How to get an upgrade when you are flying

We all love the idea of getting something for nothing but the chances of getting a free flight upgrade these days are slimmer than Kate Middleton’s waist. Fluttering your eyelashes or flashing a Bond-like smile at check-in just won’t cut it. But it’s not impossible to work your way up from crushed cattle class to something a little cushier, especially if you know how to work the system.

Airlines always overbook so you may be asked at check-in if you’re willing to be bumped to another flight, and be offered cash for your trouble. If you accept the alternative flight, now is a good time to politely ask if you could possibly be upgraded as well, which sometimes works. If you don’t want to change flights however, ask if there’s any chance of an upgrade on the current flight instead.

This did the trick for Sue Jones, an office manager on her way back from vacation: “They offered me a different flight but I told them I just had to be on the one I’d booked to make a business meeting next day and they bumped me from economy to first class, which was brilliant!”

Sue’s case is rare however. I tried it once on my way to the Cannes Film Festival, having turned down the airline’s offer of around £300 compensation to fly next day. No luck. They managed to squeeze me onboard in my booked economy seat.

As with everything else, it’s often about who and not what you know and networking at 30,000 feet is no exception. If you have a family member or friend or even a friend of a friend who works for the airline, it can be worth its weight in gold so butter up those contacts.

You can also become ‘friends’ with your favourite airline. In fact, frequent flyer programmes are among your best chances of getting an upgrade, especially at check-in. Frequent flyer Richard Ellis, who’s had some success, said: “Show your frequent flyer card at check-in and politely ask if they are upgrading passengers that day. Offer to pay. Go to the business class queue. Explain that you’d like to get some work done and ask if there’s a waiting list you can go on. It helps if you are carrying a laptop.”

At the booking stage, you can often trade your reward points for a cabin upgrade – this feels like it’s free, even though it isn’t really.

Honeymooners, pregnant women, birthday celebrants are all more likely to get an upgrade if they are part of a frequent flyer programme. Having said that, some major airlines are notoriously stingy even with very loyal customers so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you commit to one airline.

Solo travellers stand the best chance of an upgrade, or couples willing to sit separately. Families with tons of kids, or groups, have less than a cat’s chance in hell.

Food flexibility also increases your chance of a move. Airline meal numbers are pretty rigid and special meal requests won’t travel with your upgrade, so fruitarians, vegans, and kosher diners are not as likely to get upgraded as omnivores. Just remember not to specify a special meal request when you book.

If you are going to get bumped up, looking the part doesn’t hurt. Bear in mind that no matter how big your Ray-Bans or your designer handbag; shorts and ripped jeans won’t wash unless you’re an internationally recognised celebrity.

Titles used to go some way towards getting an upgrade and if you’re a doctor, peer of the realm, judge or professor, it still doesn’t do any harm to list this when you book your ticket as airlines will often do a pre-flight trawl though the passenger list for suitable upgrade candidates, who would fit in with business or first-class passengers.

You won’t believed, this is airport lounges

Airport lounges offer much more than merely a chance to escape the crowds and indulge in free food and drink. These days, cinemas, spas, Jacuzzis and swimming pools ensure you can start your holiday in enviable style. Choose your pick from our top 5 guide to ultra-cool airport lounges.

London: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from London Heathrow and you will immediately be whisked off to a separate check-in and security, meaning more time to play in Virgin’s hedonistic flagship Clubhouse.

The comfortable leather Eames chairs scattered around the lounge are perfect to conduct some last-minute business from. However, this lounge mainly belongs to the big kids. In ‘The Den’, passengers can amuse themselves with the retro video games, pool table or multi-screen cinema. For a more relaxing waiting time, you can settle yourself on a daybed underneath a dramatic skylight in the hidden loft bar or pamper yourself in the lounge’s Jacuzzi, St Tropez tanning booth or Bumble and Bumble hair salon.

The United Arab Emirates is famed for its luxury, and Etihad’s Diamond First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi Airport doesn’t let it down. Leave the children to enjoy themselves under the supervision of a nanny in the nursery, complete with beanbags, books and toys, before you go off to explore.

Enjoy a complimentary facial or massage in the Six Senses spa or relax in the cigar lounge with a specially chosen cognac or armagnac. There is a fully stocked library available for any avid bookworms, and an à la carte restaurant offering five-star dining. There are also two beds available in the lounge if you just want to catch forty winks before your flight.

Ibiza partygoers are famous for their crazy morning-to-evening revelling, and now the party doesn’t have to end at the airport. Spanish concessionaires Áreas have teamed up with dance music mogul, David Guetta, to create the ‘F*** Me I’m Famous’ club lounge in Ibiza Airport.

