How NOT to Get Upgraded on a Flight

“Give the gate agent cookies and they’ll upgrade you!”

“Tell them you’re it’s your honeymoon. This works great if you’re going to Hawaii!

“Wear a suit. They upgrade people who are dressed well!”

If you’ve ever traveled, someone has likely told you one of the above. They’re just a few of the urban legends about the “best” ways to get yourself moved from coach to first. And while I can’t promise you that being nice to a gate agent has never gotten a passenger a better seat, I can assure that it just doesn’t work that way anymore.

This can all be yours, but it will take more than a tie and chocolate chip cookies.
This can all be yours, but it will take more than a tie and chocolate chip cookies.

The Cold, Hard Truth

If you want to be flying up front, there are only a few ways to do it. You can, of course, buy the ticket outright, either with money or miles. That is really the only way of being 100% certain that there will be a big seat and hot towel waiting for you when you get on the plane. You may also be able to use airline certificates, buy upgrades at the last minute or even get a free upgrade because you have elite status with the airline. Airlines have become much more sophisticated about the way they sell their product and reward their best customers and there are very strict rules about who can get moved up and when. No gate agent is going to risk their job for a few bon-bons. The cold, hard truth is that it’s really about cold, hard cash.

Why You Should Always Dress up on a Plane (or not)

Of all the stories about what you should do to get upgraded, my “favorite” is that the best-dressed wins. I was reminded of this myth when I read a Business Insider article today titled “Why you should always dress up on a plane.” The best reason to dress up is because you want to. Maybe you are running to a meeting right after the flight or just like wearing a suit. That’s great. And it will save space if you wear your fancy clothes instead of packing them.

But the rest of the article is just silly, or outright wrong. No, you won’t get upgraded by wearing a suit. I don’t care what your brother’s best friend’s girlfriend’s uncle told you; it doesn’t work that way. You are also told that it will make the flight attendant’s job more pleasant. No. If you want to make the flight attendant’s job more pleasant, say “please,” “thank you” and smile.

The fact of the matter is that you are going to be on a confined metal tube hurdling through space for an extended period of time. It’s going to be most important to you to be comfortable during that time than anything else. Obviously, hygiene is a necessity (cover your armpits and feet; don’t give off an unpleasant odor; etc.), but you don’t have to be dressed to the nines to do that. You can leave the beer-soaked t-shirt at home while still wearing clothes that let you breathe.

Everyone wants an upgrade, but articles like the Business Insider one not only set up unfair expectations but could also contribute to making your travel experience less enjoyable. My advice is simple: Wear what makes you feel good and dress for the destination, so you can hit the ground running. Other than that, simply try to enjoy your flight.

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