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Ways to Get Upgrades That No One Talks About

by Susan Finch

Sep 18, 2019

First Class © Alice Slee | Dreamstime

Tips / Travel

Getting freebies, perks and upgrades aren’t just for business travelers or road warriors with a cache of frequent-flyer miles. Just about anyone can get a boost in their travel plans with the right strategy in hand. From flights to hotel suites, here’s how to get upgrades that no one seems to talk about.


Thoughtfully and Politely Complain
Companies are willing to offer upgrades and enhancements to right a mistake or oversight on their part. But you have to complain, and do it right. Let them know, calmly, what happened and how this impacted your stay. It’s also wise to tell them exactly what you want, whether a bump to first class or a bigger hotel room. You may find email works better so you can document all of your complaints without letting your emotions get the best of you. And when you send an email, it can easily be forwarded onto supervisors if you don’t get the answer you’re looking for.


Work with a Travel Advisor
Any good travel advisor or agent should have strong connections that can help correct an issue in a pinch. Asking them to score you an upgrade to first class might be tough without your own frequent-flyer perks and airline lounge memberships. However, an agent probably has more pull to get you a refund for a tour gone wrong, bump you up to a nicer hotel room or know about off-the-radar perks you wouldn’t know about otherwise. Be direct with your advisor or agent about what kind of upgrade you’re looking for and let them do the rest.


Book During Peak Season
It may sound counter-intuitive, but booking during peak season can actually help score an upgrade. Economy rooms and flights are usually popular choices with low inventory. That could mean an upgrade to first class or a suite with a view because everything else was sold out. It’s also helpful if you’re enrolled in a hotel or airline rewards membership. Travel companies are more likely to give an upgrade to loyal customers.


Travel Solo
Group travelers, families and couples usually don’t want to split up during a flight. It’s less complicated for the gate agents to tap a solo traveler for first-class service when economy class gets oversold. It’s also easier for lone travelers to give up their seat and change travel plans when flights are oversold than a group. In exchange, flexible passengers score a later flight with a bump to first class, and possibly a hotel stay and airport meal vouchers.


Just Ask
One of the most underrated ways to get an upgrade is simply to ask. It usually works best to tell someone why. Let the hotel know it’s your birthday and you’re hoping for an upgrade. Tell the gate agent about your terrible trip and ask if you can try for first class. Even asking for a free dessert at a hotel or restaurant and chatting up the wait staff can yield free upgrades.



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