Number 2 is that you don’t even need to know where you want to go. Based solely on your fixed dates or a broad time period, the Explore option shows you where is cheapest to fly, which is a perfect tool for the early stages of your trips. I use it this feature a lot when planning a trip itinerary or choosing which hub city should I adopt in a multi-city trip.

If you don't have access to a service such as Flight Alerts, check in with the airlines 24 hours prior to departure. If an upgrade is still unavailable at this point, check in online at the airline's Web site. Most airlines establish a waitlist for upgrades at the airport. Priority is usually given to those who have checked-in the earliest and with online check-in available 24 hours prior to departure; this will greatly increase your chances of getting that elusive upgrade.
Your flight may only have one or two upgrade places available, so maximise your chances of bagging them by rocking up at check-in ten hours before the scheduled departure. If it backfires, you’ll have to kill a murderous amount of time in Starbucks, but it worked for Product Manager David Low: “My wife and I were flying to the Dominican Republic. We’d got to Glasgow Airport far too early but at least there was no queue. The check-in lady told us that they had two spare seats in first class, and since we were first to arrive, we could have them for free. So we happily accepted.”
ITA Software Classic Matrix Tool - This tool allows you to search for fares in different sales cities so that you can accurately plan purchases in any city around the world. Additionally it has an undocumented feature that allows you to specify specific fare buckets. If you want to, for instance, search for A bucket availability on the HKG-JFK route on Cathay Pacific you would enter the search as From: HKG:: cx+ / f bc=a and To: JFK:: cx+ / f bc=a. You can substitute the "cx" with the proper airline code for the airline you wish to check, and substitute the "bc=a" with "bc=X" where X is the fare bucket you wish to check. If you wish to check multiple booking-codes and not place any restriction on the airline format the request as JFK::/ f bc=x|bc=y|bc=z to check the x, y, and z buckets. Another undocumented feature is the ability to request multiple segments on specific carriers (useful for mileage runs). If you want to travel from Los Angeles to New York and take 4 American Airlines segments, you would enter the departure city as LAX::AA AA AA AA and the destination city as JFK::AA AA AA AA. This will search for a 4 segment connection in each direction on AA. You can also force connections in specific cities. So, for instance, if you wanted to connect in STL from LAX to JFK on American Airlines you would enter the departure city as LAX::AA STL AA and the destination city as JFK::AA STL AA You can find the syntax by clicking "advanced routing codes" and then clicking on the little question mark next to the routing codes box. There is also a useful discussion of how to use this tool to the fullest on Flyertalk.

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When it comes to flight upgrades, the airlines are caught in what is viewed by many to be a real Catch-22. Like any business, the airlines have an obligation to maximize revenue and make money for the company. Part of this revenue is generated from the outright sale of tickets in their Premium cabins - First Class and Business Class. However, they also have an obligation to their best customers, namely the frequent flyer and more specifically the Elite flyer to offer flight upgrades and other incentives. Maintaining, and even growing, the base of frequent flyers of an airline depends almost entirely on the "value" of their frequent flyer programs, especially for Elite members. The value of most programs is often judged by the number of seats an airline allocates for either free or mileage upgrades in the very same Premium cabins they are obligated to sell. Hence the Catch-22.
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Also, ask about availability at check-in, particularly on international flights, where the check-in agents sometimes have more control over the seating chart. Then, if seats appear to be available, check in again at the gate. The final, “miracle” upgrades always happen at the last minute, when all passengers are checked in and any remaining availability becomes clear. Make sure you are within earshot of the gate desk, although hovering over agents is not recommended.
Sites in this latter category, which is growing at a rapid clip, may include a search component, but they also provide a list of low fares and/or alerts about such fares, either delivered by e-mail or posted online. They're ideal for people who are just looking for somewhere cheap to visit, or who are hoping to travel on specific routes but want to buy when fares are at their lowest. In alphabetical order, here are 10 of the best.
If your specific fare class qualifies you for an upgrade if a seat becomes available, you may receive offers by email or text to purchase (most often in cash but sometimes for miles) the option to upgrade as flight time approaches and seat availability becomes more clear. These tend to disappear quickly, so if you miss the message, the seat won’t last long.

Brandon was thrust into the world of points and premium travel as a university student, and has made the most of it since. Now graduated, working from Launceston and somehow a Velocity Platinum frequent flyer, he eagerly awaits for more opportunities to explore the world from the pointy end of the plane.You can find him on Instagram as @bloo.per, as well as running a food/travel account @flightandbites with his partner.

