You’ve seen them; you know them: articles telling you to dress up for flights — because you might get upgraded for free! Simply because you’re wearing nice clothes!
Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?
Travel + Leisure wrote this:
Sometimes getting an upgrade isn’t about the right timing or knowing the right people. Sometimes, it’s all about having the right outfit.
There’s one way you can score a free upgrade to first class without having to do very much, flight attendants told with Who What Wear: just pick the perfect ensemble. And the good news is, you don’t need to be a fashion icon to do it.
And the Managing Director of valet parking service Airport Parking & Hotels shared his knowledge:
“For those who dream of flying business class, it’s worth keeping in mind that those who are well-dressed and polite can sometimes be rewarded with a rare flight upgrade,” APH told Express.co.uk.
“So although flip flops and leggings may be the comfiest way to travel, it may be worth keeping these items packed away in your hand luggage and opting for smart casual attire instead.”
I asked Rene’s Points reader Sandy — a former Delta and United gate agent — for her in-the-field expertise.
I’m not saying your threads will never score you a random upgrade. Stranger things have happened.
But don’t rush to buy a new wardrobe.
“I have seen those articles and just laugh,” said Sandy. “In all my years working United and Delta, I would have never done that. And I don’t know of any of my coworkers that would, especially at the smaller airports I worked.”
Sure, there are data points here and there about magical upgrades. We know shena is a thing. And, yes, gate agents may decide some people aren’t worthy of an upgrade — like I experienced in November 2018.
Many of us know loyalty programs and software are very much part of complimentary upgrades. Mobile apps and gate information display screens show upgrade lists. Eagle-eyed elite members practically maintain a vigil watching their upgrade positions for flights.
“Before the UA app,” she said, “so many things were optional for gate and counteragents. People got bored, they would start playing around with the software. Software was very old and could be manipulated.”
“With today’s technology, it’s hard to get away with anything. The airlines would be all over that if they noticed a pattern.”
And all of this isn’t to say, though, that some employees know how to manipulate the system. A passenger — let’s say an employee’s friend — might be added to the upgrade list.
“[I’m] not sure how they could get them moved to the top of the list, but I am sure it’s possible,” Sandy told us. “Most likely a supervisor or savvy agent might know the workaround.
The question is, would they do it to risk their job? Just because someone wears nice clothes?
It sounds to me like if you’re going to get a complimentary upgrade that’s not the result of your loyalty program status, it’ll be because you know the right people.
Clothes Can Decide Upgrades — for Certain Passengers
“Back in the day, when we traveled as ‘nonrev,'” she said, if you wanted to be considered for a first class seat, you were required to dress up. Jeans, leggings, shorts were not acceptable.”
She wonders if some passengers saw the “nicely dressed people” getting upgrades — but didn’t know the fashionistas were actually folks traveling on nonrev tickets and already friendly with the airline staff.
What Might Get You an Upgrade
Let’s face it: first class monetization is all the rage. Even if it’s a dollar each flight.
Sandy suggests inquiring at the check-in counter about any upgrade opportunities.
“I have had luck on Virgin with this approach,” she said. “Granted, I was at the Platinum/Upper Class counter, not sure if that mattered.”
Bottom line? Sandy says, “I truly don’t believe by [only] dressing up for the flight you will score an upgrade.”
What Do You Think?
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