What do you get when you combine writing about airline travel since 2008, with a few decades of being a sarcastic chap? Unsolicited Travel Advice from David (the Editor-in-Chief of this dog and pony show) — that’s what! There are way too many travel-related click-bait stories out there that give you boring and questionable information from “experts.” This series will be different — I will give you entertaining, possibly less questionable information, while not caring about any sort of clicks or bait. Let me set the mood. Imagine that you and I are hanging out (before all the COVID-19 stuff ), when we have just hit upon an interesting airline/travel topic (free first class upgrade) and I am fired up and ready to spew my thoughts and opinions. When I wrap up, I am hoping that you won’t just awkwardly stare at me, but instead continue the conversation in the comments. Let’s do this…
Now, that is what I am talking about — what I think about when I think “first class.” (this is on a Etihad A380)
HOW DO I GET A FREE FIRST CLASS UPGRADE?
This one is easy. You don’t. Conversation over.
“This is not what I was expecting,” you might be thinking to yourself. “I have heard about special tricks, some have to work, right?” Okay, okay, this wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t at least talk about some of my favorite “tricks” that travel “experts” have given over the years. Or at least make fun of some:
- Dress to Impress: I have seen this one for years. The idea is you dress to the nines, and the flight crew will be so impressed, that they will upgrade you for free. Right. Maybe (just maybe) this would have worked decades ago, but flying has changed. First class passengers wear everything from suits to PJs (and worse).
- Suck Up: There are a number of valid reasons to bring a little present for your flight crew (like if you have loud kids, or you plan to act like a kid), but some passengers will try to butter the flight crew up before asking for an upgrade. It is not very genuine and I am guessing that the success rate is pretty low.
- Be a Frequent Flier: If this is the first time you are hearing about being a frequent flier, you probably don’t deserve first class upgrades. #sorrynotsorry
- Hope Your Seat is Broken: Seriously, I saw this given as real advice. Because if it is broken, you might get sent to first class. Heck, why not go one step further and just break your seat? Then demand to be put in first class (this is me being sarcastic — do not do that). Of course, this could all backfire and you’d end up in a back middle seat, delayed to the next flight, or permanently banned from the airline.
- Lie: Just tell them it is your birthday (hope they don’t ask for your ID), your anniversary, or you are going on your honeymoon (make sure you have someone with you). Maybe they will upgrade you on your “special” day.
- Be Sneaky: Be one of the last to board or wait until the plane takes off and go find yourself an empty first class seat. Even if you ignore the fact that this is pretty much theft, the flight crew has a pretty good idea who is supposed to be in the premium seats and it is not you!
This classic first class is totally worth trying all the tricks in the book… it even has a sweet projector!
Those are all pretty worthless, but have no fear! I have 5 WAYS TO GET A FREE UPGRADE TO FIRST CLASS, that are 100%* legit. Keep reading to find out what they are (you won’t believe #4)…
My gate at FLL gave amazing views of my Alaska Airbus A321…. not!
“What the heck is a diagcon look of an Alaska Airlines A321 first class product?” Don’t worry, I will get to that.
I had no expectation that I was going to write this review. I recently flew down to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to hang out with Embraer and they were nice enough to put me in first class. When I was preparing for my flight home (I flew on Delta to FLL), I saw it was on an Alaska Airlines Airbus A321. Sweet. I knew that I would either be flying on one of Virgin America’s old birds with their first class product, or Alaska’s new product win/win. I did my thing and looked up the registration number, found the delivery date of the aircraft, and determined that I was going to be trying out the new product. Heck yea.
The good news and bad news is I just had a really long day, got very little sleep previously, and had just flown across the country the day before. That is bad since I wasn’t really prepared to do this review, but good since what better time to test out a product when you aren’t feeling 100%?
Pretty cool display of the new Alaska Airlines first class seat that I viewed during my previous media trip with them
Previously, I had the chance to fly down to SFO to preview Alaska Airlines’ new first class product on their Airbus A321s. I was only able to sit down in a first class seats for a short amount of time, and obviously media flights like that don’t give you a real experience of how the product compares. Know what does? A six-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Seattle (SEA), that’s what! And looky there, I just recently did flew that diagcon flight.
My 747-400 Awaiting Departure in Seattle – Photo: Colin Cook
In late 2016, my girlfriend Molly and I began planning a 2017 trip to Europe, with the goal of using points and miles to fly in a premium cabin. After considerable research, we ended up flying on a British Airways 747-400 to London, and on a Virgin Atlantic 787-9 home. This first post will review our British Airways first class experience, and the second will review the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product.
One of the items on my AvGeek bucket list has been to fly international first class. I’ve had some wonderful experiences flying international business class (Air Canada 767, Lufthansa 747-8, and British Airways 777-300ER), but I’ve never had the chance for the best of the best. That all changed with this trip. I was already excited to be flying in first class, but I also unlocked another AvGeek desire: I was able to make the coveted “left turn” upon boarding the aircraft. When I have flown in a premium cabin previously, I have always boarded from the front left door. Sure, sure, there are benefits to both, but if you’re a passionate flyer, you can probably understand my excitement.
The beautiful terminal at Singapore Changi Airport – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
I recently needed to travel between Singapore and Hong Kong while on vacation. There are a lot of options for airlines and equipment for that four-hour flight. I had done the opposite route on the way there in Cathay Pacific business class on an A330. Since I’d never had the opportunity to fly Singapore Airlines (SQ), despite the rave reviews, I decided to transfer points from my Chase account to my SQ KrisFlyer account to redeem for first class. I figured the flight, while not long-haul, was long enough to get to experience the airline.
This article will focus on the ground experience at the excellent Singapore Changi Airport, which many consider to be the best airport in the world. I can see why.
Entrance to the private check-in area
Inside the private First Class check-in area – Photos: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
Dedicated immigration line for First Class passengers
We arrived at the terminal via the MRT train. Given the chance again, I would have just caught a cab or an Uber, since it was nowhere as convenient and timely as, say, the Hong Kong airport express train. Also, when you arrive via car, you can be dropped off in the driveway of the private First Class check-in area. Instead, we had to wander through the terminal to find it – luckily my wife has become more patient with these types of adventures.
A6-APC landing as EY454 in Sydney, and I’m in 4A! – Photo: Bernie Proctor
The Boeing 777 just can’t compete with the Airbus A380 when it comes to luxury, but I still enjoyed my previous 777-200LR flight on Etihad. You can’t even put a shower on a commercially configured one! Good thing Etihad ordered 10 Airbus A380s and they have five in service right now. I wanted to try the most supreme of airline products currently out there — the Etihad First Class Apartment — and I did. One cannot experience something like this alone. I had my friend AirlineReporter Senior Correspondent Jacob Pfleger along for the ride.
Jacob would, of course, take a photo of his future seat at the Dubai Airshow, but he did too good a job not to use it. Mine was a lighter brown over in 4A – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
My general rule of thumb for first class flying is “if it’s overnight, and you are paying with currency, fly business class.” I looked at AUH-JFK and that was out. So too were some of Etihad’s London flights. Besides that, seven hours on an A380 is nothing. Eventually, I realized the best way to maximize my enjoyment of First Class flying was to do a paradoxically timed “daylight” flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. Which was good, because I needed to be in Sydney anyway.