Here’s howto get an upgrade to the lap of luxury on next flight
Getting an upgrade so you can sit (or sleep) in the not-so-cheap seats depends a bit on who you are, how much you want to spend and who might be flying with you.
Here’s some of what you need to know, thanks to Zach Honig, editor at large and upgrades expert at the Points Guy, a website that teaches you how to maximize your award points, and Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of Expert Flyer, a subscription service that helps you get upgrades, among other services.
It’s one thing to have a fleet of Rolls Royces that lets people know you are someone, but that’s not going to get you into the business- or first-class fun zone unless you’re also an elite flier. (And, frankly, if you are that, just use your private jet and leave the upgrades to the rest of us.)
To be an elite flier, you must fly a certain number of qualifying segments, points, dollars or miles, depending on the airline. (This is altogether different from earning awards miles.)
Unless you are an unusually vigorous leisure traveler, this is not going to be you. Instead, it is more often the business traveler/road warrior whose job has him or her on a plane many times a month.
How do you become an elite? Let’s say you have given your loyalty to American. Gold, the bottom rung of status, means you have flown 25,000 miles or spent $3,000 on fares or have flown 30 segments on the airline or one of its Oneworld alliance partners. (See which airlines are members of which alliance)
The top rung is Exec- utive Platinum, and that’s where they love you the most. Upgrades are nearly automatic. You often don’t have to ask; just show up and you’ll be put in the lap of quasi-luxury.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST AND WHAT ARE MY CHANCES?
Getting a first-class upgrade on a domestic or international flight is possible if you have the miles; they also may cost you a bit. On American, you need 15,000 miles for a domestic flight and $ 75; on United, miles and money can vary, especially if you’re on a “premium” flight (LAX to Newark, N.J., for example).
Your best bet is to call the airline before you book your ticket to ask about the particulars because there are certain fare classes that may be required for an upgrade. Put yourself in the hands of a pro. Find phone numbers, including the frequent-flier numbers.
Here’s the bad news: If you’re wait-listed for an upgrade – that is someone (or several someones) got the good seats and now you’re hoping they won’t show – know that not all people seeking upgrades are created equal.