Use body language to score an airline upgrade

May 12, 2013


Mark Bowen demonstrating the eyebrow "lizard lift," one of his tips for scoring an airline upgrade.

Mark Bowen demonstrating the eyebrow “lizard lift,” one of his tips for scoring an airline upgrade.

The ultimate fantasy of every frequent traveler is to one day score an airline upgrade: To get something valuable (for nothing) that makes a journey infinitely more comfortable and memorable.

The “upgrade fantasy” is understandable—particularly given the disturbing trend of airfares increasing as seat size and legroom simultaneously shrink.

If, like me, you are prone to wishful thinking, I found this excellent video by body language expert Mark Bowden who offers his expert tips on how to get airlines upgrades for (an online Canadian travel agency). I thought the video included some helpful hints, not only for travelers, but for anyone who is dependent on someone else in a more powerful role than he/she is.

Here’s what Mark says:

Although the video is done well, some people prefer reading rather than watching YouTube videos so I was pleased to see the website also offered a written crib sheet for those of us too impatient to watch a 7-minute video to the end.

By the way, I’ve never been lucky enough to score an airline upgrade but I haven’t given up on the fantasy. Maybe next time, I think…

Do you have any hints, tricks or practical strategies for scoring airline upgrades that worked? Would you consider trying any of Mark’s strategies?

  • Reply
    May 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Loved this helpful video–who knew “raised eyebrows” works across all cultures? Here’s to “lowering your status” to get upgrades!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Irene S. Levine
      May 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      My fingers are crossed (and my eyebrows raised) for you, Laura!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Interesting stuff. I’ve never been successful at scoring upgrades, but perhaps now with a few lessons, I’ll get somewhere (?)

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    May 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    My only upgrades have happened when I didn’t ask for one—admittedly, back in the olden days. However, while standing in a massive American re-booking line, I did manage to convince an American telephone agent to get us booked on Delta flights so we wouldn’t be stuck in Chicago for 28 hours due to a weather delay–after she told me she wasn’t authorized to do it. Maybe my voice sounds like I have crinkly eyes 😉

    • Irene S. Levine
      Irene S. Levine
      May 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Being able to rebook that flight sounds better than an upgrade given the circumstances!
      Best, Irene

  • Reply
    May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Wow! Just what I need. 1.) Smile better, 2.) Compliment the check-out person, 3.) Dress for tribal allegiance in mind, 4.) Up their status 5.) flash eyebrow raise, 6.) Language: “I’ve heard that sometimes people like you can give upgrades.” 7.) Be pleasant and polite. Thank personally in galley. 8.) Suggest they have power to move people around plane, is there another seat available? 9.) Send annoying members of family to check in first, then say, “Sorry about that,” when it is your turn.

    This was really helpful. I will try this summer. Thanks.

  • Reply
    ruth pennebaker
    May 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    My husband and I are fairly shameless, always groveling for an upgrade. What works mostly reliably? Paying for the damned thing.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Flying first class is on my bucket list. I’ll need to take the time to watch the video. I had no idea it depended on your body language.

  • Reply
    Len D. (
    April 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I have never scored an upgrade, but I can dream 🙂
    I’ll have to pay more attention to my body language!

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