There’s no question that getting a free upgrade to the posh end of an airplane is one of the holy grails of air travel.
And so the advice here from Jay Roberts – who has worked as senior cabin crew for Emirates and who runs the popular one Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge network – about the myths surrounding upgrades and the secrets to getting them is sacred.
Read on for his fascinating insider advice on moving to the “right side of the curtain.”
Can flight attendants upgrade people at their discretion?
Jay tells MailOnline Travel exclusively: “Upgrades are not candy. Airline personnel rarely have them to care about, and when they do, they don’t just hand them out to anyone.
Jay Roberts (above) – who has worked as senior cabin crew for Emirates and runs the popular Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge network – exposes the myths surrounding upgrades
“The idea of a beautiful young flight attendant tapping you on the shoulder and sneaking you into a better seat in the front is a dream from a bygone golden era when airlines were funded by their governments, tickets were handwritten, and computers couldn’t track every move the staff made.
“Times have changed, airlines are mostly privately owned and less generous, and profit is their primary goal.
‘As a result, airlines pay close attention to their most expensive product: seats in premium cabins.
“If there’s a TikTok video of a young flight attendant exploiting their uniform for likes and telling you otherwise, that’s clickbait and you’ve fallen for it.
“Even those who work for an airline for the benefits of cheap or free flights find it harder to get a seat at the front.
“Upgrades used to be an excellent reward for airline employees, but even those are becoming rarer as airlines get more creative in using upgrades to generate more money.”
What’s the best way to get an upgrade?
Jay writes, “The idea of a beautiful young flight attendant tapping you on the shoulder and sneaking you into a better front seat is a dream from a bygone golden age.” Pictured above is business class on an Emirates Boeing 777
Says Jay, “The best way to get an upgrade is to pay or earn for it. Airlines use unsold first or business class seats as leftovers that are given away as tasty treats to frequent flyers to reward them for their loyalty to the airline or its alliance.
‘Choose the airline or airline alliance that suits you best and fly with it the most. Once you’ve reached elite status, you’ll be the one they choose to upgrade when the time comes. You can also use miles earned with Airline points and miles to upgrade. Credit card points are also a great way to get free front seats.
“Some airlines even hold auctions or give deep discounts on the seats if they still have to sell right before the day of departure to prevent the nice seats from becoming empty or used as a free upgrade for a frequent or staff traveler.”
Is it possible to charm your way to an on-the-day upgrade?
Says Jay, “One thing’s for sure, don’t count on your good looks, sexy fashion sense, or charm to win your way into the cabin crew’s hearts and get you on the right side of the curtain.
When I worked as a ground crew for a major US airline, and I was given the authority to give a free upgrade, and I had no employees or elite passengers waiting, I would choose older passengers, someone who was smartly dressed, or if I saw someone be a nice person in the gate area
“According to a poll conducted in the Cabin Crew Lounge by A Fly Guy, the largest social media network for airline professionals, nearly all flight attendants confirmed they could only provide free upgrades in extreme circumstances. It comes with a ton of paperwork to discourage the use of service recovery upgrades when problems arise on board the aircraft.
“In the rare event that an ordinary passenger without frequent flyer elite status is given a free upgrade because the flight is overcrowded, the employee responsible for handing over the golden ticket will be the gate agent. Even more reason to be nice to the ground crew as they have the power to choose who gets picked if the economy is oversold and they need to upgrade a lucky few.
“When I worked as a ground crew for a major US airline, and I was given the authority to give a free upgrade, and I didn’t have employees or elite passengers waiting, I would choose older passengers, someone who was smartly dressed, or if I saw someone who is a nice person in the gate area.’
He added: “Most cabin crew and gate agents of major airlines around the world have confirmed that if they are caught giving free upgrades it would be considered theft and the employee could be subject to disciplinary action if they fail to do so. take a chance and swap the cab without using any credit. card.’