Emirates: The 1 Stop Guide To Bag Yourself a Free Upgrade!

I share with you the best tips to ensure a free upgrade on the worlds best airline.


Ok so most people want to be able to travel first or business class, but not everyone is willing to pay a premium for it. After all, first-class tickets cost more than double the coach seats.

In a series of videos with a “liberal dose of humor,” the airline is sharing different tips on how passengers can score a better seat on their next flight. They can try weird tricks, like serenading the ticket staff, pretending it’s their birthday, or they can simply upgrade their airline.

If you’re one of those who is always pining for a seat upgrade every time they fly, you might want to check out Emirates’ latest marketing campaign.

Emirates’ latest campaign features a series of characters who try to wrangle a seat upgrade at an unnamed airline’s check-in counter. Each clip ends with the ultimate tip for travelers: “Don’t upgrade your seat, upgrade your airline. Fly Emirates.”

“Seasoned with a liberal dose of humor, the scripts tap into a rich vein of anecdotes about what people might say or do when they ask for an upgrade – from name-dropping and flattery to other more creative endeavors,” the airline said in a statement.

The message the airline is trying to put across is that, if flyers book economy seats with Emirates, there’s no need for them to dream of an upgrade — if they don’t have a budget for pricier seats. Coach flyers don’t just get to enjoy a huge baggage allowance, they get gourmet meals and “world-class” in-flight entertainment.

“Emirates’ Economy Class is well known for being a true, full-service product. We offer excellent value for money, with world-class in-flight entertainment in every seat, full course gourmet meals, generous free baggage allowances, and great service, said Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president for corporate communications.

“In today’s environment where others are stripping amenities from their cabins and shrinking legroom, we believe travelers can relate to the desperate lengths that some people might go to, in order to get their seat upgraded. Our message is simple – why try so hard to upgrade your seat when you can fly Emirates instead?”

The airline’s latest campaign was created by Y&R London and directed by ‘Jones’ (AKA Michael Woodward and Maximilian Baron).

It will be shown around the world throughout 2018 in Emirates’ key markets, including the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus, Canada and the Pan Arab region.  Emirates will also release a selection of these vignettes on its own social media channels over the coming weeks, featuring a different “upgrade trick” each time.

Ways to get a seat upgrade

But if you really want to try out other airlines, here are some quick tips from Skyscanner:

1.Travel at quiet times

Try travelling on bank holidays or on days when the counters are not busy dealing with business flyers. When you travel on quiet days, there’s always a chance some seats in business class are not taken.

2. Spend lots of money

A couple got an upgrade after they spent $1,600 on baggage fees.

3. Be loyal to your airline

Airlines have their own loyalty programme. Make sure you sign up for it, especially if you’re a frequent flyer, because there are surely rewards waiting for loyal customers, and one of these could be a seat upgrade.

4. Be early for your flight

Some passengers who have checked in way earlier than usual were granted with a seat upgrade. It probably doesn’t hurt if you hit the airport early the next time you fly.

5. Be late for your flight

While early birds get rewarded, some flyers said they have managed to score an upgrade even when they reached the airport at the last minute and did not reserve any seat. This is quite a gamble and may not work every time, but if you’ve got plenty of time in your hands and nothing to lose, why not try this trick?

6.Check your emails

Sometimes, if an airline makes an offer to upgrade a seat, they contact their passenger via email on the day of departure. So, always keep an eye out for new messages in your inbox, even if your departure is only a couple of hours away.

7. Be nice

It pays to be kind to other people, or fellow passengers. One flyer recalled an instance where a fellow passenger took his seat because he wanted to sit next to his wife. The flyer didn’t make a big issue out of it and instead, he said he’s willing to exchange seats. A stewardess overheard the conversation and offered the kind flyer a vacant seat in business class instead.


Getting an upgrade is the holy grail of air travel.

Premium seats are shockingly unaffordable. If you fancy a week in New York next month, travelling in first class with Emirates Airines, for example, you’ll need to spend at least Dh42,000 or if you travel to Mumbai it will cost you minimum Dh5,000.

But then if you get an upgrade, there’s nothing better than that.

While it is less frequent now, being promoted to first or business class is still possible.

