In January last year, on my job-related trip from Manila to San Francisco, Philippine Airlines decided to give me a belated “Christmas gift” – a free business class upgrade! I’ve heard from my colleagues before that due to overbooking at the economy section, they were lucky enough to get bumped up to business class. I don’t know if they did something or they were just plain lucky but here are some of the tips on how to get that free upgrade based on my experience!
1.) A higher status in a frequent flyer program helps! In my case I have an elite status at Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Miles. I was told that those who belong to a higher frequent flyer status has a higher chance of getting bumped up to the business class section. I highly suggest to go for that higher status of whichever frequent flier program you are enrolled. The perks are definitely better and your free upgrades can kick in anytime!
2.) Peak season vs. Off-peak season. Many of my colleagues got bumped up to business class during Christmas season (which is a peak season almost everywhere). But when I was upgraded, it was January which was an off-peak season of Manila-American West Coast routes. With at least a quarter of business class seats unoccupied, my chances of getting a free upgrade dramatically increased!
Want free upgrade? You’ll get a better chance of getting one if you will travel during peak season regardless of what is your frequent flyer status. But, for those with elite or equivalent status, you’ll get a good chance during off peak season as well!
3.) Be very nice to whoever is in the check-in. I always give this tip: the one manning the check-in counter has more powers than you can ever imagine. Want a roomier leg room? You can always smile, strike a small banter and request for that exit row. My experience with KLM, Korean Air and South African Airways shows that this technique works!
In my case with Philippine Airlines, I had a good conversation with the check-in lady on how her company is expanding, so-on and so-forth. Then, I delivered my “punch line”: “Are there any business class seats available?” She answered that she will mark my name and check for availability later. Three hours later, I was upgraded from seat 31K to 4E!!!!
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