USA Today interviews Joel Widzer, author of The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel. As is so often the case, the advice is almost on target but a bit incomplete.
- Being a regular customer, or just being nice, can get you an airline passenger upgrade.
Elite status with an airline (regular customer) matters most, as long as you follow the rules for receiving upgrades. Most upgrades are processed automatically, so it’s more about rules than interaction. Make sure you know what the airline offers — free domestic upgrades versus paid for with cash or certificates, a certain minimum fare required, etc. And make sure to request the upgrade explicitly. Each airline has their own procedures.
“Being nice” certainly helps, especially combined with status, at the airport on the day of departure. Sometimes an airline has to upgrade passengers because coach is oversold. In those cases gate agents are usually empowered to do whatever is necessary to get the plane out, and making upgrading you about their ease and convenience is a far better strategy than complaining. The key is to be polite and unobtrusive as well as readily available. And to ask politely at each successive step along the checkin process, you never know who might help out (the checkin counter, the gate, the club, etc.).
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