If you fly a lot on the same airline, your options for getting upgrades soar. High-mile/point travelers are the first eligible and first chosen for most upgrades, so despite the fact that airline experts have been bemoaning the devaluing of airline miles for years, if you are a high-mileage and high-dollar flier, you will see greatly increased upgrade offers, often at no cost.
Another important thing to remember is that you do not need to print your boarding pass at the time of online check-in. Many travelers make the mistake of waiting to check-in online until they have access to a printer. Check-in as close to the allowable time and pick up your boarding pass at the airport. With nearly every airline offering several electronic kiosks, gaining a boarding pass will take only a few minutes.
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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?
At Iwantthatflight.com, setting up an airfare alert is easy. Just conduct a search for your specific destinations and dates and once the flights and fares for that search are displayed, insert your email, submit, and you will receive fare alerts that match your selections. You can also specify the price at which you’d like to be notified. For instance, if you want to be alerted when the price for the flights drops below $700, you would type “$700” into the request box versus the current price which is the default amount. What I like about the site is that you can track a specific flight but I don’t like that it doesn’t give you more options such as different dates. You’ll have to set up a separate alert for each set of dates. Also, it is an Australian website so prices are shown in Australian dollars. It is not a booking site however so you’ll be directed to the appropriate airline or agency site offering your chosen fare.
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.
Last year, American was upgrading passengers based on both elite status and the time you get on the waiting list (more or less first come, first served). Recently it has changed to priority based on annual spending, and the importance of timing is lessened, but there still seems to be some advantage to getting on the wait list early. Which leads us to the following…
Setting the benchmark for ease of use and functionality, Google Flights has become a go to flight search tool for any travel that doesn’t require the advanced routing and functionality of ITA Matrix. Tracking across multiple dates, destinations, and cabins, Google Flights will let you track individual airlines or alliances, choose the number of stops, and will wrap up any changes into an easily digestible email showing which prices have dropped/risen. If you have Google Now, you can have the price changes sent directly to the app, or you can see all tracked flight in the drop-down on the left of the Google Flights homepage.
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.
If I want to use American miles to book a flight on Air Tahiti Nui — a partner some AA agents aren’t aware of — I’ll look up the flight availability on ExpertFlyer first. Once I find an available seat, I’ll call and ask an American agent for the specific flight and fare class I see on ExpertFlyer. If they cannot locate it, I’ll even use the airline’s two-character IATA code to help the agent find the flight I’m trying to book with miles (if you don’t know this code, see below; it’s included in the ExpertFlyer results).
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.

The best time to check in with airports is typically around 24 hours before your departure. You can also sign up for flight alerts, which allow you to program your flight or preferred flight for an upgrade. The alert will automatically search for open availability and let you know as soon as it’s open, giving you the best chance to scoot on up to the front.
At Iwantthatflight.com, setting up an airfare alert is easy. Just conduct a search for your specific destinations and dates and once the flights and fares for that search are displayed, insert your email, submit, and you will receive fare alerts that match your selections. You can also specify the price at which you’d like to be notified. For instance, if you want to be alerted when the price for the flights drops below $700, you would type “$700” into the request box versus the current price which is the default amount. What I like about the site is that you can track a specific flight but I don’t like that it doesn’t give you more options such as different dates. You’ll have to set up a separate alert for each set of dates. Also, it is an Australian website so prices are shown in Australian dollars. It is not a booking site however so you’ll be directed to the appropriate airline or agency site offering your chosen fare.

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Service surcharge levied on a booking or booking change (flight date) in line with Article 5.2.3 of the GCC, as booked via the call centre, at our airport sales desk or through a commercial agent ADD €20 / £18 / CHF 23 / $23 / CZK 514 / SEK 205 / NOK 191 / PLN 86 / HUF 6,381 (per booking, not per person and per journey) €20 / £18 / CHF 23 / $23 / CZK 514 / SEK 205 / NOK 191 / PLN 86 / HUF 6,381 / AED 94 / THB 900 plus difference in current flight price

So, for example, if you really like to take United's morning nonstop between New York and LA, you can track just that flight to see if the price drops to a level you specify, and you'll also get an alert if the price drops between the time you buy and when you fly. Yapta requires that you download an applet, and only works with Internet Explorer 6 or 7, which means it doesn't work on Macs, although a Mac/Firefox version is in the works. And it does not (yet) track fares on all airlines — just 11 so far, and as usual Southwest isn't one of them.


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