- Loyalty has its rewards. If you are able to rack up mileage on the same airline, achieving elite status will entitle you to upgrades — but be forewarned: Even among the elite, competition for a first-class upgrade is keen. Continental/United, Delta, Alaska, and US Airways are among the airlines that offer first-class upgrades on a space-available basis.
- If you are not a frequent-enough flier, you can add to your airline points by combining them with points from purchases made on co- branded credit cards.
- American Express Platinum Card holders can obtain a complimentary companion ticket when they book qualifying business or first-class international travel on one of 23 airline partners through Platinum Travel Service. (These tickets have no blackout dates or change fees, and are fully refundable.)
- American Express charge card holders who do not have sufficient points to upgrade their tickets through an airline frequent flier program, can transfer membership rewards points to a partner airline reward program to upgrade an existing ticket.
- FareCompare.com suggests that travelers take advantage of ‘‘Y-Up’’ or ‘‘Q- Up’’ fare code designations. While hard to find (you might try calling the airline and asking for them), these are discounted first-class tickets offered by domestic carriers in the United States and Canada. A coast-to-coast first-class seat purchased as a Q-Up ticket, for example, can cost as little as $400-$600 each way. The FareCompare website offers some tips on finding them.
- Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, suggests checking with consolidators, travel agents, and big corporations, who generally have an easier time negotiating first-class travel than do individuals.
- On rare occasions, airlines release empty first-class seats at the gate for a relatively small upgrade cost. The carriers would rather make some money on this prime real estate than have it remain empty. Check with the airline reservations agent.
- Let the flight attendant know if it is your centennial birthday and you have never flown first class, if your seat is completely broken (perhaps, without a back or operative seat belt), or if your seatmate appears to be suffering from typhoid or pneumonia. Maybe she will have pity on you and bring you forward.
[Published in the Boston Globe – December 25, 2011]
Also see: Rich getting richer, even at 30,000 feet