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.

I use Yahoo to search for fares, but although during the search it allows me to narrow down earliest and latest departure (and/or arrival) times, it doesn’t update the price range available based on that, so I doubt it could do useful alert based on that. (I’ve used Yapta for watching a specific flight I’ve already booked to see if it goes down, but that’s a bit different.)
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Senior Marketing Manager Douglas Cook left it to his mum to get mad. He explains: “My dad had been working in Australia for a month and my mum, my brother and I were flying out to meet him. Qantas overbooked our first flight, made us wait for another, and then at our change disclosed they had done exactly the same thing on our connecting flight. My mum lost her rag, as we were now going to be days late meeting my dad. In the end they put us on a Singapore Airlines flight in first class, which as you might imagine was lovely, and as it left earlier and made good time meant we weren’t that late after all!”
Be reasonable. Being overly demanding or demeaning just inspires agents to pick someone else to upgrade if the opportunity arises. And don’t waste everyone’s time and good will if you know that you are a poor candidate. If you are traveling with your whole family, have a pet lobster in a cage as your carry-on or purchased a ticket for an extremely low fare, you probably don’t want to spend your energy demanding upgrades.

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? 

With a few extra functions and a smarter user interface, this combination will be the best flight tracking tool in the market. The ability to track your flights after purchase and be notified if there is a chance of a partial refund has the potential to save a lot of money and adds a layer of value the websites on the list don’t have an answer for.
Be reasonable. Being overly demanding or demeaning just inspires agents to pick someone else to upgrade if the opportunity arises. And don’t waste everyone’s time and good will if you know that you are a poor candidate. If you are traveling with your whole family, have a pet lobster in a cage as your carry-on or purchased a ticket for an extremely low fare, you probably don’t want to spend your energy demanding upgrades.
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. 

Kiwi’s interactive map feature is especially useful. Set your home city and look at the map to see how much different cities would cost to fly to. Once you select your destination, you can sort your results into either recommended, cheapest or shortest flight. Kiwi finds the cheapest pricing by pulling in different carriers, but you may have to book separate tickets — which shouldn’t be a problem for bargain hunters or those on a budget. For example, if you want to fly from New York (JFK) to Dublin (DUB), you could always fly nonstop on United, which you’ll find as a result in the ‘shortest’ category. But if you click on the “cheapest” category, you can book one leg from JFK to London (LGW) on Norwegian, and then a Ryanair ticket from London (LGW) to Dublin (DUB), saving you several hundred dollars. Booking directly on the app makes it easier than heading to each airline’s page and booking separate tickets. This app is free to download.
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. 

One of the coolest features about Kiwi is that unlike it will look at ALL the cheapest possibilities, even if it means putting you on 2 totally separate flights. Other flight search engines will try to book the entire route on either the same airline or airlines with codeshares. It might not always be the fastest or more convenient, but great for anyone on a budget.

If you get through security and have not been able to upgrade yet, stop at the gate desk to ask to put be on a list if upgrades become available; the practice of overbooking exists in part because folks with refundable airfares often decide not to fly at the very last minute, and seats can come loose almost right up to the point the aircraft doors close.


Jumping on a fantastic deal via The Points Guy or playing around on Google Flights are obviously our preferred ways to book travel, but you may also be able to get a solid price searching via app. Of course, we’ve all used the tried and trusted Kayak app before, but there are others out there that might get you the best offer or price. Here, the TPG-approved list of the best apps for booking airfare.
Certainly it wasn’t all chance that brought first-class upgrades floating one’s way, and a heavy battery of hard and soft tactics arose to increase your chances. Dress neatly, speak politely, fly the same airline regularly, inquire when offering your frequent flier number to the telephone booking person, stand a little taller at check-in if you can (for the tall-person sympathy upgrade), volunteer to give up your economy seat so a family might sit together, volunteer to be bumped on an overbooked flight.

Buy an extra seat. One interesting tactic to find yourself some breathing room offered by Petersen might appeal to folks traveling on very cheap sale fares: buy two coach tickets. Say you find one of these $100 roundtrip fares to Florida or the like; the airlines that offer these usually make up the difference in fees for checked bags, movies, food and other extras. However, if you don’t need headphones or to check a second bag, you can skip all those charges, and get yourself a heap of legroom for $50 — less than the cost of most premium seats.
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. 

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