The Queen of Random Upgrades

First things first:  Isn’t this a wonderful thing to find in your fortune cookie?

Don't mind if I do!
Don’t mind if I do!



I seem to have a bit of luck with upgrades.  I’m not sure why this is. Although there are quite a few situations where I know it is directly related to my airline miles status, sometimes it is completely random.

For instance,  on our last trip to Cape Town our entire family was upgraded to business class – we don’t know why.  None of us are SAA Voyager members, and we can never seem to buy tickets that earn any points from South African Airlines, anyway.   They are remarkably stingy on the point-giving.

Anyway, we went from this – the infamous breakfast glop:

In South Africa, jam is a fruit side dish.
In South Africa, jam is a fruit side dish.

to this:

They even had my favorite brand!
They even had my favorite brand!

And meanwhile, my children were doing this:

Somehow, it's much easier to sleep in business class.
Somehow, it’s much easier to sleep in business class.

I’d just like to point out that the random guy behind Evil Blond child is not one of my children,  nor do I know who the heck he is.  But it sure looks like they had sleeping gas pumped into that side of the plane, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I can’t explain that upgrade.  I do hope that this very random superpower of mine isn’t affecting my luck in other areas of life, like – oh – my kids’ college educations.

“Well, your child is very well qualified, but we’ve decided not to admit them.  You used up all your life’s luck on those airline upgrades, you know.”

Aside from randomness, though, there are a few things you can do to help the upgrades along.

1)  POINTSPOINTSPOINTS!  If you are a member of that airlines’s point program and use it at all, you are ahead of anyone who is NOT a member of that airline’s point program.  This is the single largest number of upgrades I’ve received.  Getting pumped into First Class  on British Airways was beyond fabulous – I felt like the Queen, but she has much better hats than I do.  So I felt like the Queen sans hat.

2)  Dress the part.  Don’t bother traveling in a prom dress, it won’t get you anywhere.  Nor do you need to be all power suit and Tumi bag.  Just look like you belong in Business class or First.

You know I consider yoga pant to be the best travel invention ever – I was wearing yoga pants every single time I was upgraded.  I was also neatly dressed and put together.  Believe me, it helps.

3)  If at all possible, travel with a cute, well-behaved child.   My son once got us upgraded to a suite in a Chicago hotel.  I think it was the mohawk and the fact that he used the words please, thank you, and ma’am.  And he was three.

My daughter has gotten us numerous airline upgrades, generally because people are totally cuted out by her American Girl doll traveling companion and her very good manners.

My children also travel with their backpacks, which include a flag patch from every country they’ve visited thus far.  Those bags are often much admired, and are visible proof my kids know how the whole travel process works.  Again – it helps.

At this point, I can say that the upgrade-by-child has worked so well for us that we’re considering adopting another adorable child for travel purposes.  Mine are all hitting pre-teen and teen at this point, somewhere along the line the cute will totally wear off, and then where will we be?

There’s no absolute science for getting upgrades, and nothing is foolproof.  Even with my ridiculous upgrade luck, I still flew my last long haul without getting bumped out of cattle class and into the land of three-course-meals.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to tip the odds in our favor.

And remember – the most important part of jostling for an upgrade?

4)  BE NICE TO THE AIRLINE STAFF!!!   Smile, people.  Be polite.  Say thank you.  The phrase, “May I please…” is a very good way to start sentences that end with, “check a bag with you.”

If you want to know why this part of getting an upgrade is so important, spend an hour watching the check in desk staff sometime.  Now, air travel can be very taxing (monetarily and mentally), and the number of irritated and irate passengers airline staff have to deal with on a daily basis has got to be at least a little soul-sucking.

So be nice.  It may not get you an upgrade every time, but at least you can rest easy knowing the person behind the desk had one less jerk to deal with that day.