Upgrading to first class is on everyone’s wish list at the gate but for most of us it rarely happens. If you are a frequent flyer and have achieved an elite status with an airline this gives you a better shot even if you are towards the bottom of the upgrade list and have relatively low miles.
For example, last year when I reached silver medallion with Delta and had just over 25,000 miles which really isn’t much since so many people reach that level on Delta. Many flyers on every flight are Gold (50k), Platinum (75k), or even Diamond (125k) Medallion Members. When a silver medallion member takes a look at the upgrade list it can be pretty discouraging being the 25th of 27 names on the list.
I have managed numerous upgrades to first class without any work on my end but this all depends on your particular flight, the destination, and the time of year. There are a lot of factors that go into upgrades and it takes some luck. However, I really hate when I board the plane and I see first class seats empty and remain empty the whole flight. At least put someone in those seats who is a loyal flyer and it doesn’t have to be me.
How to Upgrade to First Class
Delta’s policy states that once you board use lose all rights to upgrades. This means as soon as you get on the plane you are not getting that open seat up front.
The best way to handle this is to not board early and actually wait until everyone has checked in but only if there are still seats available in first. All you need to do it ask the gate attendant if first has checked in full yet. If she says no keep waiting. This way many people in front of you on the upgrade list are all losing their upgrade rights by impatiently boarding the plane. All you need to do is be patient. Most passengers do not know they can do this or simply will not wait anyway.
When it appears boarding is complete the gate attendant will then be able to release that seat in first class (assuming it is still empty). Simply ask them about it again and you might get that upgrade after all. Most agents will be happy to work with a polite passenger. Just don’t act entitled or demand anything. You are not special because you are “elite” and they have heard it all before.
There is no guaranteed free upgrade method but this at least gives you a shot especially if you are a very low on the rewards list. It has worked for flyers in the past and could work for you and it all it takes is some patience.
I would note that if you have large carry-ons this will hurt your chances of finding storage for it so using this method risks having to check plane-side. It all depends how much that extra space is worth it to you.
Photo: BrentDPayne via Flickr