Here are few inside tricks on how to get upgraded as discussed in Quora and expert guidance from TripAdvisor and Skyscanner

Just ask

One frequent flyer recommends something as simple as “If you are upgrading passengers on this flight, I would like to be considered.” Inserting the word “please” won’t hurt you either.

It’s an obvious point but asking politely at the check-in desk is often enough.

Katherine Clark of TripAdvisor Flights: “If you don’t ask you don’t get and with more people checking in online there are less people asking the question, ‘Is the flight full?’ If they can’t give you a free upgrade, they might give you a heavily reduced one.

Dress well

Learn how to dress, what to say and when to fly to win an upgrade.

While experts agree that looking like a Hollywood film star doesn’t help as much as it used to, tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.

Leave the tracksuit or your Opera gown at home and dress as if you’ve just been browsing in the exec lounge.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at advises sticking to the ‘smart casual’ code and that ‘a cashmere shawl or linen jacket can make all the difference.’

Use your charm

Be nice and use your charm. Kindness pays, so pay it forward with interest and you could be in first class in the blink of a smile.

It goes without saying that the lucky few who have received an upgrade after requesting one were polite, and probably smartly dressed. They didn’t demand one.

Having gained a business class upgrade with her boyfriend to South Africa, Recruitment Assistant Fiona Morrison advises ‘looking good, wearing your Sunday best and smiling’.


Volunteer to give up your seat if the flight is oversold. Tell the agent that if they don’t need your seat but they do need somebody to upgrade, you’ll be happy to volunteer for that. Small chance, but worth a try.

If they end up needing your seat for someone else, ask whether you can be upgraded on the next flight.

If you have been inconvenienced by the airline, don’t hesitate to ask for an upgrade. Again, airlines don’t generally upgrade people for no reason, but if they have caused you a problem, that may be reason enough.

Travel at quiet times

Frequent flyer Clare McMonagle says you get a better chance of upgrading to business class by ‘booking a flight on bank holidays and at other times of the year when business users are less likely to fly as the seats tend not to be taken up’.

Be the victim

If you’ve got a faulty entertainment system, or a chair that won’t recline, you’ve got good reason to complain, particularly if you’re on a long-haul flight.

You may simply be moved to another economy class seat, but if none are free you could ask to be relocated.

It’s not unusual to be upgraded if your seat or seat belt is broken. Obviously this is not a green light to start causing willful damage, but it’s worth checking.

Be loyal

If you’re not an elite frequent flier but still have some miles banked, you may be able to use them for an upgrade.

Join a frequent flyer club and start earning miles. When airlines are oversold they will look to upgrade their most loyal passengers first.

Be careful, though, as many airlines now ask not just for miles but also a cash co-pay. One example: On flights to Europe, American Airlines charges 25,000 miles, plus $350, for a one-way upgrade from discounted economy to business class. For most domestic upgrades, American wants 15,000 miles plus $75.

Recent research by Expedia found that airlines often sort out their upgrades the day before the flight, looking for regular fliers, businessmen or women and celebrities, who may fly with them again if given an upgrade.

Discount deals

Keep an eye on your email and sign up to airline groups and schemes. They often send out messages alerting members of upgrade availability.

Ask your travel agent. My own travel agent has a relationship with certain airlines that let her book her customers into preferred seats that are not released to everyone (usually toward the front of the plane, in exit rows and the like).

She can also see upgrade availability fairly quickly, and many agents can add comments to your reservation that increase your chances of being chosen for an upgrade. Ask about these the next time you talk to your travel agent.

Fly solo on your birthday

Don’t fake the date, it’s on your passport. As you flash flight attendants your passport they may take pity on you and give you the present you so long for.

Sometimes it pays to leave friends and family behind. Katherine Clark advises travelling by yourself. ‘It’s much easier to upgrade a single passenger up to business class than a family of four.’

Arrive early or late

The early bird catches the worm. Skyscanner’s James Teideman has seen it pay to be prompt to check-in.

‘If passengers need to be moved between cabins for operational reasons, the airline will probably know this several hours before the flight. So if you’re among the first few passengers to check-in, you have a higher chance of being chosen.

Likewise, closer to the end of check-in, airlines might be faced with overbooking if more passengers have turned up than they were expecting.’

What do you think?

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