Any chance of success in asking for a free upgrade? | Australian Frequent Flyer
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Any chance of success in asking for a free upgrade?

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eosphoros

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I am not asking because I am looking for one—I have never thought about asking for nor ever expected a free upgrade—but after speaking to the parents of a friend who don't fly often and reading Top 10 worst excuses for free upgrades, I am interested in other stories AFF members have heard.

His parents recently flew QF5 to meet us and after their arrival there was the obligatory discussion about the flight during which they complained that when they asked if they could score a free upgrade, were told, "no, sorry the flight is very full." Now, whether this was true or not is irrelevant, but what struck me was what came after. The mother said (to us; thankfully not to the check-in agent) "and I thought, 'yeah, bull****.'" I have this feeling that it isn't uncommon among those that don't fly often to have this mentality. But why is this the case and why is it even at all expected? I expect to get the class of service that I pay for. And if there were op-up opportunities available, I expect it to go to status pax over non-status pax.

Have any AFFers or anyone they know actually tried the tactic of simply asking or making an excuse to score a free upgrade? It would be interesting to know the statistics as it doesn't seem that uncommon which seems to suggest that it does actually work sometimes, otherwise, this mentality or pattern of behaviour would not be as common as it is.


On a totally unrelated side note: this couple are over 60 and, nothing against them personally, but if they were on my flight seated in an exit row, I would strenuously object. The husband wears a hearing aid, the wife not so mobile and neither of them would satisfy the exit row requirement of being able to lift and throw out an emergency door. They even commented on it themselves (after reading the requirements before paying for the seats) saying that if there actually was an emergency and they needed to open the door, everyone would be screwed. Surely QF should police this more?
 

tuapekastar

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I don't know how prevalent that attitude (expecting an upgrade just by asking for it) is, but there is no doubt, as evidenced by your story, that it is out there. A friend of mine requested one (more in hope than expectation) when boarding a BA plane. I heard him do it - I was in Y+ and he was in Y. Obviously the answer was a polite but firm no.

And I don't know why it is so - urban myth, I suspect, perpetuated by columns in newspaper travel sections like "how to improve your chances of an upgrade", and people who follow the listed 'steps' genuinely thinking they're in with a chance. Obviously, as we know, op-ups happen, but they are not driven by someone requesting an upgrade, but rather by overselling and other operational reasons.

I'm not saying an upgrade has never occurred when it was requested, but I imagine the driver of said upgrade was some other reason apart from just responding to a "can I have an upgrade" request, and the requester just got lucky with their timing. I have heard it said (cannot vouch for it) that the surest way to rule yourself out for any potential upgrade it to ask for one at check in.
 

Craigie

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Nov 9, 2009
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I've tried it once before even knowing about AFF. SYD-PER, my flight was cancelled and I was put on one leaving 4 hours later. I started chatting to a qantas girl who was behind a desk at an unused gate at T3, I politely asked what were the chances if I asked for an upgrade and she said she would do it for me! I was NB and on a red-e ticket. I think about it now and I'd imagine they had full loads and I asked early and in essence it was an op-up.

It does annoy me when people expect it though. Really annoys me.
 

QF WP

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You at least had a valid reason for the airline granting an op up, however a delay of 4 hours isn't a huge impost. She must have taken pity on you
 

flyingfan

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I did once inquire an upgrade on QF domestic when I was young and foolish and QC silver, the agent asked if I meant an on-departure upgrade with points that could be requested at the Qantas Club. Fortunately I stopped myself then.

Now that I'm not as young (if not less foolish) I never ask, I think it's poor form to ask for something for free that QF wants to charge >3x economy cost or a stash of points for - that's just me though, others will fall into the "if you don't ask you don't get" category.

I don't see others asking for a free upgrade but I suspect it is also the MEL/SYD/CBR/BNE flights I usually fly, where passengers are the business type with possibly the same view as mine, that QF isn't in the business of usually giving things away (don't know about DJ). I bet infrequent leisure travellers and probably international flyers are more likely to ask. Must annoy the heck out of agents, I recall another thread about the excuses that have been tried on.
 

Craigie

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Yea she must have, although there was a fair amount of flirting going on, well mostly from my end and maybe she did it to get rid of me :|

I am more confused about how she had the power to do it. It was 5ish years ago and I am pretty sure it wouldn't happen today
 

dfcatch

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Closest I've come to asking is when I've "enquired" at the F lounge or the AKL lounge as to whether the system had "bumped" me?

(after noticing strange things on EF and suspecting an Opup), or in the F lounge case - seeing the flight oversold, and having an earlier desk agent hinting that the flight was oversold and that I should "check back in a while in case your seat assignment has changed".


FWIW - the F lounge hope didn't eventuate.

The one ex-AKL did translate to an Opup later that day SYD-CNS.

Not quite the same as "asking for a free upgrade" though.
 

richie9x

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For some people there does seem to be an expectation that they can get a free upgrade quite easily. For the OPs described situation who knows what the real situation was maybe business was full. Perhaps the person they asked (not clear if it was a check in agent, gate agent or FA) should have said something like it is policy not to give upgrades or that head office only grant them in certain situations.

The trouble is the one time someone gets a free upgrade you hear about, they'll like tell their friends and relatives. You normally won't hear from the hundred or more other passengers on that flight who did not get an upgrade. This leads to people thinking they are much more common than they actually are.

