Why Don’t Airlines Offer Free Upgrades To Empty Seats?

Why Don’t Airlines Offer Free Upgrades To Empty Seats?

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Every so often I see a frequent flyer express frustration online about not receiving a free upgrade to an empty premium seat. Some airlines have published complimentary upgrade programs, but I’m referring to situations where an upgrade isn’t a perk of elite status.

For example, a Delta Medallion reader shares taking a transatlantic flight where half the business class seats were empty. While he recognizes that Delta’s policy is to only offer complimentary upgrades on select flights within North America, he’s confused by the business sense of this. Why not make your best customers feel appreciated for their loyalty, because what’s the real cost of doing so?

I thought that would be a fun topic to discuss…

Airlines have published upgrade procedures

Airline upgrade policies vary greatly around the globe. For example, in the United States it’s pretty standard for elite members to be eligible for complimentary space available upgrades on select routes. Meanwhile at most airlines in Asia and Europe, there’s no such thing as an unlimited complimentary upgrade program.

Obviously there are other ways that upgrades happen as well. Sometimes it’s possible to redeem miles or upgrade certificates for upgrades. Other times airlines will sell upgrades prior to or during check-in. Other times airlines will offer operational upgrades, which are in situations where economy might be oversold, while there are empty seats in business class.

However, almost across the board, airlines follow published procedures a lot more closely than in the past. Back in the day frontline airline employees had tons of discretion when it came to who they could upgrade, and under what circumstances. From upgrading friends and family, to upgrading people they might be flirting with, there were a lot of shenanigans and little accountability.

With technology having improved and most upgrades now being automated, frontline employees have very little discretion when it comes to upgrades. It’s common for airlines to audit upgrades, and an employee could be punished if they upgrade someone in a way that’s not in line with the carrier’s policies.

Airlines tend to have pretty strict upgrade policies

Upgrading people for free creates goodwill

I can appreciate the argument in favor of providing complimentary upgrades on more routes when there are empty seats. If a seat would otherwise go out empty, it’s a sunk cost at that point. The incremental cost of upgrading someone to a premium cabin is next to nothing, as the airline can no longer monetize that premium seat.

If you’re a frequent flyer and ever travel in long haul economy, surely you’ve boarded and hoped for an operational upgrade. And if you were to receive an upgrade like that, you’d no doubt have a very favorable feeling toward the airline at that point.

So I can appreciate why people say that more complimentary upgrades would create goodwill, as that’s almost certainly true.

Who wouldn’t feel good about a complimentary upgrade?!

Free upgrades are a slippery slope

Why don’t airlines provide free upgrades anymore? Simply put, because at some point it dilutes the product. Look at what has happened to domestic first class in the United States.

For as long as I can remember, airlines have been offering free space available upgrades to first class. Unfortunately the quality of first class within the United States also isn’t great, when you compare it to what you’ll find elsewhere in the world.

For years US airlines had a major issue — people viewed first class as an “upgrade class” of sorts, and that made it hard to justify paying for it when you could get it for free. This is a trend that airlines have reversed in recent years, as we’ve seen airlines get much better at monetizing premium cabins.

Airlines have started pricing first class more reasonably, and offering more pathways to upgrade beyond just complimentary space available upgrades. To go along with that, we’ve seen airlines hugely increase the percentage of first class seats that they sell. For example, in 2011, Delta only sold around 31% of its first class seats. Now that number is closer to 80%. That’s a pretty remarkable transformation.

While the goal is of course to maximize revenue, the long term way in which that’s being accomplished is by conditioning people to once again expect to pay for domestic first class, rather than expect an upgrade to it.

This same principle applies when it comes to long haul flights on US airlines (where complimentary upgrades generally aren’t offered), or on all flights on most other airlines (where complimentary upgrades just aren’t a thing).

If you think you’re going to be able to score a complimentary upgrade, why would you bother paying for the seat? Rather many of us would just strategically book the flights that we think give us the best odds of an upgrade.

In the past we’ve seen airlines sometimes have “surprise & delight” upgrade campaigns, where there was an unpublished policy of upgrading elites on long haul flights under certain circumstances, even without an operational need. While I think a gesture like that is fantastic, the problem is that at some point it also creates expectations.

If an airline upgrades you once, you’ll probably be disappointed if you take the same route again and circumstances are similar, yet you don’t get an upgrade.

Lastly, on some level providing complimentary upgrades probably doesn’t make those who paid a lot of money for those seats feel great. Admittedly there are always going to be some sort of policies in place for upgrades, but many take issue with others getting something for “free” when they spent a lot for it.

Complimentary upgrades are common in the United States

Bottom line

All airlines have official policies as to when they’ll upgrade loyalty program members. Unless an airline has a complimentary space available upgrade program in place, expect that you’ll only receive a free upgrade if it’s for operational reasons (like if economy is oversold).

Ultimately airlines don’t just upgrade loyal flyers unless it’s a published benefit, in order to avoid revenue dilution. If someone knows they can get an upgrade for free, they’re less likely to pay for it. Furthermore, knowing that something is just being given away to others likely won’t make those who paid cash feel great.

Where do you stand on airlines providing free upgrades to empty seats, aside from published policies? Should it happen more often?

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  1. Lou Guest

    Years ago I received a free upgrade to business on a flight to Geneva and even though I was among the first asked for meal preferences and was given the menu to peruse, the FA confessionally wispered to me I could only take veg or pasta “because it was a free upgrade” and “others who paid have first priority”

  2. Chad Raymond Guest

    The airlines create a miserable experience in economy. Then they monetize the better experience.

    All these corporate shills are why U.S. citizens get completely taken advantage of as consumers and employees. We've bought into corporate propaganda.

    And the privileged people with money are just on the lookout for themselves when they desire a not full business class section.

    I could put it to you this way. You only paid for one seat in business...

    The airlines create a miserable experience in economy. Then they monetize the better experience.

    All these corporate shills are why U.S. citizens get completely taken advantage of as consumers and employees. We've bought into corporate propaganda.

    And the privileged people with money are just on the lookout for themselves when they desire a not full business class section.

    I could put it to you this way. You only paid for one seat in business class. Maybe you should pay more if you don't have a neighbor.

  3. Dick Hall Guest

    They do it not only for good will reasons but also for C of G distribution. Of course pre-booked cargo can counter some of it to a certain extent.

  4. Zarine Guest

    I agree, complimentary upgrades should not be given. I always upgrade by paying extra, at check-in, whenever I’m tired and travelling long haul. I never expect to be upgraded complimentarily, no matter how loyal I am to the particular airline.

  5. MR Guest

    For an airline employee with over 35 years of service, it is a nice perk to get a business class seat on an international flight when available. It used to be a retired airline employee and dependent with over 25 years of service would have confirmed first class reservations to cities anywhere served, at least for the airline I was employed with. Those days are long gone, so an upgrade for current and retired employees...

