Securing upgrades on difficult international routes

A reader asked for some general advice in securing upgrades on international flights. Here are my off the top of the head suggestions. I’d love it if you’d add your own thoughts to the comments section.

  • Be as flexible as possible. Look over a variety of
    days if you can. Confirmed seats at booking are the

  • Be as creative as possible in routings. Check every
    possible connection. Know what those connections are
    because agents won’t necessarily look at them all
    without your asking about them specifically.

  • Consolidate your flying a bit so that you have top
    tier status on a carrier. I like having miles on lots
    of airlines… but having the highest level elite
    status will help you clear those waitlists. (You can
    earn miles on lots of airlines by giving your partner
    activity like phone, credit cards, etc. to an airline
    that you don’t fly as much.)

  • Pick your aircraft to be sure it has the most number
    of business class seats possible. A United 747 has
    about a hundred premium seats. A 777 has 49 business
    class seats. That makes upgrading easier than on a
    767 with only 32 seats or a 757 with 24.

  • Run away from Continental. They have the most
    convoluted upgrade scheme going… upgrade windows…
    the “72 hour rule” (they won’t give you the seat even
    if it’s available if it’s within 72 hours of flight
    time). Just screwy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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