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Flight Attendant Seat Upgrade: Can you really sweet-talk yourself into one?

Flight Attendant reveals insider secrets to seat upgrades

Flight attendants have always been faced with the inevitable repeated attempts to a seat upgrade by some passengers. It’s never-ending.

As a flight attendant starting a long-haul shift, standing at the boarding-door is always entertaining.  This is when the crew gets a vibe for who we will spend the next 12 hours. The observation applies to different categories of flyers, whether it’s business travelers with laptops underarm, people already pajama-prepped, or holiday revelers (mistakenly) expecting an all-you-can-drink bar. 

Many airline passengers have become frustrated with how the seats have shrunk in size. Legroom has also decreased. Decreased airline inflight service-levels and security lines have added to the frustrations. Here from a Continental Airlines TV-commercial from 1974. Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines in 2012. YouTube.

(Story updated July 29, 2020).

Passenger seat upgrade attempts, its routine for flight attendants

But whatever the crowd, route or time of day, crew welcoming passengers aboard will inevitably be asked, in a not-really-joking manner.

‘did you say to the left?’

Having heard this question a few hundred times over the years, I’ve run out of witty replies. I usually just give a sympathetic…

‘sorry, not today.’ 

Flight attendant crew seat upgrade for a flight.
Flight Attendants are always sweet-talked for an upgrade to that coveted Business or First Class seat. Photo: CaptainJetson.com.

Naturally, everyone wants to be upgraded when flying. We can all identify with that spectacular moment when the flight attendant crouches down beside you and says the magical words ‘sir/madam, you’ve had a seat change, follow me to the front’.

But can you really sweet-talk crew into giving away those super-spacious seats or suites, with proper cutlery and china dishes?  Well, as much as I believe the adage that you don’t get if you don’t ask, truthfully, and apologies for dashing everyone’s hopes, not really. 

There are so many reasons why passengers need to spread out in luxury, from sore head/leg/back, tiredness, extra-tiredness (what traveler isn’t?), claustrophobia, human-phobia, and any other phobia that could justify a first-class seat. 

Flight Attendant seat upgrade authority

But as believable (or not) as these requests are, the crew often don’t have authority to upgrade passengers as it’s up to ground staff who have various sales and revenue targets.  Also, first or business cabins sell first, so no matter how convincingly passengers present their case, there may simply be no availability. 

Can you talk your Flight Attendant crew into a seat upgrade?
At the end of a 10-hour long flight from Europe, the seat doesn’t matter anymore. You just want to get on the ground and walk on out of that airplane. Here on approach to Los Angeles (LAX). Photo: CaptainJetson.com.

Treat your flight attendants with respect; a personal tale

Once a passenger demanded an upgrade because the gentleman next to her was ‘smothering her’.  I proceeded to the lady’s seat. Although she undoubtedly enjoyed hyperbole, the gentleman was of well-built stature. Despite his endeavors, he was struggling to stay within the confines of his seat. 

As the lady continued her furious demands, refusing to sit down, we solved the problem by upgrading the (exceptionally grateful) man. 

It’s not always passengers who complain loudest who get upgraded. Had the lady been friendlier towards her crew, things might have swung her way

The best approach to a seat upgrade

Realistically, the best chance of moving forward is by joining the airline loyalty programs. Top-flyers will always be upgraded first whenever there are seating issues. 

A myth debunked

I recently read an article entitled “How to bag an upgrade”. The article suggested displaying top-flyer tags on your cabin-bag, whether in the program or not.

This is simply untrue. The crew has passenger lists and would select top-flyers from this rather than glimpses of bag-tags. 

Ask the check-in staff for a possible seat upgrade too

So, if you really want to avoid contorting your arms like a seal pup’s flippers while eating your in-flight meal, then always ask the check-in staff.

These guys know availability and are often given incentives to sell upgrades, and most importantly at reduced prices. 

Keep it coming; we love “slick” passengers!

But please, don’t stop asking the crew because we love all the wonderfully inventive reasons that passengers believe warrant an upgrade.

Happy flying everyone.

Featured Image: Canva.

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