    For an airline employee with over 35 years of service, it is a nice perk to get a business class seat on an international flight when available. It used to be a retired airline employee and dependent with over 25 years of service would have confirmed first class reservations to cities anywhere served, at least for the airline I was employed with. Those days are long gone, so an upgrade for current and retired employees is a very well received benefit for all the years of service. After all, that is why I became an airline employee in the first place, to travel the world.

  6. A.qureshi Guest

    As a senior age..I think is helpful for older people to travel .when choice is upgrad . there seat in long flight ✈️..other if airline charges little amount from them when flight boarding... cuz some older able to pay some not...but still it's make easy for senior age 65+.they have legs problems..ticket fare is too high after covid even everything's ...

    1. Tim G Guest

      Oman Air auction off the upgrade approx 1 week before the flight. Usually minimum 250$ for long distance ( 5 hours plus). I have bid the 250$ minimum and received the upgrade. If someone outbid you then you remain in Economy and you don't pay.... works for me!

  7. Faruque Ahmed Guest

    Airlines usually not upgrading on last minute vacant seats of business or first class as premium catering services can not be on board last moment. This is one operational reason.

  8. Alani Guest

    It would be simple to offer upgrade to frequent flyers for miles even if they are less than what is published requirement
    eg.
    If you need 50,000 Miles but you have 10,000 sell it to him for that. Last minute while checking so no extra baggage is allowed. May cut the lounge this should work well. Last auction the seat on the plane

  9. KWil Guest

    As a paying customer I pay for the seat I want. The cost between levels of economy, premium economy and business are high. Lower my tickets if someone rec'vs a free upgrade! Pay for what you want, for those of us who pay for our seat for many reasons a free upgrade is a slap in the face. Especially the free upgrade for so called influencers who influence no one who paid for their seating area.

  10. Dennis Nicoll Guest

    I have taken over 600 flights so far in my life, mainly to Europe, Asia & Australia and with BA or other Oneworld airlines, but I have never received any upgrade whatsoever. Looks like I suffer from bad luck.

    1. Faruque Ahmed Guest

      I was lucky even I am holding non-revenue economy class tickets. Me and my newly wed wife upgraded to first class in the year 1993 for transatlantic route on BA.

  11. Bibi Gordon Guest

    Excellent conversation. If you need an upgraded category you should purchase upgrade tickets .the comments about the game is a an excellent comment. Airline don’t owe us.

  12. Julie-anne Gilbert Guest

    I think it's a waste if business class nearly empty. Some money better than none. The auction process can work, people bid for paying to upgrade highest bidders win seats.

  13. Mikko Rantalainen Guest

    The way I see it, the less people in the first class cabin, the more value there is for the people in the first class. I would assume everybody thinks that it's higher class if you need to share the living space less.

    Upgrading people from economy will be zero extra benefit for the airline and reduce value of first class seat of those that already paid for it. I see no reason to upgrade...

    The way I see it, the less people in the first class cabin, the more value there is for the people in the first class. I would assume everybody thinks that it's higher class if you need to share the living space less.

    Upgrading people from economy will be zero extra benefit for the airline and reduce value of first class seat of those that already paid for it. I see no reason to upgrade anybody except for overbooking where you absolutely don't have any seats in the economy class and some passengers are still missing a seat.

    In that case, it might be sensible to offer first class seats to high milers in the economy class.

  14. YessCubanB Guest

    While I was never really the biggest fan of American Airlines, on my honeymoon we were upgraded to business class on the way, and first class coming back. It left a really good impression. Plus they're way better than united.

    I wish my regular airline, Delta, were a little more generous. At the same time I guess I should just be thankful for the quality service they've been giving all these years.

  15. Mark Burston Guest

    Most frequent flyers dont pay for their tickets. I do , and if I'm in business or first class I'd be bloody annoyed if a free seat next to me was taken by a freeloader, sorry, upgrade.

  16. Dr. Pretorius Guest

    Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during my military service, I routinely flew standby for 50% of the usual fare. In order to do so, I had to be in uniform. Occasionally, I was offered a free upgrade to first class as sort of a “thank you for your service.” Flying in those days wasn’t bad (except that smoking was allowed), even in coach. Today flying sucks, especially in economy.

  17. Julian Guest

    I can't afford anything above basic economy, and have never got a free upgrade (I have to do US to Europe flights often because my fiancé lives in Sweden, and immigration won't allow me to move there amd she won't move to a country without universal health care)....
    I did not know that was even a thing. I can tell you what I do get, the person in front of me reclining all the...

    I can't afford anything above basic economy, and have never got a free upgrade (I have to do US to Europe flights often because my fiancé lives in Sweden, and immigration won't allow me to move there amd she won't move to a country without universal health care)....
    I did not know that was even a thing. I can tell you what I do get, the person in front of me reclining all the way. They should outlaw reclining seats in economy. As a tall person, it's a nightmare....and before you call me a hypocrite, no, I do not recline...out of principle.

  18. Spencer Guest

    When I was in the military I used to get upgraded to empty first class seats all the time when flying in uniform.

  19. Susan Guest

    Ok, so I have spent $2,000 extra in sur tax for my business class seat for an international flight, booking it months in advance. How do you think I am going to feel if someone from the economy seats gets one for nothing? Just saying. What if it was you? I am not wealthy, just old.

  20. Stanley Morris Guest

    I've been reading this site for a number of years, and it always strikes me as ridiculous that people will pay for business class on a five hour flight, unless it is a physical necessity for health reasons. But to each his/her own.

  21. Matthew poole Guest

    In the 90s and early 2000s BA had a promotion on LHR to JFK BA had a promotion buy a full fair business ticket and get a free one way upgrade to concorde

    They had many complaints from concorde regulars that the jet had lost a sense of exclusively

  22. Adam Guest

    Other frustrating side to the diluting argument is why airlines just don't improve economy - so many innovative designs are published each year but economy needs to be less than ideal so business passengers can value their own seats

  23. Robert Guest

    COPA let's you bid for an upgrade. If available, the highest bidders get the upgrade.

  24. Tom Guest

    In the late eighties through to the late nineties I often flew around the world on different routes. I had frequent flyer miles and accumulated upgrades this why but also was often given upgrades. The best upgrade I ever got was after my monitor would not work and no one could get it to work. After filling out a complaint form and suggesting in the area where they asked what they could do to make...

    In the late eighties through to the late nineties I often flew around the world on different routes. I had frequent flyer miles and accumulated upgrades this why but also was often given upgrades. The best upgrade I ever got was after my monitor would not work and no one could get it to work. After filling out a complaint form and suggesting in the area where they asked what they could do to make it right that they put me on a first class on my next flights. I never dreamed they would but they did for my flights from New Zealand through to Switzerland. Now I always fly Singapore if they service the route I'm traveling.

  25. Amarjit Singh Guest

    They took away even reasonble discretion for the ground staff.I travelled Jfk dxb on Emirates and got an upgrade to business class through family miles even though head of the family did not travel with me.I transfered 118k miles to family miles account well before departure from Dxb, 7 business class seats were available, they could see the miles i transfered,only 70300 miles were needed out of the 272 miles available in family but the...

