My first ever experience of an upgrade was when I flew from Frankfurt to Seoul, Korea, with my wife (who is Italian). When we reached the departure gate and handed out boarding passes to the gate agent, she scanned the cards and the next thing we know an alarm went off on the machine. Not sure what the issue was and feeling slightly panicked, my wife and I were extremely happy to hear that we had been upgraded to first class. This was our first experience of being upgraded and the service and experience was outstanding. What we immediately became aware of was that a few other Italians were also in first class and on further talking with the Italian consulate in Seoul a few months later, we realised that relatively few Italians visit Korea unless for business reasons. This quite possibly was the reason why we were upgraded i.e. because of the Italian connection (and not because I am English or because we were particularly well dressed). The route and seat availability on the plane played a significant role in us our getting this upgrade I believe also, in that there were plenty of seats on this route when we flew.
First class on Lufthansa in case you are curious was outstanding and the main things were:
My wife actually hates flying and yet she enjoyed every minute of the flight between Frankfurt and Seoul so than you Lufthansa! If you work for Lufthansa, I would love to try this again with an upgrade in Europe!
There are many ways to get upgraded and why airlines choose one person over another and in many respects it is about profiling their customers. Airlines do sometimes like to tempt and tease passengers by letting them experience the first and club class services and the experience is one you cannot help but want to repeat as a flier. There really is a great difference between first class and economy class and this is an experience you will certainly want to repeat once you have experienced it once.
Getting an upgrade from economy to first class is not as difficult as you might think it is, if you know how to go about it. The first step is to be polite to the airline personnel. A very professional attitude (especially as a solo traveller because solo fliers have a better chance of an upgrade) will give you a much greater opportunity because the airline cannot afford to take any chance with the people they send into first class. What I mean by this is that you will need to be someone who looks and can act the part to fit in with those fliers already paying a few thousands pounds or dollars for their seats. It pays to be well dressed if your ultimate goal is an upgrade because someone who wears a suit and a tie will considered aesthetically for the nature of this higher class service.
However, the most important factor that can take you from coach to first class is your relationship with the airline carrier. Try to use one airline as much as possible and build brand loyalty. Participate in their surveys and keep your profile updated. This way, when you ask for an upgrade and mention your frequent flier number, they know that they are dealing with a valued customer. If you fly often and are a regular customer for the airline then you do stand a much greater chance of getting the chance to turn left when getting on the plane rather than turning right. Loyalty does work with airlines and in this time of computerisation, the airlines will have a good idea of your historical data and this does come into play.
Ideally, the point is to get your upgrade for free and not spend your flier miles to get it. To do this one of the easiest ways is to ask. You will need to have a decent reason and you will have to have the bravery to ask and this option is one many people do try. In this situation, your reason for getting an upgrade is the most important. Telling your gating agent that it is a special occasion such as your birthday, or mentioning that a competitor airline has made you late and that you are now switching carriers may also get you that upgrade. Naturally, your story will have to carry some water, so remember to use a good one as a fake birthday date can be easily checked.
If you have booked with a reputed travel agent, you can use your relationship with them to get an upgrade if possible. If you have any connections with personnel use this to your advantage.
If you are a Doctor in the educational sense, a minister or if you have any title that you can use, then try and use. Be very careful of course to ensure that the information which is on your ticket matches that which is in your passport. many airlines charge large fees for name changes. The best way to make your status known is to have the airline note your status as an extra note on your booking.