Here’s howto get an up­grade to the lap of lux­ury on next flight

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY CATHARINE HAMM Los An­ge­les Times

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.

YOUR STA­TUS

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.

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