No sure way to get upgrade when flying

Q and A

Q&a

May 21, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

I have heard that it is possible to upgrade your ticket for 5 percent of the ticket price when you arrive at the airport. Is there any truth in this?

Alas, I know of no such formula. There are basically two types of upgrade: those that are confirmed in the computer, and those that arise for operational reasons (such as an overbooked flight or change of planes). In general, the more you have paid for your ticket, the better chance you have for an upgrade.

An (almost) surefire way to get an upgrade is to be an elite-level frequent flier traveling on a full-fare ticket. It also helps to be a VIP or a CIP (commercially important person). A friendly travel agent can do a lot by helping you attain VIP classification. Try to make sure that your PNR (passenger name record) in the reservation carries a "pre-authorization to upgrade." Failing this, aim for the designation SFU (suitable for upgrade) or the magic "Do all possible to assist." This should put you at the top of the list for an upgrade at check-in - unless your coding is trumped by a mileage millionaire.

It can pay to target flights that are likely to be overbooked in economy where you can benefit from a "cabin roll" - the process of "rolling" people up to the next class to avoid bumping people. First in line for an upgrade will be those who paid full fare, according to their computer coding and pecking order in the frequent-flier program.

But airlines are not going to upgrade people just for the sake of it. If there are 100 seats in economy class and 80 people turn up, all 80 are going to sit in economy no matter what fare they have paid.

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