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Upgrade from economy to business class easily with these tips

Always wanted to fly on business class but never had the budget to do so? You don’t need to be a businessman or a millionaire to indulge in business class. Skyscanner shares 8 tips on how you can score a flight upgrade for free!

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1. Book an off-peak flight

Travelling on flights that take off before dawn, or on off-peak travel days such as Tuesday and Wednesday, will grant you better chances of a free upgrade since you are spared from vying with the business travellers. Avoid popular flight timings such as early mornings or late afternoon flights.

Woman making a purchase on her laptop with a credit card in hand.

Being strategic could earn you a free upgrade.

2. Sign up for airlines’ newsletters

Subscribe to the newsletters of airlines you frequently fly with to be notified of special promotions regarding flight upgrades. You can then receive first-hand news when flight upgrades become available, and plan your trip accordingly.

A calendar, journal, and model airplane arranged on a desk.

Stay up to date with your favourite airlines.

3. Fly on a special occasion

Let the check-in staff know it’s your birthday, that you’re flying for your honeymoon, or that you’re celebrating your 50th anniversary on board the flight. Chances are, they would be more than happy to celebrate with you by offering you a flight upgrade to business class.

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Plush business class seat with a fancy meal laid out.

Flying on your birthday just might get you upgraded.

4. Gain sympathy

If you’ve had to tolerate poor service during your check-in process, had a terrible journey to the airport, or had trouble with security, being melodramatic and sharing it with the flight attendants or counter staff might gain you sympathy points. If you’ve struck a chord with the right person, they may just upgrade you to make your day better.

Female passenger checking in at the flight counter.

It never hurts to be charming or polite at the airport.

5. Pick the right credit card

Air miles credit cards let you earn miles for every dollar you spend. For instance, you can earn 1.2 miles for every dollar charged to your DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card. The American Express Krisflyer Gold Credit Card awards 5,000 miles as a welcome bonus, on top of discounts of up to 7,500 miles for being a KrisFlyer member.

Picking the right credit card and knowing how many miles are required to score an upgrade helps you to strategize your monthly expenditure, whether you are spending on car bills, groceries or dining. Look out for special air miles credit card promotions as well, which offer you signup bonuses. All these go a long way in helping you accumulate more miles.

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Stack of credit cards spread across a table.

Choose the right credit card to maximise your air miles.

6. Check in late

Closer to the end of check-in, airlines might be faced with overbooking, which could make them more inclined to offer flight upgrades. One way to check if your flight might be overbooked is to check your flight status online 24 hours before departure. Alternatively, simply ask courteously at the check-in counter if the flight is full. Don’t forget to turn your smile on! Even if they are unable to offer you a free upgrade, you might be offered an upgrade at a reduced price.

Well-dressed passenger waiting for someone and checking his watch.

Being early isn’t always a virtue.

7. Book a premium economy seat

When looking to upgrade passengers on the day of departure, the ones high on the priority list are those who are airline members, frequent flyers or those who’ve paid for a flexible ticket. Booking at a “super saver” or “best deals” cost would almost guarantee you no chance of being upgraded to business class. If you want to stand a chance of scoring an upgrade, book a flexible fare or a premium economy seat.

One male and one female passenger sitting in business class, smiling and reading magazines.

Flying in premium economy increases your chances of getting an upgrade.

8. Bid for an upgrade

Don’t mind paying slightly more for an upgrade to business class? Try bidding for an upgrade. Bid amounts usually range anywhere from S$100 to over S$1,000. Over 70 airlines have partnered with Optiontown and Plusgrade, which are online auction services that allow passengers to bid for flight upgrades to business class. Even low-cost carriers like Tigerair offer a Room For Me upgrade, which allows passengers to be seated next to an empty middle seat.

Woman sitting in front of a laptop and raising her hands in celebration.

Try your luck at bidding for that coveted upgrade.

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Ready to score a free business class upgrade with these tips? Book the best flight deals, hotels and car rental via Skyscanner today, or download our free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.

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Published in April 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written for Skyscanner New Zealand.