You could say that it’s the food, the legroom, the wines, the china and the crockery that separate business class from economy, but honestly, the biggest divide is the way you feel when you step off the aeroplane.
If you’ve travelled in economy, it feels as as if you’ve been confined in the boot of a car for many hours, whereas exiting business class feels like stepping out of a spa.
Yet, most of the passengers you see in business class have rarely paid for the ticket themselves. It often has to do with the perks of their job, an upgrade against air miles, luck or sweet talk. Sometimes, even the fact that you’re travelling solo may mean that it is easier to upgrade your ticket than those of a family or couple.
Here are some tips that might increase your chances at bagging that upgrade to business class.
#1. Book early. Sometimes there are eye-popping deals available in business class, such as a free companion ticket. While it will rarely match the economy fare, the difference may not be much. In case you’ve delayed booking, you might find that when economy is almost booked up, the fares have rocketed enough to warrant a small difference from the cheapest business class fare.
#2. Pay the difference. If your ticket is paid for by someone else, it could be well worth forking out the fare difference for a business class upgrade, especially on a long-haul flight. Still, except in the case of expensive economy tickets, the fare difference is quite steep.
#3. Try your loyalty program. If you’re a frequent flyer, airline loyalty could reap upgrades since many airlines offer upgrades against miles. But read the fine print. Upgrades are only permissible on specific classes of economy tickets. So that really cheap economy ticket probably won’t get you an upgrade. Also, on busy routes and during peak season, airlines tend to overbook their economy cabin and then need to move passengers to business class. They usually upgrade frequent flyers first, depending on the membership type. You should also try and use a credit card that partners with your preferred airline, so that you earn miles every time you spend.
Dining onboard business class. Photo courtesy Emirates Airline
#4. Request an upgrade, politely. If the flight is overbooked, just ask politely if there is a chance to upgrade, and you might be issued a business class boarding pass.
#5. Dress well. Being smartly attired and well-groomed, as opposed to looking like you’ve just exited from the eye of a tornado, goes a long way – as does having minimal hand luggage.
#6. Drop off your bags just as the counter closes. Check-in online to avoid being declined a boarding pass, and arrive to drop off your bags at the last moment. Chances are, if the flight is overbooked, that they’ve handed your seat to another passenger. As you have been assigned a seat, you might just get bumped up to business class.
#7. If you can get an upgrade through a personal connection to the crew or captain, be the last to board the flight. This helps the crew know which seats are vacant in business class, so they can guide you directly to an available seat. Then sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Rishad Saam Mehta
is a travel writer and photographer. He is the author of two books, the latest being "Fast Cars and Fidgety Feet" (Tranquebar, 2016).
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