Flight Attendants Reveal the Best Time to Ask for a Flight Upgrade

While free upgrades are rare, travelers can ask to pay for a seat upgrade any time between booking and boarding their flight

<p>Getty</p> A stock image of a flight attendant


A stock image of a flight attendant

Flight attendants are sharing their insider tips on how to score an upgrade on your next flight.

According to two former flight crew members, travelers very rarely are given a free upgrade to a better seat — with the exception of frequent flyers with elite status — but they can ask to pay for one, per Travel + Leisure.

The flight attendants told the outlet that upgrade requests can be made any time between booking the flight and boarding, though they advised that travelers ask as early in the process as possible.

Passengers can inquire about paid upgrades — using either cash or accrued miles — with the airline at the time of booking. If they strike out, they can try again at the check-in desk when they arrive at the airport for their flight.

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If they are told no, hope is not lost. On some flights, passengers who booked a first-class or business seat may fail to show up for their flight. In that case, savvy travelers can speak to the gate agent just before boarding to see if they can pay to upgrade to one of those unfilled seats.

A final option is to ask the lead flight attendant or the flight attendant at the boarding door.

"You should ask prior to door closure, but don't be surprised if they don't move you until after you're in the air if they're going to grant your request," Bobby Laurie, a travel expert and former American Airlines flight attendant, told Travel + Leisure.

<p>Getty</p> A stock image of a flight attendant


A stock image of a flight attendant

Susan Fogwell, a former flight attendant with 22 years of experience, pointed out that travelers are more likely to score a paid upgrade to an economy-plus seat than first or business class.

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"While sitting in a cramped middle seat or squeezed in at a window seat, a passenger observes an empty economy plus seat and will ask if they can change seats," Fogwell explained to Travel + Leisure. "Standard procedure is to wait until the door closes to see if everybody shows up for the flight. If the seat is available, the passenger pays for the upgrade on the flight."

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Frogwell also dismissed stories of people being given upgrades to business or first class based on their looks or how they're dressed.

"This simply never happened at the major airline where I worked," she told Travel + Leisure. "If a flight attendant moved a passenger from one class to another, the flight attendant would not have a job for long. The difference in price is in the thousands, depending on the route."

"There is also a team of flight attendants on board who would be aware of the 'free upgrade.' So when someone tells a story about a so-called free upgrade, take it with a grain of salt," she added.

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