10 Tips to Get a First Class Seat Without Breaking the Bank

Flying first class is a dream most people can’t afford to live out. Sure, first class means more legroom, nicer flight attendants, and gourmet food, but what good is any of that if you have to pay up to four or five times the price of a regular ticket? Economy tickets are expensive enough, and money doesn’t grow on trees!

Well, guess what? It is totally possible to fly first class without digging too far into your piggy bank (or at all). You just have to get a little creative, then let luck does the rest. Here are 10 ways to get a first-class seat without breaking the bank.

10 # .Know The Right Person

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Being friends with airline staff can get you a long way, in terms of getting upgraded to first class. Airline employees usually enjoy generous benefits from their airline. The most common perk is, of course, free (off the clock) miles. While most airlines have policies in place which prohibit them from transferring them to you, they can, however, upgrade you manually (if they have access to the system).

This would only be possible if there were extra first-class seats available, so don’t badger your connection if they can’t accommodate you.

9 # .Get A Loyalty Credit Card

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Frequent flier miles, which are free miles granted to regular fliers, are a great incentive to keep people with on airline. But in order to rack up a ton of miles, you have to fly a ton. What if you don’t travel often? Does this mean that you can’t benefit from free miles? No!

This is where loyalty credit cards, one of the best kept traveling secrets, can help you. With a loyalty card, you can get free miles just by spending money. The rates differ from company to company, but every purchase is equivalent to a set amount of miles. After you’ve racked up enough, you can redeem them for free flights. Some airlines even let you get cashback on your points!

8 # .Board An Over-Crowded Flight

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Most airlines overbook their planes. This might sound strange, but they actually do this to prevent having empty seats. Each flight, there are usually a few people who don’t show up, so they overbook, hoping to offset those missing passengers.

Sometimes, however, the opposite occurs. More people show up than there are seats available. If there are any first-class seats left, an employee might upgrade a few people to first class. If you’ve made a good impression on the flight attendants, you can volunteer to give up your seat, and wind up in first class.

7 # .Fly On Light Days

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You don’t always have to bank on the airline overbooking to increase your chances of flying first class. Sometimes, the opposite can also work in your favor. Empty seats on the flight increase the number of vacant seats in first class.

Once the plane takes off, the airline doesn’t really care who gets those empty seats. Throwing a bone or two to their customers, now and again, only increases goodwill with the airline. If this happens, you could be one of the passengers who end up getting upgraded.

6 # .Fly Alone

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If you’re trying to get a first-class upgrade, your best bet is flying alone. Dealing with plane anxiety might not be as fun if you have no one to share it with, but it’ll definitely help your plight.

If by chance, an airline employee decides to upgrade a few people during your flight, they probably will skip over you if you’re flying with three family members. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving their families in coach while they enjoy the good life in first class. But even if they didn’t mind, it’s a frowned upon practice, so flight attendants try to steer clear.

5 # .Look The Part

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Airlines want their first-class experience to be luxurious for its passengers. Otherwise, no one would pay the exorbitant prices. Part of the first-class experience hinges on the appearance of the passengers who frequent it.

Like it or not, presentation matters. Most first-class fliers are usually dressed for the occasion. They’re either in business suits or other first-class appropriate garbs. You will rarely see anyone in ratty sweat pants or pajamas.

If you’re hoping to get upgraded, you need to make sure you’re putting your best (fashion) foot forward.

4 # .Use Frequent Flyer Miles

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Even though frequent flier miles might not be quite as alluring as travel reward cards, they’re still a good way to experience first class on a budget. After you’ve racked up a certain amount of points, you can redeem them for free upgrades to first class!

This option is only really viable for people who spend a good chunk of their lives on planes. If that’s you, make sure you’re making the most of any benefits you might have coming your way.

3 # .Have Your Company Pay The Tab

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If you travel frequently for your job, then you might have an arrangement in place to have your employer reimburse you for your travel costs. Or, your flights might be booked directly through the company’s credit cards. Either way, you’re flying on someone else’s dime.

While these comped flights don’t usually include first class, some companies do make exceptions. For example, some companies might upgrade your flight if you’re taking an international trip. Or, if the trip is above a set amount of hours. It varies from company to company, so you should check things out before you plan your trip.

2 # .Fly On Your Birthday Or Anniversary

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Airlines might be in the business of squeezing every possible dime out of its passengers, but not even they are immune to birthdays and anniversaries. Just like how you might be able to score a free meal from a restaurant on your birthday, an airline might update your ticket to first class if you’re flying on your big day!

This is contingent on a seat being available, but sometimes, you might find yourself in a lucky situation. Before you ask, no you can’t lie. Your birthday is already in the system, so you’ll have to wait until your actual birthday.

1 # .Sit Next To A Jerk

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You’ve heard the tons of stories about people who encountered a crazy jerk on the plane, then ended up in first class. While no one would knowingly sit next to someone who made them feel uncomfortable, being publicly offended can end up working in your favor.

Since bad publicity can hurt an airline’s reputation, they will usually do everything (within reason) that they can to accommodate someone who’s been embarrassed by a bad apple. Sometimes, this might mean offering the passenger a free meal or travel voucher, but sometimes, it means upgrading them to first class!

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