By Mark Chesnut
Whether it’s a seat at the front of the plane or a nicer hotel room, few travelers would turn down a free upgrade. But how do you snag these elusive — and complimentary — delights? Here are a few tips and strategies to help you along.
How to get airline upgrades
• Be a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program — preferably, elite level. Even if you’re not eligible for an upgrade, you’ll be higher on the list of passengers moving to the front if the plane is full.
• Volunteer to be bumped. If your schedule is flexible, there’s no harm in negotiating and asking for a first- or business-class seat on the next flight out.
• Dress well. Sure, beauty is only skin deep. But someone who looks like they belong in first class is a bit more likely to actually be placed there.
• Fly alone. The fewer seats you need overall, the greater the chance that you’ll be moved to a better place.
How to get a better hotel room
• Join the club. According to Chris McGinnis, business travel expert and blogger for You Must Be Trippin’, the Best Western blog, elite-level hotel program membership accounts for 32 percent of upgrades. So you’ll increase your odds if you’re a member.
• Mention the business you bring. If you’re a frequent guest, a decision maker or business manager who sends a lot of guests to the same chain or hotel, be sure that the hotel knows. And don’t be shy at hotel manager receptions. Introduce yourself — especially if you’re going to be a repeat visitor.
• Just ask. In hotels, upgrades mean different things to different people. You may be dreaming of the biggest suite, or a regular room on a club-level floor, or simply a standard room with the best view. Be specific and you’re more likely to get what you want.
And finally, the most important tactic of all, whether you’re dealing with an airline or a hotel: Be nice. Smile. Treat people with respect, and they’ll be more likely to treat you well.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. He’s usually stuck in coach, but loves upgrades.