How to fly first class for free (well, almost)

There’s no denying that the comfy seats, free booze and extra leg room you get in first class make for a much better travel experience than being stuck in economy.

But how do you snag a seat with all the perks, without emptying out your bank account? Here are some tips and tricks for getting a free upgrade.

1. Be loyal
It seems obvious, but airlines tend to reward their best customers. So sign up for a loyalty scheme, or use your frequent flyer miles or points to score that upgrade. Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, being a member could gain you a little caché.

2. Dress to impress

While dressing well won’t guarantee an upgrade, it will definitely improve your odds against the guy who turned up in trackies and flip flops.

3. Timing is everything
Check in as early as possible to secure the best spot. If a cabin is overbooked, the airline will move people early to avoid problems on the day of the flight. Making an upgrade request at the gate should be done early and politely – before agents are too busy checking in everyone else.

Alternatively, checking in late (but not so late you miss your flight, obviously) could mean that any unsold premium seats in the front of the plane could still be available. This is much more risky, though, as the plane could be full. Don’t try this with airlines that charge you a fee to check in at the airport.

4. Volunteer to give up your seat

Who doesn’t love that benevolent soul willing to give up their seat on a packed flight? Airlines may look kindly upon you and give you an upgrade on the next flight.

5. Travel alone

Airlines are more likely to upgrade one person than a couple or a group of friends, so travelling solo means your odds are automatically higher.

6. Stand up for yourself

If the airline has put you out in any way – maybe they lost your bag or messed up your reservation – don’t be afraid to (politely) ask for an upgrade on your next flight.

By Reenat Sinay