A vivid, fuchsia-lit walkway tempts travellers into the modern lounge where the DJ booth and dancefloor take pride of place. Live music, food and lighting have all been specially choreographed to fit the ambience of the hour. At 6am, enjoy a light breakfast in the Ibizan dawn lighting whilst settling back to ambient, chill-out music. At night, get on the dancefloor to move to some electro-house whilst sipping on a cocktail.

Awesome Airports

Most airports feel like air passenger purgatory but visit any of these five architecturally cool airports – featuring everything from an indoor urban park to award-winning structures – and you won’t want to step on the plane.

Beyond passport control at Schiphol Airport lies a sprawling space for taking in nature’s sights and sounds – Airport Park. This indoor/outdoor lounge was designed to look like an urban park with ivy-covered furniture, tree logs masquerading as seating. Travellers can relax with organic treats from Park Café at one of the picnic tables on the outdoor terrace, listening to the sounds of animals and cyclists.  Airport Park isn’t only appealing to travellers’ tired eyes, but to the eco-friendly. LED lighting and fibre optics cables powered by natural light illuminate the park. Those with mobile phones that need recharging can put their travel-stiffened legs to use by going for a spin on a bicycle that produces energy.

The architecture in the international terminal of Beijing’s airport is a mix of ultra-modern and traditional Chinese elements. Designed by London firm, Foster + Partners (architects of London’s Gherkin and the German Reichstag parliament building), construction on the terminal was completed in four years – breakneck speed – just in time to welcome the international community to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Inside, travellers are sure to marvel at the massive, curved ceilings and a colourful Chinese pagoda. Unusually for a Foster-designed building, colour is playfully employed, with touches of red representing Chinese culture and traditions.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were going on a journey to outer space than an international flight when you arrive at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport. The railway station at Lyon’s airport looks as though it is about to set off into outer space with its futuristic design, as the structure splits off into two identical steel arches with a triangular peak resembling more of spaceship rather than a port for high-speed trains. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava the station was completed in 1994. Calatrava has won numerous awards and his designs projects include Valencia’s controversial City of Arts and Sciences, the sports complex designed for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and another amazing airport, Sondica, in Bilbao, Spain.

The whimsical design of Barajas Airport’s Terminal Four welcomes travellers to Spain’s vibrant capital. The exterior and interior ceilings are adorned with over 200,000sq m (2,100,000sq ft) of laminated bamboo strips to create a wave-like effect but most striking is a 1 km-long (0.6 miles) row of pillars along the terminal’s central pier, each one painted a slightly different shade to form an eye-popping rainbow of graduated colour. The London-based architectural firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, designed the space by deriving inspiration from previous work at London Heathrow and in 2006 it won the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture, the only airport to do so.

At the foot of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains lies the enormous Denver International Airportwhere unusual and sustainable features make up its incredible architecture. The striking Jeppesen Terminal building designed by Curtis Fentress Architects features a canopied roof, made out of Teflon coated in fibreglass, and is structured into triangular peaks to resemble the mountaintops, Native American tepees and western settlers’ wagons that have been integral to Denver’s geography and history. The Teflon roof can withstand heavy winds and snow, but is light enough to let in 10% of solar rays and reflect 90% of radiation. And for extra eco-friendly points, Denver also has the largest airport solar panel farm in the nation.

Great styles on your suitcases

Nothing can be more embarrassing on holiday than plucking a scruffy-looking suitcase off the airport carousel. Bag one of these stylish cabin suitcases however and you’ll be the envy of your fellow passengers.

Antler’s Liquis International Cabin Suitcase may be a bit of a mouthful to say, but it’s ideal for a short-haul holiday. Weighing in at only 2kg, this lightweight item of luggage is the perfect airplane carry-on. The Liquis International looks pretty eye-catching too; we love its sculpted, waterfall-inspired exterior. And if you wish to introduce a burst of colour to your life, the suitcase is available in several bright colours including red, silver, blue and purple.

This chic, mock crock wheel tote by Jasper Conran at Tripp is extremely smart, glamorous and practical. The bag features a main compartment with a laptop sleeve and padlock, plus a handy separate section for storing files. It also has a neat front pocket for easy organisation. With its distinctly modern look and feel, this will turn heads wherever you travel.

You’ll have no trouble spotting this bold, purple-coloured Alba suitcase from Carlton amid the ubiqitious black rollers at the airport. Not only is this one stand-out accessory, but its elegant, curved shell will undoubtedly draw admirers. Perfect for a quick getaway, the Alba’s top and side carry handles and wheels have been designed to handle all urban challenges. And once you arrive at your final destination, relish the joy of unpacking thanks to Alba’s nifty interior compartments, including an integrated waterproof pouch, to keep you organised and stress-free.

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