Flight secrets: Cabin crew reveal the key to bagging a business class upgrade

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Though flight attendants are not the main decision-makers when it comes to upgrading passengers on flights, they certainly know a thing or two about how these decisions are made. While most of us daydream about being randomly surprised with a business class upgrade, it seems that this is usually pretty unlikely to happen.

With that said, there are some ways travellers can better their chances of having their ticket switched for a higher class.

A handful of flight attendants shared the tip in a Reddit forum and were in agreement that the key is how much money you spend with an airline.

One flight attendant explained that upgrades tend to happen when a particular cabin is “oversold”.

Should this be the case, they then prioritise passenger based on “cardholder” status, and then the type of ticket they have purchased.

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The flight attendant said the decision is firstly “based on who has member cards – first with their own company, then their airline ground. eg star alliance gold.

“Assuming there are no member cards on the flight then it goes to looking at fare classes.”

Fare classes are assigned to tickets based on which cabin the ticket is in, and how much money the passenger handed over for it.

“Next time you book a ticket even if you only book economy there are different subclasses.

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“Y is usually full fare economy on all airlines.

“Different airlines use different classes but full fare economy isn’t much more expensive than the lowest class business/premium economy so the loss for the airline isn’t that much.”

A second flight attendant also pointed out that loyalty goes a long way when it comes to flying.

“The best way to get upgraded is to fly a lot on the same carrier.

“US carriers give away upgrade vouchers to their highest tiers, which can be used for paid seats in certain fare classes,” they wrote.

“They aren’t guaranteed, but they’re the best way to push the odds in your favour.”

This revelation was seconded by a passenger who had experienced this for themselves.

They explained: “Your chance of getting upgraded is based on some secret voodoo magic behind the scenes but likely there will be a correlation between the fare you bought (fully flexible refundable ticket vs. ultra-discount nonrefundable ticket) and your frequent flyer status with the carrier, and probably the time you checked in for your flight.

“This is based on my experience with European carriers where premium cabins are generally reserved for those that paid for the product, US carriers may differ.”

Of course, the flight attendants also point out that there is another, more direct way of bagging that business class seat.

One flight attendant said: “The other way to get upgraded? Pay for it.

“Buy a cheapish economy ticket and ask when checking in how much it is to do it.”

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