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Joined: Sun Nov 21, 1999 11:18 pm

Want More Info?

Sat Apr 15, 2000 10:23 am

I found a great upgrade article. I just thaught I would give you the basics. I hope it helps!I

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you already know the standard ways to upgrade from coach to first class while flying without paying full fare. You cash in miles or qualify for an elite level of an airline’s frequent-flier program that allows you to upgrade on a space-available basis. But there’s another way to get into first class. Call it the schmooze upgrade

LET’S START with the basics. First class is as much a marketing tool for airlines as a revenue center. There simply aren’t that many passengers on any given flight who pay full-fare for a first-class ticket. Few companies permit anyone but their most senior management to fly first class, even on long intercontinental flights. (Which, by the way, is why business class was invented — to placate the green-eyeshade guys who bridle at the cost of a first-class ticket.)

So first class is largely inhabited by the airline’s best customers who make it a point to fly a particular airline so they can achieve elite status.
They’re the American “gold” or “platinum” AAdvantage cardholder, the United “1K” flier, or the Delta “medallion” flier. They’re the ones you see hanging around the gate agents’ desk before a flight departs, hoping they’re high enough on the airline’s waitlist to receive an unoccupied first-class seat.

Given that first class is a marketing tool, gate agents — and even flight attendants — have wide latitude in deciding who gets to sit in the front of the plane. It doesn’t cost an airline much more to move anyone from coach to first — the meals cost a few bucks more than coach offerings — and it only takes a couple of simple keystrokes on the computer to whisk you from 45F to 3C.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Or not ask. And this is where the schmooze factor comes in. The following stories are all true.


My friend Mo used to run one of the best-known restaurants in Washington. When he’d check in for a flight in any city, he’d introduce himself to the gate agent and ask if he or she ever visited Washington. Usually the answer was, “Sometimes” or “I’ve always wanted to.” At which point he’d proffer his business card, write on the back “Dinner for two, wine included” and hand it to the agent with a big smile. “Come visit my restaurant,” he’d say. “Bring a friend and be my guest.” And that’s how he and I wound up in first class on a TWA flight from Paris to D.C. holding only el cheapo, advance-purchase coach tickets.


A woman I know who flies with her husband every summer from Richmond, Va., to London, always arrives at the airport bearing a gift basket piled high with designer chocolates, cheeses, exotic teas and a couple bottles of pretty good wine. With her most gracious but apologetic Southern accent, she explains to the gate agent that some friends just saw her off on her flight and gave her and her husband this lovely parting gift. But she simply doesn’t have enough hands to cart her carry-on luggage and this basket, so why don’t we pretend it’s your birthday? Please, take this, share it with your colleagues, she implores. Three times out of four, the boarding passes the printer spits out for her places her and her husband in business-class seats, not the coach seats they purchased


A priest from Buffalo, N.Y., happened to arrive at his local airport on Ash Wednesday just after services that morning at his church. Because he was wearing his collar, people in the waiting area approached him to ask if he had any ashes. In fact, he had some in his pocket, and he wound up administering blessings to a number of fellow passengers as well as a couple of gate agents. You know the rest; he was in first class all the way from Buffalo to New York’s Kennedy airport to Israel, his destination. He told me it was the first time he’d ever experienced the roominess of first class.
Half jokingly, he said he was going to make a point of flying on Ash Wednesday in the future


To celebrate her birthday, a human resources director and her husband flew round-trip from Seattle to San Diego on Alaska Airlines. When they returned to Seattle on her actual birthday, she asked if the meal was meatloaf again, and indicated that she really didn’t want meatloaf for her birthday meal. She asked if Alaska had a policy to upgrade passengers to first class if they flew on their actual birthday. The ticket agent looked at her ID again, and upgraded the happy couple to first class.
“And we didn’t have meatloaf!” she exclaimed.


Now, I’m hardly suggesting we all begin showing up at airports bearing, say, lavish gift baskets. For one thing, that would ruin the game for my friend from Richmond. And I’m not sure I’d have the same success that she — an attractive woman with a soft, Southern lilt that would soothe Conan the Barbarian — has enjoyed. But there are other ingenious ways of snaring an upgrade. I once landed on the West Coast after a long flight from Asia. Still facing a five-hour flight back to the East Coast, I threw myself on the mercy of a gate agent.
Pleading exhaustion, I quietly asked if there might be room in first class for a loyal passenger who didn’t know what day it is. It worked. I’ve seen book authors autograph copies of their latest. I once heard a shoe salesman promise a pair of Joan & David’s footwear to a woman working behind a Delta counter.
Technique is important. Nothing should ever smack of being a bribe. A great attitude and warm smile help. If you are flat-out asking for an undeserved upgrade, it’s important you do it very quietly so a gate agent isn’t put on the spot in front of other passengers. Usually, the best you can hope for at first is a request by the agent that you take a seat and wait until other passengers are boarded. If you make that hurdle, fade quietly into the woodwork and wait patiently.
Never nag, never try to pull rank. (Which reminds me of the old story of the passenger who said to a gate agent, “Do you KNOW WHO I AM?” At which point, the agent got on the intercom and said, “Attention ladies and gentlemen! We have a passenger here who does not know who he is. If anyone knows this man, could you please step forward and identify him?” 
In fact, fame does help. Sports, media or political celebrities often are granted a “courtesy” upgrade. Some of the larger airlines even have special agents at major airports to handle VIPs. But for the rest of us, we have our wits. On a recent flight, I asked my flight attendant about upgrade stories.
She told me gate agents sometimes upgrade passengers they recognize because they fly out of the same city frequently. Moral: Make it a point to get to know gate agents if you use the same airport and airline a lot.
She also told me she’s upgraded obvious newlyweds and, once, an older woman who clearly had little experience flying. She found those folks already seated in coach and, because first class had empty seats, she kindly invited them to move to the front of the plane. She knew it would be special for the honeymooners and that she’d be able to offer assistance and reassurance to the elderly passenger.
Sometimes, good things happen to good people.

Hope this help 

Jeremiah Teahan

Goodbye SR-LX MD-11 / 6th of March 1991 to the 31st of October 2004
Posts: 2126
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 1:28 am

RE: Want More Info?

Sat Apr 15, 2000 6:46 pm

Thanks Teahan
Posts: 4993
Joined: Sun Nov 21, 1999 11:18 pm

RE: Want More Info?

Sun Apr 16, 2000 10:19 am

Anyone got more tips?

Jeremiah Teahan
Goodbye SR-LX MD-11 / 6th of March 1991 to the 31st of October 2004

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