There's no better time time to splurge on a Business or First Class upgrade than on your honeymoon flight. But traveling in luxury doesn't have to mean shelling out a fortune or having elite status with the airline. Here are nine ways to score an upgraded seat with little to no cost.
The best way to score an upgrade without having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in cash is to use credit card points. Many cards reward you with points for every dollar you spend; once you accumulate enough points, you can transfer them to the airline frequent flier account of your choice and use them to "buy" an upgrade (note: generally, you'll still need to output a small account of cash for taxes). One of the best cards for travelers is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers a $200 annual travel credit, three times the points on travel, and a 100,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. If you have a lot of wedding bills to cover, you can easily hit the minimum, collect the points, pay off the card, and use your points to score an upgrade (or even pay for a full Business Class ticket) that'll have you traveling to your honeymoon in style.
Buy at Check-In
Airlines are becoming more keen on earning revenue from Business and First Class upgrades versus awarding them to frequent fliers. That's good news if your plan is to try to score an upgrade with cash. Many airlines will offer you the chance to purchase an upgrade at check-in, often at a price much lower than what you would pay originally. For the best chance, check a few days before your flight and then try to be among the first to check-in at the 24-hour mark.
Arrive Early and Check Late
If you're a frequent flier that's determined to get a comped upgrade, it's best to arrive on the early side so you can ask at check-in and at the gate. That way, if a last-minute upgrade is available, you'll have the first chance to snag it. If you're told there aren't any, you can also check late in the boarding process. If the agent has realized the flight is oversold, or if a Business Class passenger is a no-show, seats may become available. No matter the outcome, arriving early means more time to chill out in the airline lounge, which is always a great way to kick off a honeymoon! (Pro tip: If your frequent flier status doesn't get you in gratis, most airline lounges now sell day passes for about $50 per person.)
Pick the Right Flight
To some extent, choosing the right flight is pure luck. If you're on a very full flight, there's a chance that the gate agent will need to upgrade a few passengers from Economy to Business class in order to free up Economy seats for the additional passengers. Of course, most of the time, they're going to choose frequent fliers who hold status with the airline (that's great news if you hold status; if not, you likely won't be the lucky couple chosen). On very empty flights, free upgrades are virtually unheard of; however, your chances of an upgrade being available for purchase at a reduced cost are much higher, so if your plan is to pay with cash, aim for flights in off-season and weekends when there are fewer business travelers.
Volunteer Your Seat
If you're on an oversold flight and your schedule allows you to be bumped and put on a different flight, ask for an upgrade on the alternate flight. Sometimes gate agents are so desperate for a volunteer that they're willing to sweeten the deal for travelers that are willing to take a different flight. Just be sure to get details on the alternate flight and exactly what sort of compensation the airline is offering before you commit.
Ask for an Upgrade as Compensation
While hopefully this doesn't happen on your honeymoon, if your experience with the airline is a level 10 fail, there is a silver lining — the customer service agent may be authorized to offer an upgrade as compensation for the inconvenience. You won't get bumped up to Business Class for something like a slightly delayed flight, but if you have a strong enough customer service horror story, you might earn an upgrade. Status helps, and remember to be polite when making your complaint.
Bid for It
Several airlines, including Aer Lingus, Icelandair, Airberlin, Air New Zealand, KLM, Lufthansa, and Etihad offer passengers the chance to bid on an upgrade. Some airlines operate the auction directly while others use a site called Plusgrade to manage the process. Not all flights are eligible and there's generally a minimum bid. Most airlines send an email if your flight is open for bidding, prompting you select an amount you're willing to pay (on top of the original fare). If your bid is selected your card will be charged the amount you bid. The bidding amount is usually half to one-third of the cost of buying the upgrade outright.
Look for Not-Quite-Upgrades
Sure, nothing beats Business or First class, but the right seat in Economy (or Premium Economy) can be a comfortable second. When selecting your seat, consult a site like SeatGuru.com to get the scoop on the best seats, such as which ones have the most legroom. If you can score bulkhead seats in a row that's two across, you'll have a bit more legroom and a row to yourself. If the flight is only half full, you can also ask if there are any completely empty rows in the back. Having a whole four-across row to yourself on a long-haul flight means you can stretch out and sleep in near-horizontal position, which can be almost as good as an upgrade, at no extra cost.
Dress Nicely, Share Your Good News, and Hope for the Best
The odds of being randomly plucked from Economy and bumped up to Business Class are incredibly slim, but, if by chance the gate agent does need to bump multiple people to a higher class to accommodate an oversold flight, they might just opt to choose the well-dressed happy couple with some special news to celebrate!