Free Upgrades on Emirates Airline: NYC-DXB Business Class
So you have a long-haul flight coming up and you are just dreading those awfully uncomfortable, footrest-less seats. Well, look no further! I have compiled a list of my 5 top tried-and-tested tips for getting a free upgrade on luxury airlines such as Emirates Airlines. These tips won’t guarantee an upgrade, but hey – there is no harm in trying! And in my experience, they work. Not just for me, but for my mother and sister too.
PS the YouTube video version of this post is below, so check it out if you enjoy it (and watch some of my other travel tips while you’re at it).
Book busier routes
So, I know this one is a little out of your hands, but if you have the option, try book flights that are typically busier and more frequent. In the video, I talked about how you’re much more likely to get upgraded flying from NYC – Dubai (as I did) than if you were flying between two small towns or villages.
Airlines don’t upgrade you for no reason. They don’t do it to ‘be nice’ (as nice as they can sometimes be). They are businesses, and this would be an unprofitable practice. People get upgraded because airlines tend to sell more tickets than they have room for on the plane. Since flights cost so much to make (gas, water, electricity, food), airlines actually lose a lot of money when seats go empty. Therefore, they try to overbook so that if people miss their flights, the seats can still be filled.
If still too many people arrive, they will begin bumping up passengers from economy to business, and then business to first if need be. This is why you are more likely to get a free upgrade on more popular flights. They start with the loyalty rewards members (Skywards, for Emirates), and then move down the pecking order.
And this brings me to my next tip….
2. Be loyal.
Growing up in Dubai, we always flew Emirates because it was the ‘home airline’, and the most convenient for us to use. Remember, this was a time where there were not nearly as many people in Dubai as there are now (we didn’t even have a proper shopping mall until I was seven, in 2004). Because my whole family had joined the loyalty rewards program years ago, we started to rack up points every time we traveled.
Sometimes these tickets were cheaper than others, especially if you book during special sales — but sometimes they were not. Although some people like to book the cheapest flights always, I like to weigh up the difference in costs against the mileage I’d earn if I spent a little extra to fly Emirates. We would frequently get free flights with our Skywards mileage points, which more than made up for the little extra we sometimes had to pay. Plus, there really is no better airline than Emirates – especially as a vegan traveler! The vegan options onboard Emirates flights have come a long way in my 7 years as a vegan, and boy did it get good! Check out my Business Class Upgrade video & A380 tour here if you don’t believe me.
Back to the point…
The higher up you are in their rewards system, the more likely it is that those coveted free upgrade spots in Business Class will make its way onto your boarding pass. Plus, you get to skip the massive lines, have access to Emirates’ insaneeeeeeee lounges and make use of a ton of other benefits as well. Make sure you also check what partnerships the airline you are flying on has! Many airlines partner up and offer points for each others’ airlines. Don’t miss out on potential points by not checking these details.
However, even if you are not a rewards member, you can still increase your chances of getting upgraded by following the next three tips.
You’d be surprised at how much you can get by simply asking. Sometimes they will assign the free upgrades randomly – if no requests or special notes have been put through. However, when checking in your bags (I check in online and then just take my suitcase to the baggage drop), kindly ask the attendant if he or she happens to know if the flight is full. If it is, follow up in your sweetest voice by asking if there is any chance of getting upgraded. I first liked to have developed a rapport with them, maybe having dropped a (genuine) compliment or made light, humorous conversation. Don’t be fake – people can always tell. However, in my experience, it is never that difficult to find something you genuinely like, admire or appreciate about a person. Find that thing and let them know. It really does add light to peoples’ days!
You can ask them if they could make a note in case anyone will need to be upgraded. If you have been your wonderful, charming self, chances are you’ll have won you a teammate. At the very least, you made someone feel good and that’s a winning situation anyway.
4. Dress like you belong in Business Class:
So maybe this one sounds superficial – but it makes a lot of sense. Think about it, when an airline gives someone a free upgrade, they don’t want it to be obvious to the other paying passengers that you accrued their very-expensive benefits for free. You have to dress in a way that wouldn’t alarm any bells. For a girl, this can mean jeans, nice shoes, a nice top and some jewelry (plus neat hair and makeup); or a dress/skirt. Luckily, comfy can also look incredibly chic. Think minimalist organic cotton tops or loose, high waisted slacks. For guys, you don’t exactly need to wear a tux. A nice shirt and an overall put together look will do. For long flights, I generally wear super comfy sports leggings underneath and pack a hoodie in my backpack to change into later. Remember to be warm because planes can get pretty freezing!
5. Be a nice person
The most important tip of all! Not just for getting a free upgrade, but for life in general. If you are kind to people and treat them with dignity and respect, they will be more drawn to you. They will want to help you out and move you through your experience more smoothly. Personal gain shouldn’t be the reason you treat people kindly — not at all — but by being a genuinely lovely person who is willing to help people out and make them feel good about themselves, you are helping to create the kind of world you would want to exist in. After all, if everyone swept their own front lawns, we wouldn’t have such a mess.
So there you have it! How to get a free upgrade on a luxury airline.
I hope this was helpful to you! You can check out more of my travel pictures on Instagram: @soraya.beheshti
You can check out my YouTube travel VLOGS & tips playlist here.
If you want to see more of my daily videos/VLOGs from Jordan, you can find them on my YouTube channel, or follow me on instagram:
Food & recipes: @eating.for.earth
Vegans of the Middle East/North Africa facebook group.