    They took away even reasonble discretion for the ground staff.I travelled Jfk dxb on Emirates and got an upgrade to business class through family miles even though head of the family did not travel with me.I transfered 118k miles to family miles account well before departure from Dxb, 7 business class seats were available, they could see the miles i transfered,only 70300 miles were needed out of the 272 miles available in family but the staff could not over rule the system to upgrade me.And to add to the insult they charged me $230 for a seat with leg space in the economy despite the flt supervisor was made aware of my ordeal.What a shame.Has left a very bad taste.The airline staff in general have not being courteous in recent times.The industry has lost its purpose.Very Unfortunate.

    1. Vinod Doddamani Guest

      This is generally so true they are shooting themselves in the foot by creating bad will. Let’s create a site for aggrieved PAX

  26. Tony Guest

    I used to be a top tear with an airliner that upgraded me almost every time I flew across Pacific (early 2010s). After this policy changed, and upgrades became rare, I moved to Asia and no longer flying between USA and Asia as often.
    It's their business, I don't care. I can fly for 2+- hrs anyway that's available and affordable. Beyond that, we have to talk.

  27. Stephen Guest

    As a frequent flyer I have had the great luck to be upgraded on Thai Airways a few times on long haul.
    It was wonderful.
    Do I expect it next time ?, of course not

  28. Bob Guest

    Oh no, don't want those rich a-holes to feel bad that someone got a free upgrade. What a bunch of materialistic twats! Eat the rich.

    1. Frank Guest

      If you want business class pay for it . What should you cheap people get a better seat .

    2. Vinod Doddamani Guest

      Agreed. Especially the entitled corporate types that got “upgraded” to executive levels undeservingly because they knew whose ass to kiss

    3. Stephen Guest

      Sprite let’s you bud for a upgrade. I did get upgraded once to first class the only reason was the plane we supposed to go on had trouble so they switched planes and the new one didn’t have a bulk head and my mom was disabled in a wheelchair

  29. Chris T Guest

    I'm a frequent Flyer with one o lf the Gulf carriers. I get upgraded when they're overbooked in the cabin class I'm ticketed in. I don't if there are empty seats in the cabin class I'm ticketed in. I fully understand if I don't get upgraded simply because First or Business is at less than 100%. I'm disappointed but I understand. They're running a business and they should be giving stuff away. Frequent flyers like...

    I'm a frequent Flyer with one o lf the Gulf carriers. I get upgraded when they're overbooked in the cabin class I'm ticketed in. I don't if there are empty seats in the cabin class I'm ticketed in. I fully understand if I don't get upgraded simply because First or Business is at less than 100%. I'm disappointed but I understand. They're running a business and they should be giving stuff away. Frequent flyers like me have loads of miles in our account - we can use them for upgrades if we really need them.

  30. Tuition + Intuition Guest

    They already do this. My wife gets upgraded FOR FREE by Delta because she flies them so often. Do your research..write real articles.

  31. Eiron Guest

    Spoken like folks whose companies pay for their travel. I put in between 130,000 and 150,000 domestic work miles every year out of my own pocket, and so with all of the major carriers posting record profits on the backs of eager travelers coming out of seclusion (the cost of jet fuel wore thin as a rationale a long time ago), creating some goodwill for their best customers seems like a sound business move... and is appreciated whole heartedly.

  32. Joe Guest

    I get the free upgrade everytime,well i work for an airline...

    1. Steve Fleck Guest

      I agree that things have changed and most things these days regarding flying are By-The-Book. I travel for business about 1 - 2 times a month and have for about 20 years. Almost always Economy. A while back I seem to recall some spontaneous Upgrades to Business Class. Historically maybe about 4 of these. On 2 occasions it was about moving bodies around in seats to seat various people together and moving me to Business...

      I agree that things have changed and most things these days regarding flying are By-The-Book. I travel for business about 1 - 2 times a month and have for about 20 years. Almost always Economy. A while back I seem to recall some spontaneous Upgrades to Business Class. Historically maybe about 4 of these. On 2 occasions it was about moving bodies around in seats to seat various people together and moving me to Business Class was part of the solution. Can't recall what the others were for. But for one of those I was enroute to a business meeting and wearing a suite and the gate agent said to me "you look like you should be in Business Class". However lately there has been NONE of this!

    2. VIB Guest

      You paid a heavy price for that upgrade. You have to work for the airline.

  33. John C Guest

    Why not offer to let others buy the upgrade once airborne? At some sort of discount. This way, it isn't "free". And after being in the air for an hour or two (not liking seat mates, reminded how crappy economy is, etc), folks will be ready to upgrade. And, the airline makes something where they would have gotten nothing. And while those upgrading would now be paying, I am certain that air snob would wonder...

    Why not offer to let others buy the upgrade once airborne? At some sort of discount. This way, it isn't "free". And after being in the air for an hour or two (not liking seat mates, reminded how crappy economy is, etc), folks will be ready to upgrade. And, the airline makes something where they would have gotten nothing. And while those upgrading would now be paying, I am certain that air snob would wonder why the rabble was permitted in their sacred temple. No pleasing everyone.
    But, the article was well done and pointed out many sides of this

    1. Linda Eubanks Guest

      Exactly, my husband and I offered to pay for upgraded seats when we saw they were 10 Delta One seats about to fly empty on our trip to Ireland... Delta gate agents promptly refused us. We thought it was a tremendous lost revenue opportunity.

    2. Colinski Guest

      I remember doing this very thing on Air Pacific (now Fiji Airways). They offered onboard upgrades for around CAD200 on NAN YVR.

  34. Blovefly Guest

    This article is spot on in the analysis. If you pursue a paid upgrade close to flight date you can get nominal fee like $500 per seat

    I did this to Budapest for three of us and it was worth it as we landed 8am well rested. International first service, food and drink quality and lie flat is far more valuable than typical domestic biz class. Why would they give it away free?

  35. Sivackshan Guest

    I had flown from Chennai to Toronto and layover in Frankfurt. I had booked Premium tickets. From Frankfurt to Toronto ended up with a free upgrade to business when i was scanning my boarding pass to board the flight. The surprise itself was great. Found it really nice. The thing with getting these upgrades, if you booked a special meal.. the meal doesn't get upgraded and you may not get the meal you wanted. The gesture of a free upgrade was really nice.

  36. Mike Guest

    Why not just have a random drawing for empty 1st class seats? If there absolutely must be money involved, maybe a raffle? That would be fun and a win for everyone!

    1. Stanley Morris Guest

      Excellent idea, and we should be able to bid electronically from our seats. I would give a love icon, but I'm not sure I have an account for this site.

  37. frrp Gold

    If I paid for a business class ticket and the cabin is half empty and then they decided to fill it up with people from economy cost they have status, Id probably not book business tickets with that airline again.

    1. FF Guest

      Exactly this. It's not "I'm better than you", it's simply "I paid a lot to sit in this cabin so you shouldn't be able to for no additional cost."

      I think it's a very reasonable viewpoint. The price difference b/w economy and business/first is often 2-5× the cost of an economy ticket. High-tier elites getting upgrades is fine too because they're paying through loyalty and/or accumulated points.

