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How to get an airline upgrade without relying on luck

Rosie Spinks
Member exclusive by Rosie Spinks

There is an old piece of advice that prevails when it comes to air travel: If you dress professionally, arrive early, and enquire ever so politely, you might just be that lucky person who gets bumped from the doldrums of economy class to the perks of premium, business, or first class. 

However, if you’ve been on a plane in the last decade, you might’ve noticed: Air travel has changed quite a bit. The glamour and personalized service has been replaced by algorithms, surcharges, and a de-bundling of even the most basic of services. Free upgrade? A more realistic aspiration might be a free ginger ale after takeoff.

“Airlines have their upgrade process down to a science,” Emily McNutt, global news editor for the aviation website The Points Guy, told Quartz. “Just because you’re wearing a suit doesn’t mean you’ll get an upgrade when you approach the gate agent. Because of things like airline elite status, upgrades often happen for those who are most loyal to the carrier.”

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