EDITOR’S EYE: The lottery of securing an upgrade
Every traveller has his or her own method of getting upgraded – those special tricks we use in order to secure a bit of extra travelling comfort. But just how easy is it to get upgraded nowadays? Two reports came out recently offering advice on what to do - and what not to say - when trying to blag an extra bit of luxury.
Last week Virgin Atlantic revealed that most people, when trying to get upgraded, try to claim they are friends with Sir Richard Branson. Well it’s worth a shot I suppose. Sir Richard is certainly a more likely ‘bezzy’ than most airline bosses. You can’t imagine many people claiming to be Willie Walsh’s drinking buddy or Liu Shaoyong’s golf partner. The rest of the list was frankly silly; like some bright spark thinking he was due an upgrade as his football team had lost, or another who thought that flying on a Sunday would get him bumped forward. In hotels it seems a bit easier to get upgraded; Kiwi Collection recently offered their top tips, including some wonderfully simple angles such as smiling and checking in at the right time. It only it was always that easy.
You may be surprised (or not) to learn that I never get upgraded. In fact in a lifetime of air travel it’s only happened twice. Mind you I never ask; the thought of saying “do you know who I am?”, like some half-rate footballer trying to get into the VIP room at Ritzy’s nightclub, makes me feel a little nauseous.
So how do you get upgraded? Some people swear by checking in as late as possible, as the airline will know how many seats they have left. Others say to get there as early as you can, and you’ll be first in the queue. The fact is there’s no exact science to it. As Virgin Atlantic’s Paul Dickinson, said; “In truth, free upgrades are rarely offered. If on the rare occasion we do need to offer an upgrade, we usually prioritise our most loyal customers.”
The first time I was upgraded was with Emirates in 1998, when I was 21 years-old and off on my first solo trip abroad. I neither asked for, nor expected an upgrade, but I was young, innocent(ish), and just happy to be going on holiday. Maybe that’s the trick; as Kiwi Collection said; “[Staff] deal with a lot of people and handle a lot of problems and stress during their day. Sometimes, just being personable and friendly can go a long way.”
So that’s the only advice I can offer - be nice! It may not be guarantee an upgrade, but it will definitely make your travelling experience a little more pleasant.