Emirates Woman’s definitive guide to blagging a first-class lifestyle.
It’s a form of slow torture, shuffling out of economy only to be ushered past the spacious luxury of business and first class with its large entertainment systems, reclining armchairs and empty champagne flutes. But let’s not create any false pretenses – bagging yourself a flight upgrade is tough. If you’re serious about that extra legroom, it’s time to pull out every tactic in the book.
• Be realistic. Your upgrade chances are already pretty illusive, so set your sights one step up. You’re not going to book an economy seat and spend your flight eating caviar in first class.
• Book full-price. If the flight is overbooked and the airline decides to bump up few passengers, those who paid full price for their seats are likely to be first in line.
• Stay loyal. A happy customer is a regular customer. If the airline can see that you’re a frequent flyer, they’ll want to retain your business. Pick an airline, join their loyalty scheme and start making those miles count.
• Act the part. Let’s be honest, if you arrive in tracksuit bottoms with your hair scraped back and a pillow under your arm, they aren’t going to want you in first class. Don your cashmere culottes and designer tote. And if you have a title, use it – don’t put those eight years at medical school to waste, Dr Jones!
• Travel alone. Despite the old “we’re on our honeymoon” chestnut, the best way to get an upgrade is actually by being single. Those lonely nights in front of the television with a ready-meal for one had to pay off sometime.
• Be friendly. Nobody’s going to give you an upgrade if you complain (unless your complaint is valid and you do so in a dignified manner). Making friends significantly increases your chance of rubbing shoulders with the high rollers.
• Be a celebrity. If all else fails, wear big glasses and ask a friend to run behind you carrying your bags to check-in. You can even moan about all those annoying paparazzi outside the airport.
The rooms that you see on the homepage of the hotel’s website are often out of reach – the so-called ‘Royal Suites’ that come with a queen-sized mattress, a pillow menu and a bathtub overlooking a famous landmark. Oh to unwind like an A-lister. With a little luck and a few tricks, you can.
• Shop around. Your upgrade mission starts the moment you begin your Google search. You can often get special prices and upgrades by booking with the hotel directly as they avoid third-party fees.
• Pick up the phone. It’s time to turn on the charm and tell them all about that special occasion you have planned. Remember to ask if they have any promotions.
• The email schmooze. Send management an email. If you have anything to offer them – like promotion on a popular blog/social media account – mention this tactfully.
• The email schmooze part two. If you’re feeling less brash then start your upgrade mission after booking. Email the general manager and concierge to say how much you’re looking forward to staying at their hotel. Mention that it’s for a birthday/anniversary and ask if they have any suggestions that could make it extra special.
• Check in late. Between 4pm and 6pm is prime upgrade time. The hotel will know if they’re overbooked and if they’re likely to get many more walk-ins. Approach the reception desk with a toothy smile and a romantic story. “What was that? It’s your anniversary and this is the first holiday you’ve had in HOW many years?”
• Rein in the attitude. Contrary to popular belief, kicking up a fuss gets you nowhere. Treat people with respect and they’re far more likely to pull strings for you.
• Be a familiar face. As they say, loyalty is rewarded. If you’re a familiar face in the hotel, or if you book with a hotel chain often, they’re much more likely to keep you sweet. Start joining those rewards schemes.
• Engage online. Tweet, Facebook and Instagram before, during and after your stay. Tag the hotel in posts. If you seem like the kind of person who will promote their brand to a large social circle, that upgrade won’t be too far away.
If you thought getting a flight or hotel upgrade was tough, then it’s time to stop reading. We’re not talking about popular restaurants here, we’re talking about some of the best restaurants in the world. Think Noma in Denmark, Next in the US, or El Celler de Can Roca in Spain. If you called these restaurants and asked for Saturday reservations they’d laugh at you. Yet hundreds of others seem to manage. What are they doing that we aren’t?
• Time it right. Haute restaurants usually have a specific date every month that they open their reservation line. You need to be on the ball and ready to commit yourself a month in advance. Your chances of actually getting through to places like Noma are slim – about 20,000 people call on reservation day – but you could be lucky.
• Stalk them. We don’t suggest that you sit outside the chef’s home wearing dark glasses, but a bit of social media stalking won’t go amiss. Lots of people cancel reservations last minute or don’t show. Twitter is often the first place to advertise a last-minute opening.
• Be flexible. It might be your friend/husband/mother’s birthday but if you’re inflexible on your date, your chances are even smaller.
• Do some legwork. People do cancel, so pick a location with a few high-end restaurants nearby and simply walk in and ask. It sounds intimidating, but you’d be surprised how lucky you can get.
• Keep numbers small. You may be the belle of your social circle, but now’s not the time for a popularity contest. Those who hustle as a pair, are much more likely to hustle successfully.
• Start a blog. This one takes a little forward planning and considerably more effort than the above tips, but it’ll work wonders. If you can grow an impressive following, restaurants will listen.
• Don’t dream too big. A personal blog isn’t going to secure Next’s best table, but if they have an opening and two people ask for it, who are they more likely to give it to? Joe Bloggs or Joe who blogs?
Image: Emirates Woman shoot for Tiffany, February 2013