The first upgrade tip is to consider using your accumulated miles for flight upgrades as far in advance as possible (flights are often posted up to 330 days prior to scheduled departure). Even this far out the airlines will usually make available at least a couple of seats for mileage upgrades but not for awards. This is important to understand. Consider purchasing an inexpensive coach ticket and use your miles to upgrade. An additional benefit to doing this is you will earn qualified miles for the paid coach ticket (you receive zero credit on a Premium seat using miles exclusively). If you want or need to use your awards miles for securing a ticket (without an actual ticket purchase), you should follow the same rules of checking the availability as far out as possible.
The best deals to international destinations are often short lived, so alerts can get you in on the action. FirstClassFlyer.com has a monthly newsletter and curated fare alerts for paying subscribers. The Twitter feed of TheFlightDeal has nothing but low fare alerts, though most are for coach fares. And, if you want to do it yourself, the "Premium Fare Deals" forum on FlyerTalk is often the first source of some great offers. 

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.
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.
Most cash bookings can be upgraded with Avios either at the time of booking or later on, depending on availability. Only the lowest economy (World Traveller) fares (Q, O and G) cannot be upgraded with Avios at any time. There must be reward flight availability in the next cabin for you to be able to upgrade to it using Avios. You won’t be able to upgrade with Avios at the airport or on board.
Just be nice is my advice. So many people are so nasty to the agents at the desks and to the flight attendants. It’s not their fault the flight is delayed due to weather, that’s the hazards of flying in the winter. Mother Nature is unpredictable. Plan for the worst and hope for the best but always be nice. I used to travel with a friend that worked for an airline. Her advice was be nice and go with the flow. Only take a carry on bag because it is much easier to change flights and accommodate you and your fellow companions. Always say please and thank you to the agents and attendants, you just might make their day a little brighter in this crazy go go go world.
All of the major U.S. frequent flier programs now let you book one-way tickets with your miles for half the price of a round trip. If you have a stash of miles, consider using them one way and buying a return ticket that originates outside the U.S. Thanks to the strong dollar, there are many fares below $2,000 round trip to the U.S. this summer, like Copenhagen to New York for less than $1,400 and Dublin to Chicago for less than $1,600.
The fares are subject to seat availability in the corresponding booking inventory. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights and dates. The fares are non-refundable, non-exchangeable, and non-transferable. The fares and their governing rules are subject to change without prior notice. Other restrictions may apply. Airline-imposed baggage fees are not included and may apply.
How to book it for less than coach: As one Air France flight attendant told me on a recent trip, “There are no upgrades to la Première.” The airline doesn’t make it easy to get it free by using miles, either, but it is possible. To do so, you can use only Air France’s Flying Blue miles—and solely if you have elite status with the airline. The good news is, you need only a basic level of elite status to be eligible, so frequent fliers can credit a few weeks or months of travel to Flying Blue and they will be set. Flying Blue also transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards, so it’s easy to pad your account with points from other programs.

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