrade because the attendant will find you obnoxious and impolite, others suggested asking in a polite and direct way. Supporters of the “ask” believed that expressing an interest in an upgrade was more likely to get you put on the official “possible upgrade” list. Personally I’m torn – if anything, I’d smiley politely and mention how much an upgrade would mean to me given the fact that I’m six-feet tall (and currently pregnant).

5. Volunteer to give up your seat: This is an easy way to prompt an upgrade, but unfortunately, as a frequent flyer I’ve noticed a severe drop in the number of times volunteers are getting called to give up their seats after an airlines has overbooked. If however you find yourself in this fortunate position, volunteer to give up your seat and take the next flight. This “random act of kindness” (also known as strategic attempts to upgrade) will boost your airline karma and seriously up your chance at getting bumped the next time round. And if you don’t get the upgrade, you’ll receive compensation from the airline for your troubles, making it worth it to try all the same.

Do you have a funny story about getting bumped to business? What are your best tips for getting an upgrade?

5 thoughts on “Flying high! 5 Tips For Getting Bumped to Business On Your Next Flight

  1. Interesting post. We were taking our very elderly mothers on their first trip to New York to see their grandson and great grandchildren. We were booked out of Heathrow on Virgin Premium Economy, and at the gate were informed by a very straight-faced attendant, “I have to inform you that you will unfortunately have to travel first class, as we’ve given your seats to other passengers.” The four of us were somewhat bemused, but delighted of course. 🙂

  2. There’s one more factor – LUCK! I don’t have a flight update story, but, got upgraded to a 2nd AC seat on an Indian Railway journey which is quite an upgrade!!n trust me, as I walked to my now “upgraded seat”, felt like a BOSS, as getting a confirmed rail ticket in India is a task in itself n so to get my seat upgraded instilled my belief in God 😛

  3. About 8 years ago, I flew from Sydney to London. We were in the air around 15 minutes when the chief steward approached me and advised me that there is a claustrophobic passenger on-board, and asked if I would consider giving up my aisle seat for her. I immediately agreed, and within 5 minutes I had been relocated up to Business Class, and I was presented with a catalogue of available goods for sale on the Qantas flight. I was told to select items up to the value of $200 from the catalogue. My selections were presented to me at Singapore airport rather ceremoniously by the Captain.

    What a simple act, to give up ones’ seat in-flight. The result is the incredible upgrade and reward. Awesome.

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