Monday, 13 July 2015


Being upgraded- the dream of many travellers but it's not as easy as some people make out. I work in the industry, so let me iron out some creases. I'm still waiting after 35 years of travel to be upgraded at check in.

1) Business Class is just that, a business cabin, so if you are wearing thongs and shorts or tracksuit pants and sneakers, don't expect one. Business attire gives off an air of professionalism and you are more than likely to be considered if wearing nice clothes.

2) I am a frequent flyer of a couple of airlines, one of which I am very loyal to. The higher level frequent flyer you are, the more chance of upgrade you have. It also puts you further forward in the line for points upgrades if you apply for them, but please note that many airlines ask you to book a higher fare in order to be able to apply for an upgrade with your points. Say with Qantas, you can't upgrade the first 3 fare levels in Economy. You need to have a fare level in S Class and above to be even eligible to apply for an upgrade that will only be confirmed around 24 hours prior to departure, subject to the cabin not being fully booked .

3) Airlines don't upgrade you just because the premium/business cabin is empty, they upgrade you because they have oversold the economy and need to move some people up/off to fit on the economy fare holders. So if you are well dressed, you are more likely to be considered than someone who is in tracksuit pants.

4) So in saying that, change the way you ask for an upgrade. Instead of saying, "Can I have an upgrade?" why not ask "Is the flight full today?"

5) Many people think that they can buy an economy ticket and then upgrade for like $500.
There are some opportunities in the USA where at check in they are offering upgrades for little outlay- this is because they are trying to move people out of the economy cabin, so they can have them fly, and not have to give them credits etc etc. They are getting you to pay so they can save money. It's actually a really good process as it gives people the opportunity to spoil themselves.

I also know of a middle Eastern airline that has in the past (last 12 months) given my clients the opportunity to BID for an upgrade, nominating how much you would like to pay, if there are seats left in the business cabin and you have the winning bid, you pay for your upgrade at a discounted rate- but I do know the bids are high.

However, here in Australia, think about it, most people travelling to Europe on business class, are paying between $6000 -$10000. Airlines ARE NOT going to allow you to buy an economy class ticket at say $2000 and then pay $500 to get in to the pointy end of the plane, where people have paid up to 5 times more than you to sit there. Far from good business.
So as a point of advice, when you've booked your economy class ticket, and ask your agent how much to upgrade to business, you now will understand why they say you will need to pay the full fare difference which depending on how late you ask for the costing could be around $8000. Business class taxes are also higher than economy class taxes, so you will also pay a tax difference in addition to the airline change fee and your agent's fees (worth paying let me tell you because they sort it out for you).

6) If you can't afford a business class fare (I can't), then consider premium or consider a combination fare where you fly business on the long haul and economy on the short haul. Fare pricing will always depend on season and seat availability- each class above economy has around 2-3 fare levels PER CABIN. Economy has about 10 different fare levels.

Emirates offer a great combo fare. Singapore Airlines will join the premium economy family from August 1 ex Sydney. Premium doesn't give you a lie flat bed (you need to pay business for that) but you get a bit of extra leg room and also the leg rest form part of the seat so you get to actually put your legs up (a bit like the bottom part of a recliner?). I flew premium on Qantas on the A 380 to Los Angeles and loved it. My legs are short, so I usually use my hand bag for a leg rest. To actually have a leg rest that supported my whole leg was great.

Happy Flying!

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