It’s every economy passenger’s dream to be whisked out of the main cabin and into the glamorous world on the other side of the curtain. If your frequent flier status leaves much to be desired, you may believe that this dream will never come to fruition — but you’d be wrong. By
Although each flight is different, there are a few common traits that make flight attendants or gate agents pull strings for some lucky passengers.
To help you figure out how to make this magic possible, flight attendants shared their top tricks and secrets with Travel + Leisure.
Tips and tricks to upgrade your flight
Know when to ask
The first rule of upgrades is knowing when to ask. Kat Kamalani, a former flight attendant and creator of viral TikTok travel videos, told T+L that passengers should start trying to score an upgrade while at the gate. Talk to a gate agent and let them know that you’re interested in moving up.
“Once onboard there isn’t anything we can do as a flight attendant,” Kamalani said of her airline.
Gate agents will typically have a list of frequent fliers who are first eligible for upgrades. So make sure to familiarise yourself with your airline’s membership upgrade policies. But if there’s no one on the upgrade list, it could be your lucky day.
But the process may be different aboard different airlines.
“There are times when a flight has a weight and balance issue,” Lia Ocampo, flight attendant and author, told T+L. “The flight crew will then ask flight attendants to move passengers from the back to the first-class or middle of the cabin. Then, we decide who we want to move to upgrade.”
Passengers who have been kind — and maybe those who are smiling — are generally the first to be considered for these last-minute upgrades.
Use your assets
Those travelling with a baby may have a better chance of receiving an upgrade. Make sure to touch base with gate agents before boarding, and if you’re able to get into a comfort or bulkhead seat, flight attendants may also give you a bassinet aboard long flights, Kamalani said.
Ocampo shared that passengers should let gate agents know if they’re travelling for a special occasion. But drop the information in a casual way if you can. “Make a friendly conversation with the gate agent and talk about your occasion,” Ocampo said. “You never know. That may give you and your companion the upgrade you’re hoping for.”
In the air, as on the ground, being kind and present with other people is the ticket to an enjoyable experience.
“If you just come on board and stick to yourself, you’re a great passenger,” Kamalani said. “Even more if you are happy or kind to us. We get a lot of grumpy people that travel and take it out on flight attendants.”
Remember to make eye contact when your flight attendants come around and thank them for their service.
“A passenger who calls me by my name is someone that stands out,” Ocampo said. “In my airline, our names are etched on the flight attendant wings we are wearing, and we introduce ourselves at the beginning of the flight. So, when a passenger talks to me using my name, it creates a culture of respect and recognition.”
Those who are looking to go above and beyond for a flight upgrade, consider bringing a small token of appreciation for flight attendants — it could come back to you in the form of free drinks or snacks.
“Even just a simple candy bar or chapstick goes a long way,” Kamalani said. “It’s not needed, but it will definitely get you special treatment.” Ocampo added that gift cards, particularly those for a coffee shop, are a “favourite treat” among flight attendants.
If you’re bringing a gift, stay away from home-baked goods and anything that could fall outside of dietary restrictions, like something with chocolate or nuts. A handwritten note of thanks, some flowers, or a drawing from a child are all gifts that will stay with flight attendants long after you’ve deplaned.