Upgrade to First on Virgin for $299: Tip-of-the-Day #299

Last week I had to fly to Baltimore for business. Given I live in San Francisco and my flight time is an estimated five hrs on the outbound, six on the return, I'm always looking for an opportunity to upgrade.

I don't know any airline that extends the First Class upgrade offer that Virgin America makes available. In a nutshell: if you're traveling in Economy or Economy Plus, you can contact Virgin six hours before your scheduled departure (online or by phone) and secure an open seat in First Class for a mere $299. I say "mere" because a cross country ticket to Baltimore in First can run you as much as $2000 one way.

On the leg out, I was still too "fresh" to feel the need to pony up the extra dough for the cush seat, plus my friend was on that flight with me and I could sit with her in economy, watch the Niners, and feel just fine about it. But, by the end of my long week I was so exhausted I then felt downright deserved of that First Class seat!

My flight was departing at 10:00 a.m. ET, which would mean a 4:00 a.m. wake up to get to any available seats. I wasn't willing to disrupt precious sleep for that, but if I happened to roll over and notice the time (which I did) I was willing to hit the number programmed on speed dial.

By dark o'clock I had scored the last First Class seat on the flight from Dulles to SFO. Score! I'm not even about the free booze or food. I was down for the cozy, plush seats and all-I could-consume entertainment. Boy did it feel worth it.

If, however, you would rather spend that money on a pair of leather boots, you can always move into Economy Plus for $129. Six inches extra leg room and all the free stuff you can consume. Note: these prices are for cross country flights. I imagine they are considerably less for flights under 5 hours.

BIG TIP: If you are upgrading to First Class, try to avoid getting seated in the first row. The overhead in that row is totally consumed by airline equipment and since more and more people are flying with carry-on, the overhead compartments fill up fast. In row 1, you are forced to either power walk by your neighbors to abscond their overhead space, or whine to a flight attendant and hope they'll move some stuff around so that you don't look like the jerk.

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