'My partner and I often get upgraded on a flight. These are the 5 steps we follow.'

We're at the departure gate, staring down the barrel of a 24-hour economy flight from Sydney to London, nothing but leg cramps and uncontrollable gas coming our way, when my partner gets a text. 

He's been upgraded to business and the next thing I know he's using the seat chat function to message me, "Just got served a fillet steak".

International upgrades are not an urban flight myth. Two to three times per year my partner and I fly from Sydney to London for work and 50 per cent of the time we get upgraded from our original ticket, usually from economy to premium economy.


An upgrade from economy to business class, while more difficult, is certainly not impossible. This has happened to us more than once, it's actually happened to my partner, Steve, three times in the past three years, not because he's a jet-setting high-tier member, but because he listened to me and followed these five steps.

Step 1: Pick an airline and stay loyal.

My airline of choice is Qantas, so these tips are mostly in relation to them. The way upgrades work with Qantas is that they are allocated in order of frequent flyer membership tier, the higher your status, the higher the chance of an upgrade. 

Steve used to be a member of another airline but never had any luck getting upgraded as he'd always chop and change between his airline and mine. The issue with this is, you're spreading your points and status credit across multiple airlines instead of focusing on building up your membership status with just one, which is essentially the thing that's going to get you an upgrade.

I convinced Steve to become a Qantas frequent flyer and less than a year later he landed his first upgrade as a silver member.

Watch: Horoscopes at the airport. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Step 2: Start earning frequent flyer points, lots of frequent flyer points.

"The quickest way to do this is by getting a points-earning credit card" said every viral points hack video ever. 

Yes, those 'how to get upgraded quick' videos are annoying, but it's true. So why did it take me years to actually do it? Because I was taught growing up that credit cards are bad and so I was scared of them. 

What I didn't know is that provided you are a responsible adult and pay it off in time every month (my anxiety around debt takes care of this) then there's no catch. 

"But there must be a catch" — my mother's voice in my head, well I'm three years into a relationship with my Amex and the only catch was having to deal with the customer service team when someone stole my card out of my mailbox. Horrible customer service but great points-earning capabilities. 

Steve and I both signed up for points-earning credit cards in early 2022 and less than six months later we both had 100,000 points sitting in our frequent flyer accounts. 

Step 3: Pick the right time to fly.

So yeah, not during Euro summer or a Taylor Swift tour.

It should go without saying that you are less likely to get an upgrade when everyone else is travelling and therefore also requesting upgrades. 

We've been upgraded on Boxing Day, at the start of May and during off-peak travel times. 


Step 4: Select the right fare (ticket).

Generally speaking, sale economy tickets do not allow you the option to upgrade, so if you've booked one of those then you may be doomed to an economy middle seat before you even begin. 

If travelling with Qantas, you need to book a saver fare or greater. 

Qantas upgrade requests are also prioritised based on your original booked cabin. So if you want an almost guaranteed business upgrade for say your honeymoon, I would recommend trying to nab a good premium economy saver fare as I've almost always been upgraded to business when flying on a premium economy ticket. 


Step 5: Immediately request an upgrade with your points.

If you have your sights set on more legroom and silver cutlery, as soon as you book your ticket, request an upgrade with your points. When you are vying against another member in the same cabin with the same status, upgrades will be allocated on a first come first served basis. 

But before you hit that little 'request' button, first ask yourself the question, is it worth it? 

During busier travel periods, the amount of points you'll need to upgrade can be extortionate. Just think, is it worth 80,000 points to upgrade from economy to premium economy or would you rather fly to Tokyo business class for 82,000 points? 

For Steve, it was in fact worth putting his relationship on the line and requesting an upgrade from London to Sydney when we were all meant to be travelling in economy with my mum.


If you follow these five steps above you have a good chance of getting upgraded on your next flight. Of course, there is always an element of luck, but you'll never win the prize if you don't buy the ticket. 

Want a guaranteed upgrade to your travel experience next time you fly long haul?

As someone who has spent a lot of time pondering life above the clouds in the economy cabin, something that feels like an instant upgrade during a long-haul transit is lounge access. 

Yeah, the unlimited food and drinks are great but it's the private lounge and shower rooms that are an absolute game changer. At the end of the day, I can fly without an upgrade, but I won't travel long haul without a cold lemon-infused water and a hot shower waiting for me during my layover in Singapore. 


Qantas Club membership is available to purchase (get your work to pay for it if you travel often) and keep an eye out, as every blue moon it goes on sale. 

(This article is in no way affiliated with Qantas, this is just my personal experience and you may be able to apply the above steps to other airlines.)

Do you have any other tips to share to get upgraded on a flight? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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