      I feel the same way about the...

      Exactly this. It's not "I'm better than you", it's simply "I paid a lot to sit in this cabin so you shouldn't be able to for no additional cost."

      I think it's a very reasonable viewpoint. The price difference b/w economy and business/first is often 2-5× the cost of an economy ticket. High-tier elites getting upgrades is fine too because they're paying through loyalty and/or accumulated points.

      I feel the same way about the extra legroom seats in economy. They cost more (either money or airline status), so if you didn't pay you shouldn't be able to plop down in empty ones.

  38. Rocketbrady Guest

    Why dont restaurants give away unused steaks in place of burgers? Why dont auto dealers give unsold luxury vehicles to economy car buyers? Why doesnt the egotistical millennial writer of this story give away all his free time to charity for the price of a cup of coffee? Clearly they have eliminated basic economics from essential college curriculum.

    1. Ben Guest

      Why don't you write a comment with insulting the author of this article?

    2. Carl S. Guest

      Ok, an unsold steak can be sold tomorrow, much like unsold luxury vehicles. An unsold seat on a flight today can't be sold tomorrow. Do you understand the difference between an apple and an orange?

      Didn't think so.

      And clearly you don't have a B.S. in Economics. . . .I do.

    3. SJ Guest

      your logic makes little sense. unused steak can be used tomorrow. unsold luxury car can be sold tomorrow. an empty first class seat... well hopefully you get the point.

  39. Oneye Guest

    I am wheelchair handicapped. BA canceled my direct international flight, and substituted a much longer 3 flight with 10 hour layover in London. I simply asked that they check my carry-on. They refused, even though the flight was not full. In fact another BA flight, being full, was offering free carry-on check-in. No more BA for me. I have a choice.

    1. OCTinPHL Gold

      Not sure what this has to do with upgrades?

    2. Rocketbrady Guest

      Random and unrelated, but thanks for coming.

  40. Michael A Guest

    “While I think a gesture like that is fantastic, the problem is that at some point it also creates expectations”

    Best Comment Ever

    Free upgrades on long haul ? Diluting the product long term effects , as such should be by a paid-only-method as they are an experience , which those FC customers have (already) paid for .

    For those wanting an experience pay the difference or bid . From time to time...

    “While I think a gesture like that is fantastic, the problem is that at some point it also creates expectations”

    Best Comment Ever

    Free upgrades on long haul ? Diluting the product long term effects , as such should be by a paid-only-method as they are an experience , which those FC customers have (already) paid for .

    For those wanting an experience pay the difference or bid . From time to time I have seen Delta offer discounted FC class Z tix , primarily when there is abundance of seats . These prices tend to be 1.000 or less for limited timeframes .

  41. Anthony from Doha Guest

    I always pay cash for my business class tickets and I do not want people getting a free ride when I am there. On 3 different Turkish Airlines flights, I caught an individual trying to sneak from Y class into J class after meal service (which tells me they are doing it tactically and not for the first time). I immediately went to look for the purser to get them booted out. I also loathe...

    I always pay cash for my business class tickets and I do not want people getting a free ride when I am there. On 3 different Turkish Airlines flights, I caught an individual trying to sneak from Y class into J class after meal service (which tells me they are doing it tactically and not for the first time). I immediately went to look for the purser to get them booted out. I also loathe cabin crew trying to sneak their friends/family into J. Once they tried to seat one next to me, which was supposed to be an empty seat. I told the FA I will report her to management through all channels (email complaint, social media) if she does that.

    If I am on board, no one’s sneaking into business class.

    1. Jc Guest

      Let em eat cake, eh? Nice

  42. Ian Guest

    I can certainly understand the goodwill part of the equation. My first and only upgrade to business was given to me on a BA flight from Bombay to London after my Bollywood-star-cousin's wedding in 2008. Considering that the outbound flight had run out of water halfway there (think smelly smelly bathrooms, dirty, sticky and yucky), this certainly changed my opinion about British Airways... and got me hooked on flying business.

    But the other side of...

    I can certainly understand the goodwill part of the equation. My first and only upgrade to business was given to me on a BA flight from Bombay to London after my Bollywood-star-cousin's wedding in 2008. Considering that the outbound flight had run out of water halfway there (think smelly smelly bathrooms, dirty, sticky and yucky), this certainly changed my opinion about British Airways... and got me hooked on flying business.

    But the other side of the equation is very understandable too - the more customers in biz, the less personable attention they will receive. And one expects a certain level of behavioural upbringing that sadly seems lacking in many people these days (I sound like my grandfather, help!).

    1. Ian Guest

      PS

      I am assured that banging the bridesmaid who was cabin chief on Air India longhaul had nothing to do with it....

  43. Peter Guest

    Singapore Airlines was sued by an asshat PPS member who was refused a supposedly compulsory upgrade. They immediately dropped the benefit. This is why we can't have nice things.

  44. David Guest

    “Free upgrades are a slippery slope”. Yup just remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There will be those who feel they got slighted, air their grievances on social media, and swear they will never fly that airline again.

  45. Spuwho Guest

    Remember that little carrier called Reno Air? Walk up first class upgrades for $45 at the gate if seats were available. Because for them filling all the seats was way more important than creating a false scarcity for "branding" purposes. It must have been working, just after AA bought them, the walk up upgrade was eliminated. Ridership declined, the routes cancelled. So that tells you there are ways to market seats above economy.

  46. jbar91 Guest

    As a side note as a United 1K I have found it very easy to get “free” upgrades using plus points internationally. Definitely something that makes United loyalty very attractive!

  47. DEE Guest

    There should be a points or $$$ auction is ipgraded seats remain empty...SOme xxtra $$$$ to the airline is better than nothing.

  48. Steven E Guest

    Most airlines have an upgrade policy for points or cash - Why would a high tier think that they should get this for free - Most have accumulated hundreds of thousands of “points” so use them

  49. Joel Guest

    Only gotten a free upgrade when I flew the old United HKG to SIN flight. I booked in economy (paid cash I believe, you could get this flight pretty inexpensively often) and I had United Gold at the time, and I was given a surprise upgrade to what I remember was the old United 2-3-2 business class on what had to be a 777 to be that wide. Business wasn't full so it was nice...

    Only gotten a free upgrade when I flew the old United HKG to SIN flight. I booked in economy (paid cash I believe, you could get this flight pretty inexpensively often) and I had United Gold at the time, and I was given a surprise upgrade to what I remember was the old United 2-3-2 business class on what had to be a 777 to be that wide. Business wasn't full so it was nice despite the 2-3-2. I am guessing they just looked for people at boarding with status then did a quick pleasant surprise. I've flown a ton, but with status maybe 10-20% max (and not top status) and above is my only upgrade, but I think it is pretty rare on international flights unless a few stars align.

    1. Joel Guest

      Oh and I forgot to mention the key point on UA HKG-SIN, it was oversold in economy of course.

