First Class Travel Tips: Tip-of-the-Day #129


Traveling to Europe right now can be more affordable than it’s been in years. However, despite hotel and restaurant prices coming down, air can still be a barrier to entry. Especially if you want to fly business or first class. I tend to stock up my miles all year long and my strategy has always been to buy an upgradeable coach ticket (meaning it can’t be the cheapest economy seat on the market – it has to fall into a certain category to be deemed “upgradeable”) and then use miles to bump myself into business or in some cases, first class. Here are some other things to consider if you’re going to be traveling this summer:

• Ask for an upgrade at the airport. The chances are slim you’ll get it – but it never hurts to ask. I had a colleague tell me that he tried it on a business trip to the UK and got upgraded for just $150. The upgrade will basically depend on who you are speaking with, the number of open seats, and your status with the airline (platinum member, frequent flyer, etc.).

• Dress nicely. If you dress (and act) like a first-class passenger, your chances of getting upgraded are greatly improved. My mother used to always tell me this and she owns her own travel business. I take her advice to heart and always dress well when I travel. I do believe it has helped me secure not just upgrades, but free beverages and even the occasional phone number. (That’s another story).

• If it’s a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, funeral) let it be known. You can’t expect to be upgraded but a gate agent may take pity on you and hook you up.

• If you happened to get a non-upgradeable ticket, there’s no harm in asking if you can have a note added to your record to indicate eligibility. Then you can at least be in the running for a better seat.

• Always ask if you can buy an upgrade. Depending on the flight, upgrades can cost as little as $150 (as indicated above), which is completely worth it on a cross-country trip.

• Use your miles and upgrade certificates. My rule of thumb is if a flight is five hours or more, I’ll explore surrendering my hard earned miles for an upgrade. There’s nothing like being greeted with a glass of champagne when you first sit down.

• If you happen to spot an empty first class seat when you board the plane, you can ask the flight attendant if it is available. The worst thing they’ll tell you is “no.”

• When booking, try to add an OSI (Other Significant Information) code to your ticket. This can be done when booking directly with an airline or with a travel agent. From the airlines’ perspective, an OSI may mean you are a VIP, CEO, travel agent, magazine writer or event planner and these folks are often treated to perks that us commoners are not.

Good luck and safe travels!

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