Trip Coach: March 27, 2006
Matthew Bennett, editor of FirstClassFlyer.com, answered your questions about airline upgrades.
Matthew Bennett: Hi, it's Matthew Bennett here. Thanks for joining me. There are a lot of questions here so I'll try to keep my responses brief to cover as many questions as possible.
Salt Lake City, Utah: What's a methodical way to research how to get first class tickets? It's incredibly daunting for a beginner to the upgrade game, since the best way to get from A to Z isn't necessarily a straight line. I am planning a trip with my husband to Ireland in October (no exact dates yet). We have plenty of American Express Rewards points and Delta miles, but I don't want to squander them--I'm also planning a trip to New Zealand for us sometime next January or February.
Matthew Bennett: I'd start by learning ALL the Amex point-transfer partners. There are a number of them and I'd take whichever has the best availability of mileage seats. Check availability with the partner before you transfer your Amex points into airline miles -- as you can't transfer back. I'd even look at flying Virgin Atlantic via London, as it has the best Business Class transatlantic.
Sydney, NSW, Australia: Hi,
I travel to the US every 12 months and to Europe occasionally and have never been able to get an upgrade. On August 28 I am flying from Sydney to London and back on September 19 - Copenhagen/London/Sydney. I have asked when I have booked, at check in and at the service desk and everyone tells me it is someone else who makes the decision. I dress neatly, only carry a large purse and sometimes a camera case and always check in as early as possible. Help?
Matthew Bennett: Without a confirmed Business Class ticket in hand before you're off to the airport, you're really leaving it up to (not good) chances. Nowadays, the flight must be oversold before gate agents are interested in moving passengers to Business Class. You might ask a travel agent to look at the seat map to find a full row of empty coach seats, which might allow for some decent sleep.
Tinley Park, IL: We're going on a cruise out of Miami in June. We're leaving the night before to make it easier to get on the boat early.
We're leaving 6/15/07 on AA 1048 at 8:10a from O'Hare and returning on AA2773 on 6/23/07 lvg. Miami at 3:55p. We're a family of 4 - 2 adults and 2 kids (16 & 12). We usually board at the very end and also dress up a little and always ask if we can be upgraded - but it never works - we do this when we travel as a couple also - and have never been successful - any tips or advice? Thanks.
Matthew Bennett: Here again, the upgrades doled out at the airport are few and far between. You might check fares into Ft. Lauderdale (a "low-fare" airport) as they can often be much less than Miami -- and the airport is a lot easier to navigate!
Dana Point, CA: My husband and I are flying to Rome, Italy the beginning of May. We are 64 and 62 years old respectively. Our Delta flight departs from LAX with a change of planes in DC. We have our reservations and have our seating selection which is not optimum. I have a leg condition that makes it very difficult to sit still on a long flight. When permmissable, I get up and walk so I always request an aisle seat. We prefer bulkhead or exit isle seating so I can stretch my legs out. Even though I told the airlines I have a letter from my doctor, they would not accommodate this request at the time we made our reservations. Also, on two legs of our journey, seat selection is made at the gate. Any suggestions on how I can get better seating?
Matthew Bennett: I'd buy a one-day pass to the airport lounge. Asking for a better seat in economy is not too much to ask for, and agents are more empowered in the lounges to take care of visitors than gate agents -- who are in a rush to get you on the plane and gone.
Jefferson City, Missouri: How can you know if the ticket you are purchasing online from an airline's website is a ticket that might, or might not, be upgradable?
Matthew Bennett: Make sure to identify the one-letter "booking code" (i.e. Q, V, S, etc.) when you're making a reservation for the fare being quoted. Before you hit the "buy" button, go to your airline's web site and look at the fine print underneath the "Mileage Award Chart"; here the applicable fare codes are usually always identified.
Granville, Ohio: My sister and I are traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Amsterdam. What is the best strategy to try and get upgraded without paying an arm and leg? My sister is not a very good flyer and gets nervous, this is her longest trip yet!