  50. Alyssa Boyett Guest

    I can sit in some premium economy class seats on both domestic and international flights.

  51. iamhere Guest

    Great comments. Given the lack of quality of the product and service generally speaking first class in the US is not worth the price or the difference in price. I agree with your comments that fewer people would purchase it in hopes of scoring the upgrade.

    1. John C Guest

      Exactly. Flew to my son's wedding a few years ago. Only time ever booking first class. Honolulu to Orlando (thus the reason to upgrade). For 50% more, it was not worth it. Not only were the accomodations no better, the crew were still rude. Don't remember the airline. In contrast, just flew from HNL to BKK on KAL and what a difference. I didn't fly first class but I saw it. I wasn't going to...

      Exactly. Flew to my son's wedding a few years ago. Only time ever booking first class. Honolulu to Orlando (thus the reason to upgrade). For 50% more, it was not worth it. Not only were the accomodations no better, the crew were still rude. Don't remember the airline. In contrast, just flew from HNL to BKK on KAL and what a difference. I didn't fly first class but I saw it. I wasn't going to pay 6 times the ticket price for that luxury. Preferred to suffer and boy, did I.

  52. Dror Guest

    What's even more strange to me is airlines keeping seats open even if someone is willing to pay for them.
    I'm writing this from a Premium Economy seat on Cathay, HKG-TLV.
    I placed a bid to upgrade to Business, 1100$, which was rejected (I was able to upgrade on the way over, 900$). There are still available seats in Business.
    At the airport, they offered the upgrade for 2500$...

  53. JPT Guest

    If I pay a premium (either through payment or with my FF status benefits) for premium cabin, I do so because I am willing to spend more to enjoy the perks of the premium cabin. This also comes with the hope that it may not be full, which will normally grant me a better service.
    I will of course accept the fact that they are fully booked with paying passengers, if that's the case.

    If I pay a premium (either through payment or with my FF status benefits) for premium cabin, I do so because I am willing to spend more to enjoy the perks of the premium cabin. This also comes with the hope that it may not be full, which will normally grant me a better service.
    I will of course accept the fact that they are fully booked with paying passengers, if that's the case.
    If I do not want to make that investment, I take into account that I will not be in a premium cabin and will have to accept such fact. Now to upgrade passengers who pay far less to premium cabins just because it's a nice touch, is totally unfair to the ones paying more. Then why should passengers pay premiums for premium perks, when every other one can get it for free. A bit of a joke....

  54. Origami Guest

    I've never expected a comp upgrade on a flight. I used to work upscale hotel front desk and I am very aware of retaining value through scarcity; people constantly tried to get top suites for pennies by showing up at 11pm and telling me about sunk costs.

    That said, I'd love to just once receive a long-haul upgrade from the airline I have had 100K status with for 3 years. They've been very nice with...

    I've never expected a comp upgrade on a flight. I used to work upscale hotel front desk and I am very aware of retaining value through scarcity; people constantly tried to get top suites for pennies by showing up at 11pm and telling me about sunk costs.

    That said, I'd love to just once receive a long-haul upgrade from the airline I have had 100K status with for 3 years. They've been very nice with blocking seats and trying to move me to bulkheads (I hate bulkheads), but that ultra-rare J seat would be fantastic. But they are under no obligation to provide it, and it doesn't change my choice of airline if they don't.

  55. Hi Guest

    What i dont get is this. Im a top tier status of an airline and also sadly of an employee of the same airline. I had a confirmed last minute seat in the back and i knew that there would be empty seats in the front so since i go by closed mouths dont get fed, i asked if i can use my employment to get one. Was deiend‍♂️. So those empty seats went to...

    What i dont get is this. Im a top tier status of an airline and also sadly of an employee of the same airline. I had a confirmed last minute seat in the back and i knew that there would be empty seats in the front so since i go by closed mouths dont get fed, i asked if i can use my employment to get one. Was deiend‍♂️. So those empty seats went to employees with lower seniority or standby travelers who didnt quialify. Stby travelers always hope to get the front seat, i know, ive been around 8+ yrs. Its ok to break rules for those who didnt pay for the seat at all except for those who did and more loyal to pay. So new trick, and i wish there where more top tier status employees out there. Buy domestic, and stby for international flights for a better chance to get that lay down seat

    1. JD Guest

      I think it's ridiculous to put employees in upgraded seats period.

      Why wouldn't you move customers to better seats and put the crew in economy? If it's good.enough for your passengers it should be good enough for you as an employee as well.

      Absolutely ridiculous that this seems to be the policy at United right now.....

  56. FlyerDon New Member

    So if you go to a football game and one of the suites is empty do you think you should be allowed to sit in it? What if you have season seats to the NY Rangers games, but they are in the upper level, should you expect to be upgraded to blueline seats in the lower level if they’re unoccupied? If you want a better seat, buy one.

  57. Yj Guest

    Country of entitled people... Welcome to the US

  58. jfhscott Guest

    "first class within the United States also isn’t great"

    Wut?

    Domestic F surely is not an international product. But across the board, the hard product puts intra european "business" on LH, AF, BA, SK, etc,, to shame.

    1. Donna Diamond

      I couldn’t agree more.

    2. UA_GS1 Guest

      huh? It's not all about seating. Have you had food in domestic F lately? LH, BA and AF blow US domestic away. Service and aircraft cleanliness as well. Not even a close contest....

    3. Big AL Guest

      Anyone from America should never be upgraded because yall racist people.
      Why wasn't George Floyd picked up and put in first class instead of being killed?
      First and Business should be free for Black People, white people should default to econ regardless of what they pay.

      Americans are unequivocally racist and this post proves that. Shame on America, may you all reside in non upgrade economy for ever.

    4. JD Guest

      Wow. I think this is a sarcasm post lol....

      If not, you have some anger issues you should probably deal with.

    5. Guest Guest

      Maybe part of that problem is that US first is always first from entitled status passengers requiring upgrades on cheap tickets. And yes, space and seat IS all domestic business is. Intra-European business flights (TK exception) are a uncomfortable with same or 1-2' bigger pitch. Food and booze is not what everyone is after.

  59. DT New Member

    Al good compromise would be paid upgrades at check in or at the gate. Discounted from a regular business fare, but still monetizes the empty seat. If you’re willing to pay, say $500 for an upgrade on a transatlantic flight, you get a good deal (if you value that seat), and the airline makes some money they otherwise would have left on the table.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @DT

      But no one is willing to pay for it. That’s the point.

    2. YoFlyer Guest

      "But no one is willing to pay for it."

      Not true. I have purchased upgrades at a discount with United, both domestic and international, on occasion. I also recently purchased a business class Emirates seat for a much lower fee at the check in desk than I would have if I purchased outright. I know many others that also take advantage of these offers because their corp travel policies do not allow premium class bookings,...

      "But no one is willing to pay for it."

      Not true. I have purchased upgrades at a discount with United, both domestic and international, on occasion. I also recently purchased a business class Emirates seat for a much lower fee at the check in desk than I would have if I purchased outright. I know many others that also take advantage of these offers because their corp travel policies do not allow premium class bookings, but are willing to pay out of pocket for the benefit of a better seat.

