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Ever wonder how luck plays in being upgraded into first class? Is it by choice at the hands of an airline ticketing employee or is it luck by automation?

A while back, a “surprise” upgrade wasn’t the rare thing it is today. Unfortunately, there are factors that have contributed to this “non upgrade” environment – like the airlines’ love of fees and surcharges, computerized seat assignments (which make it much easier to know where everyone is well before flight time), and booked to the max flights.

Just because your chances of getting an upgrade have gone down, upgrades do still happen and you shouldn’t necessarily loose faith that you can’t be the lucky recipient of a first class ticket!

Here are some tips on getting the elusive free upgrade.

1. Dress neatly. It’s not a sure fire way to getting an upgrade, but it will increase your chances versus if you are wearing cargo shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. Dress Neatly

2. Ask politely and directly. Try something as simple as this, “If you are upgrading passengers on this flight, I would like to be considered.” You never know unless you ASK!

3. Be on time. Showing up late to request an upgrade when an agent is just trying to get everyone checked in and in the air isn’t going to work. Be courteous of making your request with plenty of time to spare before the flight and when no one else is competing for their attention.

4. Be reasonable. A demanding or demeaning traveler will have no chance for an upgrade. If you are traveling with your family of 5, traveling with your pet iguana, or already have a super cheap seat, you probably want to save your energy for the next flight when your chances are better.

5. Travel in August or over Christmas and New Year. Business travel is down during these times which means a reduced demand for the premium seats. Airlines are more likely to bump up to ensure everyone gets on the flight. A sign that they have done this is if they are offering special upgrade deals at check-in.