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take_time_2_travel Oct 6th, 2007 11:44 AM

Possible to upgrade flight at checkin for reasonable rate?
It sounds too good to be true! A co-worker told me you can upgrade when checking in for your flight for very little if there were open seats. Is this really true?!

If so, what's the best strategy?

We leave for a flight to Italy this coming week and would LOVE to be able to upgrade for a reasonable price!


AAFrequentFlyer Oct 6th, 2007 11:48 AM

Don't count on it and chances are you won't be dissapointed.

Gretchen Oct 6th, 2007 11:50 AM

I have read that on European flights it is pretty hard to get an upgrade. And one fact I know that might validate that is when we have flown standby for first class virtually the entire first class section is standbys=non-rev passengers. Talking 20 seats maybe. So, it would never hurt to ask, of course.

nytraveler Oct 6th, 2007 11:53 AM

Every airline has different rules - who they offer upgrades to ( starting from their most frequent flyers on down) what the cost is (again it varies) and IF they have any seats.

So, first, check with your airline's web site to see if it looks like there will be any seats open. Then, contact the airline and find out what their rules are for upgrades.

Note; all other things being equal you have a better chance if you're one person, then a couple - rather than a group. And - you should be well-dressed and extremely polite.

(I've been given First Class as a freebie over the bombastic blowhard ahead of me, demanding that he be upgraded because he was CEO of some company. The agent told me to wait at the side for a moment. When he left - no upgrade - she gave it to me, saying "if he's so important he wouldn't be flying commercial".)

Get to the airport early and approach the gate agent to see what the chances are. (Or, if you belong to the airline's club go there for the upgrade - members always get preference over others.)

take_time_2_travel Oct 6th, 2007 12:31 PM

Thanks...just the kind of info I was looking for.

Of course, I won't get my heart set on it happening, but why not cross my fingers and give it a try! :)

rkkwan Oct 6th, 2007 12:38 PM

If this is what you're planning to do often, you should investigate the policies of the possible airlines you'll fly, on and elsewhere.

On some, they are possible. Impossible on others like Continental.

Christina Oct 6th, 2007 12:49 PM

I may not be remembering correctly, as I didn't do it, but I'm pretty sure I was given a chance to upgrade from coach to business on a United nonstop flight recently -- either from US to Zurich or the return from Paris (I think it was that one). As I recall, it was around $400. I wouldn't call that very little given it was more than 50% of the fare I paid, for that segment (I paid $1400 RT).

I wasn't interested in paying $400 for an eight hour flight as the flight was so expensive to begin with. I remember thinking that if I really wanted to splurge, it would have been worth a lot more to me to do that going over when I needed to sleep, than returning, when I stay awake.

There wasn't any strategy to it, it was offered to anyone checking in.

StCirq Oct 6th, 2007 02:03 PM

The last two times I flew United to Rome there were signs posted in Dulles airport saying you could upgrade to business class from coach for $250.00. I chose not to, as I'd already paid a small fortune for those flights, but plenty of other people were going for it.

But obviously it must depend on how many seats are available. And I doubt you can do it "for very little."

Alec Oct 6th, 2007 02:22 PM

With European airlines, you may be lucky with paid-for upgrade on your outbound flight from US - upgrade against cash (as opposed to more usual with miles or vouchers) seems to be offered now and again. But it's most unlikely on your return trip, esp when flying out of their hubs. If offered, it's more than likely you have to pay the actual difference in fares between coach and business, which runs to around $1000 per transatlantic sector.

rkkwan Oct 6th, 2007 03:15 PM

$250 or $400 for an upgrade to business class per trans-Atlantic segment is <b>very little</b>, in my opinion. I would jump on it in a heartbeat.

Kansan Oct 6th, 2007 03:30 PM

We flew United to Amsterdam in July and when checking in we mentioned it was our wedding anniversary. We were upgraded to Economy Plus which gave us more leg room. When we flew home from Paris we wondered if we would be upgraded again, and we were without asking. It was very pleasant for such a long flight.

jody Oct 6th, 2007 03:41 PM

The only time we've been offered an upgrade for cash was on BA from MCO to LGW. $250 to Premium Economy or $500 to BC. Since we were traveling on really cheap tickets we took the upgrade to E+. Never was offered this on the way home, but a friend , flying to the West Coast, has twice been offered it , for 50 Pounds!

BTilke Oct 6th, 2007 03:41 PM

If there are a lot of open seats in biz, it's possible you'll be offered a deal. If there aren't that many, they'll save them for latecomers or preferred FF customers who'd like to upgrade.
A few times, when I've flown very off season from Orlando to London Gatwick, I was offered upgrades from Premium Economy to business for $200. I accepted the offer once, declined the other times. I've not been offered a similar deal flying to the U.S. from Gatwick.
However, when my mother was going back to the U.S. after visiting us in the UK earlier this year, they upgraded her from regular economy to PE for free and put her on the list for a free upgrade to business (all the biz seats ended up selling, alas). I guess the check-in lady just liked my mom.

nytraveler Oct 6th, 2007 05:43 PM

Agree that $250 or even $400 for an upgrade is the deal of a lifetime - I'd grab it in a minute to get out of coach. (It's nothing to what the full coach fare is.)

If you're thinking of an upgrade for $50 or something - that's generally available only on short domestic flights - and usually only if you're paid full (rather than discounted ) coach.

take_time_2_travel Oct 6th, 2007 06:40 PM

We are flying Delta.

$200-$400 would be my idea of a reasonable amount...sorry I didn't define that more clearly.

Virgogirl Oct 6th, 2007 09:31 PM

When we checked in on British Airways for our flight home from Heathrow to Denver, we were told, &quot;You've been upgraded!&quot; No explanation, no request for more money, just moved to World Traveler Plus, which was heavenly! Great leg room, great food, free French wine and we've no idea why they blesssed us, but hoping it happens again!

dutyfree Oct 6th, 2007 09:40 PM

The airline that I fly for rarely gives upgrades at the last minute so don't plan on it and then be pleasantly surprised. The $250-400 fee for upgrade seems too good to be true!

AAFrequentFlyer Oct 7th, 2007 12:15 AM

Contrary to what many believe upgrades do not happen when there are empty seats in business/first, they happen when coach is oversold. Airlines realize that they will have to upgrade some passengers and instead of doing it for free they will try to sell it first. If not enough passengers bite then the airline will try to upgrade any status holders, full fare passengers, etc...

CRAZY4TRAVEL Oct 7th, 2007 05:08 AM

I'm a travel agent with more than 20 years in the business. I've only been upgraded twice for free. Mind you, I'm not the kind of person to ask.

I think the airline used to do it more but I agree with AAFrequentFlyer..often the airline over sells coach class and out of necessity will upgrade passengers. Full fare passengers and people with frequent flyer status would be the first on the list.

flanneruk Oct 7th, 2007 05:56 AM

I don't wish to depress Virgogirl, but wine - French if you're unlucky, but they offer decent stuff as well - is always free (and, if you play your cards right, unlimited) in all classes on BA long-haul flights.

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