    3. OCTinPHL Gold

      Not necessarily true.

      Just paid $200 to upgrade LAX-PHL on a 787. Well worth it. But ORD-LAX on a 737 - not so much. (I’ll probably get it free as an EXP.)

    4. Tard Guest

      NO. Because then noone would buy economy and calculate the business upgrade on the legs they want. Buy the class you want to fly.

  60. Anthony Joseph Guest

    OK, I understand why US carriers and most international carriers do NOT upgrade on long haul business class. I can understand that elite fliers would not purchase business class gambling that they would get upgrades (way back when, Northwest used to upgrade elits on long haul international flights on a regular basis).
    But, I dropped flying Delta after reaching Diamond status because they blocked any upgrade possibility (other than flight being oversold in economy)...

    OK, I understand why US carriers and most international carriers do NOT upgrade on long haul business class. I can understand that elite fliers would not purchase business class gambling that they would get upgrades (way back when, Northwest used to upgrade elits on long haul international flights on a regular basis).
    But, I dropped flying Delta after reaching Diamond status because they blocked any upgrade possibility (other than flight being oversold in economy) when travelling on an int'l flight originating in USA. They would upgrade passengers (mostly Japanese) in Tokyo on intra-Asia flights but not the ones originating in USA. It was the same from Asia countries returning to the USA via Japan.
    Therefore, it has been more than 8 years since I have flown international on a US carrier (except for a couple of occassions on award flight) since elite status on US carriers is absolute junk (EQMs, EQDs, Loyalty Points all garbage). The next travel downturn is coming (later this year) and lets see how elite loyalty holds out.

    1. Origami Guest

      Annoyingly, I have word of Korean air just bumping random passengers to J for long haul (from my clients). They were booked through their Korean corporation booking agency, but that doesn't seem to be a factor. If I heard of that as a Korean Air top elite I would blow my stack lol.

  61. Tim Guest

    Why don't airlines "auction" off premium seats when they are empty? Let customers bid on the premium products when they collect their boarding pass. When empty, those premium seats aren't earning any money for the airlines!

    1. Origami Guest

      This is already very common. But they won't sell "empty" seats below a certain price point to retain future value.

  62. D3kingg Guest

    American flyer here , If you really want to fly domestic first class just buy a ticket for $600-$800.

    If you’re looking to earn points and status buying a ticket and later accepting an upgrade offer for $200 that is an ancillary fee and you won’t get the additional mileage or points.

    1. OCTinPHL Gold

      True, but it is less of an issue with LP’s as the currency (if you use an AA credit card). Sure, you don’t get nearly as many, but $200 to upgrade a transcon is worth it if - especially when the o/w fare was only $250 in coach and was $750 in J.

  63. Gary Craig Guest

    "Unfortunately the quality of first class within the United States also isn’t great, when you compare it to what you’ll find elsewhere in the world."
    US domestic first, while not international first or even business, easily beats the run of the mill (albeit few) EU firsts I have flown in-where the seats are identical to coach but the middle seat is blocked, not giving me a wider seat or longer footroom. A meal is...

    "Unfortunately the quality of first class within the United States also isn’t great, when you compare it to what you’ll find elsewhere in the world."
    US domestic first, while not international first or even business, easily beats the run of the mill (albeit few) EU firsts I have flown in-where the seats are identical to coach but the middle seat is blocked, not giving me a wider seat or longer footroom. A meal is served, but I haven't been impressed that its better than the US 1st routinely.

  64. Dutch Guest

    You should only get what you pay for. If they upgrade you say thankyou and get on with your life.

  65. Steve Reilly Guest

    As a Delta Platinum with over 1,500K Delta miles, kindly allow me to remind some of you, that the programs the airlines are like the old coal company store. Your soul is owned by the airline, because they give you benefits to staying flying only on their airline. They don't upgrade you for any other reason, but to keep you flying only them. So, you earned that upgraded seat, by being owned by the company...

    As a Delta Platinum with over 1,500K Delta miles, kindly allow me to remind some of you, that the programs the airlines are like the old coal company store. Your soul is owned by the airline, because they give you benefits to staying flying only on their airline. They don't upgrade you for any other reason, but to keep you flying only them. So, you earned that upgraded seat, by being owned by the company store. Last year, I flew over 75K miles on Delta, Delta is not giving me anything, they are bribing to only fly Delta.

    1. Dempseyzdad Diamond

      Interestingly, DL just gave me Platinum Medallion status by matching my AA Platinum Pro status and I haven't flown a single mile on DL. That probably doesn't sit well with you, but it is possible to break free the chains of your airline...sometimes.

  66. HL Guest

    If you want to or need to fly in a premium seat buy one.

    The sense of entitlement amongst ‘some’ US travelers is obscene it’s me me me.

    A half empty cabin is always a joy. More so when there are no children as well.

  67. Victoria Guest

    No free lunch. You want it, you pay for it. All I want is to get there safely and maybe some water.

  68. Reynaldo Flores Guest

    " Upgrading people for free creates goodwill. " Only for the entitled people in economy. Certainly NOT for the legitimate, paying Business class passengers.

  69. DC Yukon Guest

    It’s not always a sunk cost to fly with empty seats in premium cabins on long haul international flights. Software tells vendors/catering how many premium meals, amenity kits, etc to load based on seats sold and non-rev advance check-ins. If a cabin is only estimated to be half full, it’s not going to be catered in the same way as a fully booked cabin. Goodwill may be squandered if someone’s upgraded to a higher cabin,...

    It’s not always a sunk cost to fly with empty seats in premium cabins on long haul international flights. Software tells vendors/catering how many premium meals, amenity kits, etc to load based on seats sold and non-rev advance check-ins. If a cabin is only estimated to be half full, it’s not going to be catered in the same way as a fully booked cabin. Goodwill may be squandered if someone’s upgraded to a higher cabin, but given meals, drinks and amenities (or no amenities) based on the original booking cabin. from

  70. John Guest

    Another issue is that it's a LOT easier for complaints to spread in the social media era, complete with proof. An anecdotal story about someone getting an upgrade they shouldn't have? Eh, there are lots of stories out there that range from completely true to completely false. But posting pictures or videos? That's a great way for outrage to spread. I fly "insert large number here" miles and pay "insert large number here" but I...

    Another issue is that it's a LOT easier for complaints to spread in the social media era, complete with proof. An anecdotal story about someone getting an upgrade they shouldn't have? Eh, there are lots of stories out there that range from completely true to completely false. But posting pictures or videos? That's a great way for outrage to spread. I fly "insert large number here" miles and pay "insert large number here" but I get stuck in economy while some random person gets to move forward?

  71. ACBD Guest

    Many uneducated comments here around airline employees sitting in First Class.

    Employees can only sit there once the upgrade list is filled. This does occur over giving it to an entitled customer who thinks they should get a an upgrade, a free blowjob and a foot massage with every ticket because their employer paid them to fly for work.