Also it must happen that occasionally a person was going to get an upgrade anyway and by coincidence they also ask at the check in time or at the gate desk. So now they jump to the conclusion that they only got the upgrade because they asked for it. Then they tell others and the myth grows.

Honestly there is so much nonsense that you see on those lists about how to get free upgrades. I especially like the one that if you dress up you have a better chance. As the only times I have received free upgrades is when I have been dressed quite casually (jeans or shorts), I have never received one when wearing a suit and tie.
 

notzac

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I especially like the one that if you dress up you have a better chance. As the only times I have received free upgrades is when I have been dressed quite casually (jeans or shorts), I have never received one when wearing a suit and tie.
The op-up gods have smiled on me occasionally in the past 18 months, and I've never been dressed in a suit on those occasions either.

I've only ever asked about an upgrade within the context of me coughing up $$ or points for it - I think I'd be too embarrassed to ask for a freebie :!:
 

notzac

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Often op-ups are allocated before anyone at the airport even sees how you're dressed :)
I'm running about 50% finding out at check-in and 50% finding out after checking in (at the gate).
 

Alanslegal

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I did ask once at the gate late last year on a BA flight (SIN-SYD iirc). At the final gate scan, I asked if there was a last minute seat changes, op-up maybe?.... and was told "not today as the loads are light". Plane was easily probably around 40% full with each pax having a row to themselves.

So in the last 18 months with BA, 3 flights, 1 op up to J, 1 op up to Y+ and 1 op up to a row of Y :D
 

Lawlass

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The only one I ever got I didn't really ask for. I was on my way back from a week at a skydiving boogie in Bachelor NT. I was absolutely wrecked from the partying and was on the DRW-MEL redeye, and going straight to work.

I told this to the FA who'd mentioned I looked rather tired as I was boarding. She laughed and said she'd seen a lot of skydivers that week, but none that actually stayed to the last minute and had to go straight to work. Business class was empty and she said "Why don't you just sit in here and try and get some sleep." It was most appreciated.
 

dfcatch

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The only one I ever got I didn't really ask for. I was on my way back from a week at a skydiving boogie in Bachelor NT. I was absolutely wrecked from the partying and was on the DRW-MEL redeye, and going straight to work.

I told this to the FA who'd mentioned I looked rather tired as I was boarding. She laughed and said she'd seen a lot of skydivers that week, but none that actually stayed to the last minute and had to go straight to work. Business class was empty and she said "Why don't you just sit in here and try and get some sleep." It was most appreciated.
Why am I not surprised ;)
 

jukebox333

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Jan 27, 2011
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The upgrade gods have tapped me three times in I'd guess around 150 flights over 35 years, but I've never asked for it, always appreciated it, and felt myself lucky to have it happen...

The first two were QF op-ups PER-PHF and PHF-PER; I checked in very early for a flight up to Hedland, and the agent asked how I was, I replied (with what I now relliase must have been one hell of a "I really don't want to be here" look on my face) "I'd be better if I wasn't flying to Port Hedland..." to which, he replied "Well, sometimes there are compensations, sir..." and told be he'd upgraded me. It was a pissant sub-2hr flight, but at the time, it made my day.

Don't remember the story behind the one going down to Perth a year or so later, other than it was wasted on me as I was driving home from the airport, and wasn't able to make much use of the comp'ed red wine...

The third time was PVG-HKG on Dragonair, where my wife and I were op-up'd. We were early to check in, but looking back, I suspect this one may have been on the basis we were the only westerners on that flight...
 

FlyboyAl

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Nov 30, 2008
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About 8 years ago I was sent on a trip to Japan with about 19 others from my industry. The flight to Narita was in Y on a QF747 and was all ok.
When we checked in for the return trip, there were 3 of us who were QP so we hightailed it to the lounge as we had about 4 hours before departure.
The guy leading the group was in J, and 1 other guy was also J, the rest including me, were Y (after all they were paying!)
When we hit the lounge, I asked the Japanese lady on the desk about an upgrade and she said it was available for 50000 points or something like that, so I coughed a few times and said thanks, but I didn't have that many points (I was a bronze at the time).
We proceeded to knock back a few ales and the other 2 both knew i was booked in Y, so they were surprised when I was called to the desk, and was given a J upgrade ticket without any points cost!!!!!!!!!
I was blown away, and took great pleasure in waving to them as they sat down in their seats! The rest of the group just laughed about it.
I've had enough op ups in the last 4 years that I'm happy being given whatever they give me.

Yesterday, I booked ADL-MEL-LAX-SFO-LAX-MEL-ADL on QF in 2 weeks time in discount Y and I'm in exit row seats the WHOLE way, including on the 380 to/from LAX. I didn't pay any extra for them, and the booking form confirms all the seat numbers - does that qualify as an op up?
 

opusman

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Jun 27, 2006
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I'm very surprised the option of an points upgrade for an international flight was offered in the QP - this is generally not available.
 

blue_bug

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Mar 19, 2009
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I have been very lucky with the op-ups to Y+ in the last 24 mths and I'm just a QC silver.

6 return flights from SYD/MEL to HK, got 4 op-ups in the return legs.

However, I have notice the times I was op-up'd I would have had 40C/D or exit row (back when it was auto selected without paying)in the B744 or the most recent, 80K on the A380.
 
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