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How to Talk Your Way Into Flying First Class

Jake Lauer

Flying first class is the ultimate indulgence in travel, but first-class tickets are usually exorbitantly expensive. When you board a flight, airlines love tempting you with empty first-class seats as you walk past to squeeze into your middle seat in coach. But there are ways to get into the hallowed grounds of first-class seating without paying first-class prices.

If you're the type of person who always finds a way to talk your way into a room upgrade in a hotel, use some of those similar skills to score better seats on your next flight. Know how the system works and make the most of any opportunity you get to justifiably request an upgrade.

There's no guaranteed method of getting a free first-class upgrade, but here are some tricks you can use to boost your chances next time you fly.

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10 Tips to Snag a First-Class Ticket Upgrade

1. Take Advantage of a Full Flight

As headlines about recent unsavory events have clearly demonstrated, airlines often overbook flights in order to maximize the number of seats filled when passengers miss their flights. If coach seats on a flight are overbooked, the airline will be much more likely to upgrade passengers to empty first-class seats so that there is room to accommodate everybody with a coach ticket.

2. Offer Up Your Seat

If your flight is overbooked and you're not in a rush to get to your destination, offer to give up your seat in exchange for a first-class ticket on the next flight. You'll save the airline a headache, and they may treat you to a more luxurious trip for your troubles. Usually, you'll just be offered a voucher for a flight in the future, but it's worthwhile to try your luck at a first-class seat.

3. Know When to Complain

You settle into your seat in coach and try to turn on your TV. It doesn't work. In this situation, a rookie traveler might despair about their bad luck, but a pro uses the situation to their advantage. If there is something wrong with your seat, maybe a broken tray table or a busted window shade, try asking to be moved. Play the game a little bit and flex your acting chops when you complain about how excited you were to watch Minions. If all other coach seats are full, you may be given a seat in first class.

4. Dress the Part

Dress for the airplane seat you want, not the one you have. Sure, there's no good reason first-class passengers and coach passengers should dress any differently, but it couldn't hurt to dress nicely when requesting an upgrade. If you usually dress for flights the same way you dress when you're watching Netflix in bed, try sprucing up your look. And as always, be courteous and polite.

With more and more of the seat-filling process becoming automated, it's becoming increasingly rare to speak person to person with someone at the airline who can grant you a seat upgrade. Even if you're unable to get an upgrade, remember: if Kanye West and Kim Kardashian can fly coach, so can we!