Jetradar's Travel Blog

How to Get a Free Upgrade to Business Class: Airline Staff Research Tells All

how to upgrade to business class for free

Getting a free upgrade to business class is a dream for many travelers. Usually, a passenger is only invited to upgrade if there are no more seats in economy class. However, we’ve carried out some research to see what passengers can do to get boosted to business class, and the results show that 78% of airline staff are ready to give you an upgrade in certain cases.

The worldwide survey involved 1,000 flight attendants, check-in counter employees, and other airline staff working with passengers from all over the world. It turned out that most of the respondents are willing to upgrade a traveler to business class, and only 22% would never do it.

“You risk nothing when you ask” say the participants of the survey. Those who have the best chances for an upgrade are holders of silver and gold airline loyalty cards; 71% of respondents would not refuse a request made by these travelers. It pays to be loyal to a certain airline, and many would be happy to reward that loyalty with an upgrade.

Politeness is also very useful in order to help you get to business class; 14% of airline employees would be glad to respond positively to a polite request. On the other hand, troublemakers also have a chance; 7% of upgrade cases involve passengers who have been disappointed with the carrier’s service and clearly stated it. That said, you never know what kind of flight attendant you’ll get, and many might not have much sympathy for you! So causing trouble to get an upgrade should be one of your last resorts.

We also found that 3% of respondents are willing to provide a business class seat for a traveler who isn’t feeling well, while passengers with children have a 1% chance of being upgraded. The remaining 4% of respondents cited other reasons.

So why are airline workers willing to bump people up to business class? Among the most popular motivations for upgrading, airline personnel mentioned their aim is to satisfy passenger requests, as well as long-term goals: “After trying out business class, the passenger would eventually stop flying in economy class”.

In addition, participants in the survey noted that they experience no difficulty in accommodating customers. Those who would be most likely refuse to upgrade the service class cite existing corporate restrictions among their reasons.

We can add that business class fares currently represent nearly 4% of all requests processed on JetRadar.