The other nice thing about the results page is that it’ll show you connecting options (as long as you don’t limit it to nonstop flights at the outset), though bear in mind that every leg of a one- or multi-stop itinerary must have award availability in the desired class of service in order to book the entire trip with miles. Remember too that most award seat availability shown on ExpertFlyer will be at the saver level for all programs. This is nice in that it should be bookable using any partner program’s currency, but it won’t show you the expanded award inventory that’s sometimes available through certain programs.

etix® is an electronic ticket that replaces paper tickets. It has a 13-digit number in addition to your booking code. You receive this etix® ticket number under certain circumstances, for example if you book through the Lufthansa website or a travel agent. It is saved for you in the etix® database. When you present your etix® ticket number and a photo ID, you will receive your boarding pass.
Ask your travel agent. My own travel agent has a relationship with certain airlines that let her book her customers into preferred seats that are not released to everyone (usually toward the front of the plane, in exit rows and the like). She can also see upgrade availability fairly quickly, and many agents can add comments to your reservation that increase your chances of being chosen for an upgrade. Ask about these the next time you talk to your travel agent.

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For international flights, you are talking about an entirely different situation. Much more critically than better food and drinks, first- and business-class seats in most international aircraft convert into beds that are actually pretty darn comfortable. On a flight back from Tokyo in first class a few years ago, I was actually disappointed when we began our final descent; when is the last time that happened in coach?
Airline computer booking systems have become so sophisticated that most upgrades are doled out based on a complex brew of data, and it’s now much more likely that a computer (rather than a helpful airline agent) decides if you get an upgrade or if you are stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane. This article includes a couple of interesting graphics on how Delta and United assess upgrade eligibility.

Not such a long time ago — and a very good time it was, some say — a “surprise” upgrade wasn’t the rare thing it is today. In fact, if you traveled enough, it was almost just a matter of time before a check-in or gate agent, or even a flight attendant, slipped you a boarding pass with a very low row number — a golden ticket of sorts for many travelers.


Skyscanner isn’t unique to searching just for flights, as you can also shop around on the app for rental cars and hotels. The app is particularly useful for travel inspiration, as it has special sections for categories like solo travel, quick getaways and kid-free vacations. It also has recommendations and deals for last-minute trips, providing you with pricing for a variety of destinations. It also pulls in the best deals by month, and includes photos of each city, making sure you get a solid dose of wanderlust as you organize your trip. If you happen to know your destination and dates already, the app’s clear, concise interface makes it easy to see pricing and information. This app is free to download.

For eligible customers travelling on International flights with a Latitude (booking classes Y and B) or Premium Economy Flexible (booking class O) fare, upgrades are based on the availability of “P” booking class at time of request. For eligible customers travelling on North American and Caribbean flights with a Latitude (booking class Y, B) or Premium Economy Flexible fare (booking class O) fare, upgrades are based on the availability of “Z” booking class at time of request.
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Today, with profits essentially non-existent, airlines are oftentimes not releasing Premium seating for flight upgrades until an hour (or even minutes) before the flight's departure, hoping to sell those seats at full cash value. Only at this point do the airlines release the empty (non-purchased) Premium seats to their frequent flyers who use miles to get the award or the flight upgrade. So it becomes a race among frequent travelers to position themselves to obtain one of the coveted few Premium seats. And everyone you speak with seems to have their own method and strategy for getting into position to take advantage of these hard to come by flight upgrades.
Airfarewatchdog – You can set up regular price alerts for favorite routes, but the real appeal for cheapskates with wanderlust is this site’s Top 50 Fares of the Day page. This tracks bargain airfares from Frontier, JetBlue, and other carriers prone to slash prices, as well as larger airlines. (Sample deal from earlier Wednesday: $40 for a roundtrip flight from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas). 

Orbitz.com: This well-known online travel agency is best known for its fare search capabilities (like Farecast, it runs on ITA Software). But Orbitz also offers fare alerts with its "Deal Detector" (find it under the heading in the lower left of the home page under "Orbitz deals — delivered to you"). Once there, fill in the departure and arrival airports (you can also opt to get alerts for cities within 80 miles of your main choice), choose whether it's a weekend trip or not, specify your dates of travel, and decide whether you're flexible plus or minus 1 to 3 days. Then set your target price and whether you prefer nonstops. You can only sign up for one deal at a time, and again, Orbitz doesn't list every possible airline.
Currently, only one member may sponsor an upgrade per reservation. For instance, if a Super Elite 100K and Prestige 25K member are travelling together on the same booking, it is not possible for the Super Elite 100K member to sponsor an upgrade for the departing flight(s), and for the Prestige 25K member to sponsor an upgrade for the return flight(s).
Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »
David Rowell, who writes The Travel Insider, notes that “it is enormously harder to get upgrades these days than it used to be. Well, correction, it is harder to get undeserved upgrades these days. The procedure for getting upgrades that one is entitled to has become almost 100 percent automatic and hands-off, and with all flights being full in both cabins, there isn’t much ‘wiggle room’ for people to exploit.”
If you are travelling on a codeshare flight operated by Air Canada (e.g., a flight marketed by United Airlines but operated by Air Canada), you may only request an upgrade with an Air Canada agent at the airport, or at the departure gate on your day of travel. Please note that some airports are excluded; please refer to the codeshare flight information in the “Airport exceptions” section below.
You’re tired of economy class. Instead, you want to spend your flight relaxing in first class, soaking up the spacious seats and good food. While there are always going to be situations when first class is full and you’re just out of luck, there are also going to be plenty of opportunities to try to work your way to the front of the plane. Most of the time, the little things that go a long way.
And it is not just a combination of luck and automation that will shut you out of upgrades — at some airlines, it may be a matter of policy. “Most airlines state, in no uncertain terms, that their policies prohibit arbitrary upgrading, both at check-in and onboard,” says Randy Petersen of InsideFlyer. “It’s a firm rule, with no room for negotiation or interpretation.” Petersen agrees about the root cause: “This becomes understandable when you consider that upgrading is now often done electronically, rather than by queuing up at the check-in counter.”
This award and upgrade search is an option for both the Basic and Premium memberships, but the Premium subscription really comes in handy here thanks to the ability to search +/- 3 days from your desired date of travel. This allows you to view a week at a time, and you can also search for multiple fare classes. You can customize the display and even specify whether you want the platform to only return nonstop flights.
Farecompare.com: This is the new breed of automated fare comparison and alert systems. You can sign up for as many individual city pair alerts as you like, and you can also choose to see only those fares that have hit their historical low point or that have gone down by a lesser amount. You can also see a list of all fares from the airport(s) of your choice, and you can specify either domestic or first class fares. The alert sign up procedure is very clear and easy to use. The "Getaway Map" lets you browse a map from your chosen airport showing the lowest fares to various domestic and Canadian destinations, and you can refresh the map based on the exact week that you'd like to travel. Fares are listed from lowest to highest.

