Tilly Bagshawe, the writer of a New York Times bestseller, flies quite frequently and often gets free upgrades to business class.
She only has to use two words to get bumped up to the next class on her flights. Some people try to dress well so that when they’re at check-in they can try and get some kind of free bonus, but this does not work anymore.
For Bagshawe it is always possible for her to win over of the staff of her favourite airline, Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic is a British airline with its head office in Crawley. The Virgin Group was founded by Sir Richard Branson, one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.
To move into first class Tilly uses the words ‘revenue management.’ This is the department that makes sure a flight is profitable for the company. She thus asks ‘Has revenue management released any first-class seats?’
Then a discussion can begin to find out how many unsold places there are. In this case, simply say ‘You have 20 unsold first class seats? Why not release one?’ More often than not the check-in agent will allow you to move into first class.
Other ways to increase your chances of getting an upgrade? Be early, and therefore be one of the first people to ask. There is also a better chance if you are traveling on your own. Traveling during busy times, when full flights will need to move people around can also help. If you don't mind the delay, you could also volunteer to give up your seat, provided that you can be upgraded for the next flight. Finally, check your seat, if it is broken you could get moved up.
Telling the flight attendants it's a special occasion such as a birthday or honeymoon doesn't hurt either, if you don't get upgraded you might get a free drink at least!