    Want (limited) employee benefits? Work for an airline.

  72. Icarus Guest

    If there are seats available airlines offer the possibility to upgrade when online check in opens at reduced rates or on departure at the airport. Some offer it at a fee ok board ( “cash” or miles ). This means that load factors are very high and there are very few, if any, available seats. It’s an incentive for people who may never otherwise have purchased a business class ticket to do so for €4-600 on a longhaul flight

  73. AvidTraveler Guest

    Crazy how employees (who are cost centers for the airlines to begin with) find themselves more worthy of empty seats in premium cabins than elite status holders who make tons of money for the airline. That ladies & gentlemen is the definition of entitlement. And I frequently hear airline employees badmouthing elites on forums as being entitled; if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is...

    1. Dempseyzdad Diamond

      University employees get discounted tuition for their families. Bank employees get better rates on their mortgage. Restaurant employees get top quality meals for free or discount. Movie theater workers get free movies (and popcorn!).

      Employees are the ones making money for the airlines, NOT "Elite status holders" who are paying for a service, and usually not out of their own pocket anyway.

    2. JD Guest

      This is a really wierd logic to apply.

      The airlines would have zero employees in a heartbeat if they could.

      Customers are the only one bringing cash to their table. And paying your salary and benefits, by the way.

      Employees should be able to fly free - in coach. Customers should be upgraded to the better seats.

      Or maybe they should make you pay to commute. Why should you live in one...

      This is a really wierd logic to apply.

      The airlines would have zero employees in a heartbeat if they could.

      Customers are the only one bringing cash to their table. And paying your salary and benefits, by the way.

      Employees should be able to fly free - in coach. Customers should be upgraded to the better seats.

      Or maybe they should make you pay to commute. Why should you live in one city and work in another? And why is it employers responsibility to make sure that you can get there?

  74. Tom Guest

    “Upgrading people for free creates goodwill”. Upgrading people occasionally creates a sense of goodwill from the surprise, always upgrading people instead creates a sense of entitlement which is the main issue with the US airline approach…

  75. STEFFL Member

    Why Don’t Airlines Offer Free Upgrades To Empty Seats?

    . . . WHY SHOULD THEY?
    . . . they do offer, BUT try to make you pay for them!
    The crazy US upgrade System is so outdated, you are just too used to it by now, most of the readers here!
    They often forget, it's a giveaway from the airlines.
    . . . but they still complain!

  76. Tj Guest

    Why don't they sell them at a reasonable price then? I'd be happy to pay a few hundred bucks if half the front cabin is empty. Instead, they usually try to ask for thousands. I have seen it at United where the upgrade price is more than the regular biz class ticket would have been.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      If UA is doing that, it's just their faulty IT systems proposing bad prices that won't clear the market.

      They should, like many airlines, just run an auction to do price discovery, instead of trying to do it by themselves.

    2. M. Casey Guest

      I have bought a FC ticket far in advance only to see the prices drop dramatically - lack of sales. I have several “future flight credits” because of this.

      I like the auction, but if no one is competing against - could I get the seat for $1.00?

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      The airlines I’ve encountered with auctions set a minimum floor.

  77. Pete Guest

    If you want a premium seat, buy a premium ticket. You can use cash, or bid for an upgrade with points, but you ARE NOT entitled to one just because it’s empty and you feel like you deserve it.

    Automatic domestic upgrades have bred this selfishness.

    As a pax we all enjoy a half-full business cabin, and I don’t understand why our experience should be diluted by jealous economy passengers who think they should be up the front.

  78. Andrew Guest

    Technically speaking it’s not really about diluting the product it’s about cannibalising full-fare revenue, plain and simple.

    Surprise and delight on an exceptionally random and rare basis makes great business sense though, and there’s a ton of different ways to do that.

    1. anon Guest

      if the prem cabin is half empty , clearly the "full-fare", at least for that flight, is too high.

    2. grichard Guest

      Maybe. It really depends on the shape of the demand curve. A full cabin is only by definition the best solution for the airline if they are perfectly able to price discriminate. Admittedly airlines are better at price distribution than most other businesses, but empty seats don't necessarily mean that they're doing it wrong.

      If Delta is really selling 80% of domestic F for money, that seems really good to me.

  79. Ivan X Guest

    I have found that if I am outfitted in smart travelwear, presenting myself as someone who is confident and savvy, affluent but not ostentatious, fashion-conscious but not flashy, that's a sure bet to my getting upgraded. I read about it in some magazine and it never fails.

    1. DenB Diamond

      It was misleading for you to say this without also mentioning the string you always tie around your fifth toe on your left foot. I know for a fact that you have never received an upgrade when you didn't have that string. You should have disclosed that.

    2. Ivan X Guest

      Look, T&L wasn’t gonna publish that part or they were gonna ruin it for everyone. Now it’s out. Thanks.

  80. Ron Parker Guest

    Once the door closes and you back away from the gate, that empty seat has lost any special value and should be given to a frequent flyer. Just that simple really, it can't be sold.

    1. Alex Guest

      But it is not fair. How is it ok for me to pay high fare to sit upfront and then you can simply pay economy and enjoy the privileges/perks I paid to receive. You want to fly first class then you pay for first class.

    2. OCTinPHL Gold

      Since when has airline pricing ever been “fair”? People often pay wildly different prices for the same seat.

    3. JD Guest

      It's fair because you had a guaranteed seat that no one would take away.

      The other customer took a chance and got lucky. World of difference.

    4. Nb Guest

      And the food? Will fall from the sky?

    5. grichard Guest

      Not really that simple. Airlines are worried that that policy will make people less likely to *buy* the seats on the next flight. Hey, they can expect a free upgrade once the door closes.

    6. Dempseyzdad Diamond

      So the full-fare price I paid for a seat in FC has lost all value when the door closes as well? I am a "frequent flyer" also and paid for my seat. Why exactly should I shrug it off if you get up there for free?

    7. JD Guest

      Because you could have taken a chance on her as well, with the downside being you might end up in economy.

      So you pay for ahead of time to guarantee you have the product you want.

  81. Joe Guest

    As someone who works for a (non U.S.-based) airline, I can concur with Ben's analysis that we don't want to give away for free what many people are willing to pay for. If we do give it away to some, then no one wants to pay.

    Conversely, that is the reason we give it to employees for free, and not a revenue passenger: it doesn't undermine an entire business model. (And honestly, as an...

    As someone who works for a (non U.S.-based) airline, I can concur with Ben's analysis that we don't want to give away for free what many people are willing to pay for. If we do give it away to some, then no one wants to pay.

    Conversely, that is the reason we give it to employees for free, and not a revenue passenger: it doesn't undermine an entire business model. (And honestly, as an employee, I can confirm that being upgraded doesn't happen as often as you'd think; it ONLY happens with one's own employer, and with many airlines it's only provided on a space available basis after working there for many years. And lot of the time, WE pay for the upgrade, too, based on the type of ticket we purchase - even if it's a marginal sum).