If your plan for finding airline award space involves only relying on airline websites and phone agents, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Many sites lack the functionality and flexibility to show you every available award flight routing, and while phone agents work hard, many lack the required training on award booking rules, fare classes and airline partnerships necessary to find all available award flights. This can put an end to your quest to book flights with points and miles before it ever begins.
Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Which, if any, of these sites allow you to say “please add the cost of extra legroom seats” on airlines A, B, and C but not on airlines X, Y, and Z, as you set up a fare alert? (On certain airlines, I get access to exit rows or extra legroom seats for free, while on other airlines I have to pay for that access. And as a tall person, that’s important to me. But that means the price without that added is irrelevant to me on those airlines where I would have to pay extra for the “decent” seat.)
Working in a polar opposite manner to Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog allows you to set flight alerts from city-to-city, deals from a departure city, or deals to a destination city. However, you cannot set dates for your flight alerts. Rather than relying solely on computers to do the heavy lifting, the team at Airfare Watchdog have airfare analysts that research fares to ensure they're good deals then send them out to accounts signed up to watch those cities. One benefit is that they can pick up unpublished sales and also fares from airlines like Southwest. Airfare Watchdog is best for setting broad flight alerts that are not date-specific.
Try a smile and a nice word or two when hoping to upgrade, Carolyn Paddock, owner of Inflight Insider, told Bankrate. From the second you enter the airport, be friendly. You’re not sure who will ultimately make the decision about your upgrade. And frequent fliers may have an even bigger advantage. If someone at the airport recognizes you and remembers how friendly you are, it could greatly increase your chances. So whether it’s an early morning or a late night, smile.

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Having a hip chipmunk find the best airfare may initially seem weird, but the Hipmunk app makes things super clear, with user-friendly charts that map your journey by price, time of day, airline, length of layover and even whether or not your aircraft has Wi-Fi. The app will also track flight prices and provide notifications when the best time to buy is. The “discover” feature offers deals on destinations like Canada or Mexico, and also offers inspiration like “beaches” or “outdoor.” Once you’ve booked a flight you can also reserve a hotel, too. This app is free to download.
Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on AwardWallet are from credit card companies from which we receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on AwardWallet (including, for example, the order in which they appear). AwardWallet does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Hopper’s signature rabbit may seem a bit childish at first, but this bunny knows its stuff. The flexibility feature is especially useful: put in your home city and desired destination and Hopper will map out the entire year for you with color-coded prices. The dates are shown as month-long calendars, with colored boxes telling you when prices fall into certain categories, like less than $300 or +$500. The app-only service also predicts whether or not the price for your chosen dates may drop or not (they monitor up to 15 billion flight prices per day) and allows you to “Watch the Trip” —  a feature where Hopper will send you alerts if the price changes. If you know you need a vacation, but are flexible on your destination or dates, you can also set alerts for the app to tell you when there are destinations deals. This app is free to download. 
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If you’ve already booked an Econo or EconoFlex fare and are looking to upgrade to Premium, then you may be in luck. You can choose to upgrade to Premium for a fee at check-in, if seats in Premium are still available. For your flight you will enjoy priority boarding, extra leg and elbow room and on-board food and beverages (including beer, wine and spirits).1,2,3,4
Whenever airlines overbook flights and need folks to give up a seat, that is when you have the most leverage for getting concessions and upgrades from the airline. Most of us have been in airports listening to increasingly urgent announcements looking for volunteers to give up their seat; in that situation, you can go up to the gate, set your conditions and then let the airline decide if it can meet those conditions.

You’re tired of economy class. Instead, you want to spend your flight relaxing in first class, soaking up the spacious seats and good food. While there are always going to be situations when first class is full and you’re just out of luck, there are also going to be plenty of opportunities to try to work your way to the front of the plane. Most of the time, the little things that go a long way.


It’s worth a shot, right? According to the Telegraph, a MoneySavingExpert.com poll showed that 4 percent of participants said they received a free upgrade just by asking someone at the check-in desk. When you do ask, have a good reason: There’s a better chance you’ll get your request if you have a valid excuse, such as being pregnant, celebrating a special occasion, or being exceptionally tall.
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