Your Flying Attire Could Score a Seat Upgrade
Posted on 11/14/2017
Pay attention to what you wear the next time you’re flying.
Because according to at least a few travel industry experts, how you dress can increase your chances of getting upgraded on a flight.
Airfare Watchdog founder George Hobica revealed this and other tips recently during an interview with the Associated Press podcast “Get Outta Here.”
According to Hobica, even how you act can influence whether you’re selected for a seat upgrade.
While by and large, Hobica said, the upgrades are distributed to those with top status in frequent flyer programs, he has also been upgraded at times when he was simply “wearing a nice suit and tie,” amid a sea of passengers dressed like Richard Simmons.
Numerous airlines contacted by Associated Press said that is simply not how it's done.
“The list is the list and the gate agents work the list,” American Airlines spokesman Josh Freed said, in reference to the list of customers who qualify for upgrades because of their frequent flyer status. “It’s pretty straightforward. If there are three unsold seats in first class, the top three people on that list are going to get them.”
Alaska Airlines offered a similar comment, noting that upgrades are given to elite members of the Airline’s mileage plan. For those who have not earned elite status, the only way to score an upgrade is by redeeming miles.
Hobica, and others, however, beg to differ.
Ann Lombardi, a business English teacher and tour organizer for The Trip Chicks, also provided examples to Associated Press of being upgraded.
“To those people who say, nonsense, this can’t happen, I disagree wholeheartedly,” she told the publication. “This has happened to me from coach to business class a number of times.”
Lombardi attributed her luck with upgrades to a variety of factors including being nice to the agents, dressing decently and the luck of the draw.
And those things seem to have worked for her. Earlier this year when standing in line preparing to board an Emirates flight, the agent pulled Lombardi aside and gave her a boarding pass that said seat 1B.
“I said, ‘Is there an extra digit left out [on the seat number]?” Lombardi explained. The agent’s answer: “No, we decided to upgrade you.”
The first class seat she was given made a tedious flight something completely memorable. It came with Dom Perignon and black caviar.
One last tale of how to score upgrades was provided by former Associated Press staffer Kim Curtis, who now works for a bank.
Curtis said she is regularly upgraded even though she specifically buys the best, cheapest airfare deal she can find.
“I always give the gate agents and ticketing agents compliments,” Curtis explained. “I know it sounds corny but I figure they deal with a lot of difficult rude people so I try to be the exact opposite of that.”
When it comes to the notion of dressing up for a flight, Curtis said that while she doesn’t overdo it, looking good is also a tactic that helps.
The moral of the story? Unless you’re a jet-setting supermodel wearing the latest stylish sweat suit, scrap the jogging pants. And even if you never land in a cushy first class seat, it’s always good to put your best face forward and be friendly with airline employees.
PHOTO: The next time you're preparing to fly, think twice about what you wear. (photo via Flickr/Sean MacEntee)