Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

14 of the best ways to score a flight upgrade

Sprawl out in first class. Use these tips on how to get upgraded on your next flight.

It’s the dream to buy economy and get bumped up to first class absolutely free, but how do you make that dream a reality?

While there’s no hard and fast rule on how to score this holy grail, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of nabbing that premium economy, business or first class upgrade.

Here’s how:

1. Join the frequent flyer program. Many US airlines such as Delta, United or American Airlines let you trade in your hard-earned frequent flyer miles for upgrades.

2. Earn elite status. Reaching at least the first elite tier of an airline rewards program can get you a complimentary upgrade on most flights and on partner airlines within an alliance, such as Star Alliance, Oneworld Alliance or the SkyTeam. If you reach the top tier, you are often first on the upgrade wait list.

3. Travel with a companion who has elite status. One companion traveling on the same reservation as the elite member can often get a complimentary upgrade along with the elite member.

4. Get an airline cobranded credit card. Use it to reach elite status faster, and to earn more miles on purchases that can be redeemed for an upgrade. Compare your travel card options to find one that best fits your needs.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $1,000 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $900 through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $900 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards with Chase’s premier card.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months, plus up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $560, up to 2x miles on select purchases, and assorted Delta perks, this is a strong choice for Delta fans. Terms apply, see rates & fees
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

5. Download upgrade apps. Some apps notify you when a seat upgrade is available, while others let you bid for an upgrade. However, these are often limited to a single airline. For example, Seatboost app works only with Virgin America.

6. Forgo the special meal. These meals are linked to your seat number, so airlines generally don’t upgrade anyone who has nominated one. Instead, choose an onboard option.

7. Fly during quieter periods. Business flyers will fill up the business and first class seats during peak times. Fly during quieter periods to increase your chances of snatching up one of the spare seats on board.

8. Timing is everything. Being early or late both have advantages.

If you’re early, you could be the first offered an upgraded seat. If you’re late and haven’t been assigned a seat yet, there’s a chance the flight has been overbooked for your class and you could be bumped up. Of course, arriving late can be risky.

9. Make an impression. Playing to the emotional side of the person at the counter, or simply being nice and complimenting them can help you get an upgrade according to some. However, there’s no guarantee this will work.

10. Bump yourself off the plane. If the plane has been overbooked and you can sacrifice the waiting time, nominate yourself to be bumped off the plane on the provision that you get upgraded on the next flight.

11. Dress to impress. It can’t hurt to look like you belong in first class when at the airline counter.

12. Don’t let a delay get the better of you. Sometimes, you’ll automatically receive an upgraded ticket at the counter due to a delay.

13. Fly solo. Flying alone can increase your chances of getting an upgrade. Couples have lower chances, while families have almost nonexistent chances of getting an upgrade.

14. Use your status. People with titles like Dr. or Judge can sometimes be upgraded purely because of their status. The same goes for those with diplomatic passports.

Top deals for business and first class seats

It looks like we don't have any coupons at the moment.

PricelinePriceline

Up to 50% off highest rated hotels on your next booking

Top rated hotels at great prices. Guaranteed one of 3 hotels shown. Plus, get VIP discounts on future bookings. T&Cs apply.

Last verified

DouchebagsDouchebags

Get 10% off by signing up

Shop the summer sale, ending soon!

Last verified

Deal ends

Expedia.comExpedia.com

Disney cruises from $705 per person to the Caribbean

T&Cs apply.

Last verified

PricelinePriceline

Disney Cruise Line deals starting from $213/night to Caribbean and other destinations

T&Cs apply.

Last verified

Expedia.comExpedia.com

Save up to 25% on select Bahamian, Caribbean and Baja cruises with Disney

T&Cs apply.

Last verified

Expedia.comExpedia.com

Up to 75% off travel deals

Huge savings on travel deals, including hotels, vacation rentals, vacation packages, flights, car rentals and sightseeing tickets.

Last verified

AviancaAvianca

Save up to 50% on flights and related services

T&Cs apply

Last verified

CruiseDirectCruiseDirect

Carnival cruises starting from just $55/night to the Bahamas and other destinations

T&Cs apply.

Last verified

Expedia.comExpedia.com

Carnival cruises to the Caribbean starting from $179 per person

T&Cs apply.

Last verified

Expedia.comExpedia.com

Save up to 83% off Carnival cruises to the Caribbean

Caribbean cruises from 4-7 nights from $179 per person. T&Cs apply.

Last verified

PricelinePriceline

Up to $1,000 to spend on board with Norwegian Cruise Line

Just book your next cruise vacation with Priceline Cruises and get up to $1,000 to use as a liquor, dining, and spa credit, along with other purchases made on the ship! T&Cs apply.

Last verified

CruiseDirectCruiseDirect

Last minute cruise deals from $33/night

Cruises from 3 to 15+ nights available from multiple lines. Get great deals on prime ships, routes, and rooms for bookings from a week or more out.

Last verified

TravelocityTravelocity

Vacation packages now under $400

Flight and hotel included for getaways to: Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, NYC, Honolulu, Los Cabos, and more. T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

Sandals ResortsSandals Resorts

Insurance is on us + cancel for any reason

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

Avoya TravelAvoya Travel

Royal Caribbean sale: Buy 1 get 1 60% off cruise fares, up to $150 free onboard credit and kids sail free

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

Hotels.comHotels.com

Up to 15% off select hotels

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

Booking.comBooking.com

Booking.com

Big savings on hotels in 96000 destinations worldwide. Browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets.

Last verified

OneTravelOneTravel

Summer travel deals

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Coupon code ends

OneTravelOneTravel

Fathers day travel deals!

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Coupon code ends

Expedia.comExpedia.com

15% off select hotels

Terms and Exclusions Apply, See Site for Details, Travel through May 31, 2021

Last verified

Coupon code ends

MSC CruisesMSC Cruises

Go all in and enjoy free drinks and wi-fi, plus flexible booking changes up to 48 hours prior to your cruise

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

AccorHotelsAccorHotels

The choice is always yours, with hundreds of hotels, homestays and restaurants to pick from

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

AccorHotelsAccorHotels

Up to 30% off your stay plus members will earn 3x reward points and save an additional 10%

Be sure to book by September 6 for stays until December 31, 2021.

Last verified

Deal ends

AccorHotelsAccorHotels

Get real - experience it all: up to 30% off your stay

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

AccorHotelsAccorHotels

Get real - experience it all: up to 30% off your stay

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

FlightHubFlightHub

Don't miss the latest offers at FlightHub

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

CruiseDirectCruiseDirect

Browse the CruiseDirect website for their latest offers

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

Atlantis BahamasAtlantis Bahamas

Summer Savings: Stay 4 Nights and get 5th night free

T&Cs apply

Last verified

Deal ends

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site