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      @Joe - maybe you are flying the wrong airlines at the wrong times then. In 20-ish years flying on my own travel benefits (and 40+ years if you count my flights on my dad's benefits before that), I've been upgraded flying interline non-revenue more often than not. And that goes for airlines as varied as Brussels Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates and South African Airways (plus many more).

    2. Joe Guest

      @ Sean - possibly flying the wrong airlines, indeed (my company is in OneWorld, which gives me a slightly higher onload priority on those carriers than with the rest of our agreements, so I tend to go there first).

      I am glad you're having better luck. :)

    3. Koopas Guest

      It's a function of your airline's ZED agreements with other carriers. Some of them allow you to list in J but most (if not all) on the long list of ZED partners are in Y only. My experience is more in line with Joe's.

      Airport staff will generally not deviate from the listed class (there are exceptions though).

  82. IrishAlan Member

    I feel like airlines are offering less affordable upgrades at check-in than pre-pandemic, even when seats are open. In 2019 I had both AA and AS give me domestic upgrades on 1000 mile flights for only $60.
    Last week I was flying BA from LHR-EWR and was offered a J upgrade for £529. I didn’t know the aircraft had the new club world suite which would have been an incentive. The issue for me...

    I feel like airlines are offering less affordable upgrades at check-in than pre-pandemic, even when seats are open. In 2019 I had both AA and AS give me domestic upgrades on 1000 mile flights for only $60.
    Last week I was flying BA from LHR-EWR and was offered a J upgrade for £529. I didn’t know the aircraft had the new club world suite which would have been an incentive. The issue for me with the value though was that I was already flying in paid premium economy at 2.5x the Y fare. If I had been in Y I would have found that to be a steal! But I feel like as an upgrade from premium Y it could have been £350 - £400 for a flight of that duration.

    1. Tom Guest

      That is quite a cheap upgrade to me, fares are expensive currently and I imagine most of the J cabin will have probably paid more than you did for PE plus £529 unless you were on a fully flex ticket (in which case you would have probably found £529 very cheap). What happened in 2019 on a domestic flight is completely irrelevant at this point, transatlantic airfares are have probably nearly doubled since then.

  83. Ignacio Guest

    Because airlines want people to pay for it. If they offer free upgrades, people will speculate on getting one and don't pay for first.

  84. Guest Guest

    Why should they upgrade them? Buy the class you want to fly, stop the US domestic 'first' entitlement. Hoping for a half empty business cabin is part of the reason to fly and book it.

    1. Guest Guest

      This type of answer is pretty short-sighted. As someone who flies AA every week for work, we are required to book Y. My domestic upgrade percentage now hovers above 90% (316k loyalty points and counting from 2022). I don't carry a feeling of entitlement. A comp. intl upgrade for a seat going out empty would engender goodwill and make a long schedule more comfortable.

      We don't all get to choose our cabins and for some...

      This type of answer is pretty short-sighted. As someone who flies AA every week for work, we are required to book Y. My domestic upgrade percentage now hovers above 90% (316k loyalty points and counting from 2022). I don't carry a feeling of entitlement. A comp. intl upgrade for a seat going out empty would engender goodwill and make a long schedule more comfortable.

      We don't all get to choose our cabins and for some of us, the schedule is grueling. Upgrades make flying more comfortable and productive. That's all. But if the seats are sold, so be it. We understand.

  85. DenB Diamond

    Most carriers are auctioning upgrades. Why not improve that process? Currently it's completely opaque: you make a bid and you get a Yes/No answer later, without knowing how the decision was made. How about opening the process up and promoting behaviour that profits the airline: credit card spend, high fare purchase, segment count to date, status, route choice, etc., Invite all to bid and disclose clearly what factors will give your bid strength. "You've booked...

    Most carriers are auctioning upgrades. Why not improve that process? Currently it's completely opaque: you make a bid and you get a Yes/No answer later, without knowing how the decision was made. How about opening the process up and promoting behaviour that profits the airline: credit card spend, high fare purchase, segment count to date, status, route choice, etc., Invite all to bid and disclose clearly what factors will give your bid strength. "You've booked your flight to ???! Now, apply for this card and if approved, we'll give you 200 Bid Dollars towards an upgrade bid!"

    1. Nb Guest

      How about you just buy business if you want?

  86. Sean M. Diamond

    Any US airline who attempted to upgrade elite passengers to international business class would have an employee revolt to deal with. It's bad enough that free upgrades are taking away domestic first class seats from employee travelers, but international premium seats would never be accepted by them.

    1. Roger Guest

      100% agree. I work for an airline and complimentary upgrades on trans-oceanic flights is a black hole that no one wants to touch because of employee relation implications. It is by far the best benefit of working for an airline, which employees recognize, as an industry, pays significantly less than others. They get away with this by offering one of the best fringe benefits of any company in any industry.

    2. JD Guest

      Wow. This is the most entitled post I've seen throughput ALL of these comments.

      Bravo, sir.

  87. Amt Guest

    A better question to ask would be, should the airline not upgrade late purchase or flexible economy class passengers whose tickets probably cost more than most of the rest of the business class cabin paid.

  88. Santastico Diamond

    It is basically impossible to find an empty first class seat on domestic flights. The is always someone with status to fill it up. On international business class is a different one. Seats will be filled with an employee or someone they know. I have seen several times when door closes someone moves from economy to business and you can see they are friends or someone related to the FAs. I barely see an empty seat on international business class on Delta.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @Santastico

      I’ve seen that a few times before up to the early 2000s. After TWA was liquidated by Carl Icahn shortly before American merged with the TWA leftovers ; non revs had to pay $40 to fly first class which would be deducted from their paychecks. This after their pensions were just stolen and many were facing layoffs. Towards the very end TWA gate agents and flight attendants would move the non revs forward once...

      @Santastico

      I’ve seen that a few times before up to the early 2000s. After TWA was liquidated by Carl Icahn shortly before American merged with the TWA leftovers ; non revs had to pay $40 to fly first class which would be deducted from their paychecks. This after their pensions were just stolen and many were facing layoffs. Towards the very end TWA gate agents and flight attendants would move the non revs forward once the doors closed. This was usually a hub to hub empty sector (JFK-STL) Why give the airline executives their money ? Good for them.

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Pete Guest

If you want a premium seat, buy a premium ticket. You can use cash, or bid for an upgrade with points, but you ARE NOT entitled to one just because it’s empty and you feel like you deserve it. Automatic domestic upgrades have bred this selfishness. As a pax we all enjoy a half-full business cabin, and I don’t understand why our experience should be diluted by jealous economy passengers who think they should be up the front.

6
FlyerDon New Member

So if you go to a football game and one of the suites is empty do you think you should be allowed to sit in it? What if you have season seats to the NY Rangers games, but they are in the upper level, should you expect to be upgraded to blueline seats in the lower level if they’re unoccupied? If you want a better seat, buy one.

3
Tom Guest

“Upgrading people for free creates goodwill”. Upgrading people occasionally creates a sense of goodwill from the surprise, always upgrading people instead creates a sense of entitlement which is the main issue with the US airline approach…

3
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