Tipping for a seat upgrade?

Dec 16th, 2007, 11:15 AM
  #1  
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Tipping for a seat upgrade?

Has anyone ever tried tipping a flight agent at check-in to get an upgrade to a different class of service? I feel like I've red this in a travel mag before under the "what do you have to lose?" guise, but I'm wondering if anyone has ever been successful doing this, particularly now that flights are often full or oversold.

If you have done this, how much did you offer the agent and what was the outcome?
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Save your money - that won't work. The only way to insure you get an upgrade is to pay the going rate.

Nowadays, upgrades to the next higher class of service (assuming there are seats available) are given out to those flyers who have elite Frequent Flyer status. There are usually more requests for upgrades then there are seats available. On those rare occasions when there are empty seats in First or Business Class the airlines rarely give them out - they would rather let them stay vacant then give them out to "just anybody".

A_Traveller is offline  
Dec 16th, 2007, 03:32 PM
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Thanks for your thoughts. That's kinda what I figured, although we are flying on Christmas to Germany, so I was thinking it might be a case where the plane is quite empty on that particular day. Then again, it could be the complete opposite and it's very full. Maybe the agent will be feeling generous because of the holiday-- a girl can dream...
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2007, 05:34 PM
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My dad is brilliant at getting free upgrades. Go early, wait till the gate agent gets through those passengers lined up to get some problem fixed, give her a few minutes to breath, and then go for it when she has a lull. Wish her a happy holiday, introduce yourself, smile, recognize the fact that she's having to work on the holiday, and tell her something interesting about your trip (your first trip overseas, you're visiting the motherland for the first time, something...but make sure it's true). Then tell her you know you're asking for a lot and the chances are slim since you don't have elite status, but you'd really appreciate anything she could do to upgrade you.

The other alternative is to go up and ask her if a "better" seat is available - e.g. bulk head or exit row. Regardless of whether she can accomodate her request, hand her a box of cookies when she finishes helping you and tell her you brought her and the flight attendants some cookies because you felt bad for them working on christmas.

Either way, go sit down in her eye sight and read a book or something. Whatever you do, don't stare at her. If you happen to catch her eye accidentally. Just smile and continue on reading.

Anyway, I've found being polite, smiling, a sense of humor and offering to name my first child after the gate agent if they can help me get ______ (e.g. get on this flight, get an aisle seat, whatever) goes a long way.
hills27 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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Oh, and dress up but not over the top. Bring your comfy clothes in a bag and change once you are on the flight.
hills27 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2007, 11:41 PM
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I wouldn't call offering a check-in/gate agent money to upgrade you a tip.


Odin is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 06:31 AM
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You don't need to tip or bribe. All you need to do is flirt:

flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=508516
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 07:11 AM
  #8  
Jed
 
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If you intend to ask for an upgrade, it would help to know beforehand if there are seats available in FC/BC. I check it online before I ask.
Jed is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:38 PM
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I'd think that there wouldn't be many business travellers at Christmas time, but maybe more chance that economy is oversold. Check in online or at a kiosk to see if you are offered an option to pay for an upgrade. Figure $50 for a short-haul (500 miles or so). I'm not sure what the going rate these days is but I'd guess $500 or $600 for an ug to business class U.S. to Europe one-way.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 05:03 AM
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Lots of business travelers also travel for liesure purposes around the holidays - many of them use their FF miles for award seats and/or upgrades to visit family and friends at this time of year. Holiday travel means full flights - don't expect too many, if any, empty seats in first or business class (exception flying on Christmas Day - plane loads are light).
A_Traveller is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 06:11 AM
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Flight loads can be busy on Christmas Day as not everyone celebrates Christmas.
Odin is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 06:18 AM
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The going rate for an upgrade at the gate (ORD to FRA) was $599 just a few weeks ago. My original ticket was fairly cheap (economy), so yes, I paid toe $599 and I had a good sleep before landing in FRA around 9 in the morning! I've paid at the gate before this trip and will most certainly see about doing it again. I did not ask about the upgrade on the return trip (FRA to ORD) as it was a daytime flight and I was wide awake. No need to stretch out and get some sleep.
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 01:10 PM
  #13  
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Thanks for the info, everyone, esp Hills. We are traveling on Christmas day, so we'll have to see if the load is light.

Jed- you mentioned checking online before asking- anywhere you can point me specifically online?

And Odin- sorry you didn't agree with the word "tip." I'm on vacation, and didn't really care to search for another word for "bribe."
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 01:25 PM
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You can check seat availability on the website for your particular airline. There will be a link somewhere in the "reservations" section - usually with a title like "view available seats". Simply put in your flight number and date of travel, click on the class of service you are interested in seeing and viola! you see a graphic a seating chart that will tell you which seats are taken and which, if any, are vacant.
RoamsAround is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 07:14 AM
  #15  
Jed
 
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Expedia usually has the seat availability also.
Jed is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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Seatmaps aren't necessarily a good indicator as they show you the number of seats assigned which could be less than the number of seats sold. Use a site like seatcounter.com to check the number of seats still available for sale.
Patty is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 08:29 AM
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Or the other way around, a seat could appear to be reserved on the seatmap because it's blocked and not necessarily assigned.
Patty is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 08:44 AM
  #18  
Jed
 
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Patty - I just looked at seatcounter, but am unable to figure out what is what. I want to know how many seats are left in FC and EC. How do I get that from booking classes? I am unable to find an explanation on the site.
Jed is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 10:01 AM
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There's some variance between what letters different carriers use for booking classes but in general full fare first is F, full fare business is J, and full fare economy is Y. Those are the fare classes that will be sold up until departure while the lower fare classes may be zeroed out. The maximum number that's displayed is 9 (or sometimes 7) in which case it means there are 9 or more seats available (it works best if you're checking flight loads in the near future as opposed to farther out). If you see something like:

J8 D4 I0

That means there are 8 seats total available for sale in the business cabin, 4 of which can be sold as discounted fares, and none of which can be sold as heavily discounted fares. Not that there are 12 seats available for sale.

This is just a hypothetical example and you'll need to find out which fare classes your specific carrier uses.
Patty is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 02:33 PM
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Isn't getting upgrades by flirting or dressing up or asking for special consideration because a couple is on their honeymoon or because it's Christmas mostly urban legend? Not that those have never worked, but I think gate agents will tell you they've heard and seen all the stories. As A_Traveller says, they don't give those seats away because that would devalue the product. They sell them for the going fares for that class of service, or with FF miles, or stickers (the credits toward upgrades you earn with each X number of miles flown ... at least that's the name AA gives them), or for upgrade fees sometimes available at check-in. If they need to bump someone up to business or first because coach is oversold, priority will be given to those passengers with FF status on the airline.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  

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