All those people collecting points are not part of some fringe movement of travel lunatics. Other than paying for it, points are the only sure fire way of getting an upgrade, and booking it long enough in advance that you can get excited for your trip for months. Here’s a list of airlines that let you upgrade international plane tickets, and how many points you’ll need. It’s super important to remember that earning points doesn’t require travel. You can earn points from your daily latte spend, amongst many other things. When it comes to using them…
Don’t get me wrong — when I am filing past the first few rows of seats on my way to the back of the plane, those big leather seats with folks already drinking wine in them have a strong allure. But those seats come with a cost, whether in cash or in miles, and on domestic flights you don’t get all that much more than the folks in coach — it’s usually the same meals, albeit for “free,” the same headphones with the same movies or DirecTV, and the same limited seat incline.
Another tactic to make a check-in agent to provide you with a first class seat is to awaken his/her sympathy by using your acting skills. Tears of desperation have a huge power when those are squeezed out in the right way. Even if you overact and irritate everyone around, the check-in staff may agree to upgrade you for free just in order to isolate you from the rest of passengers.
When you fly coach class and there are any inconveniences that are undoubtedly the airline’s fault, you are entitled to compensation. Say, if your seat is broken, some onboard devices don’t work properly, your luggage is lost, or your trip is delayed, you can ask the staff to reassign you to first class. Just don’t break anything on your own in order to force the issue!
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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.