Top 10 worst excuses for free business class upgrades

By danwarne, February 25 2012
Top 10 worst excuses for free business class upgrades

Virgin Atlantic has revealed the least convincing excuses dragged out by customers in an attempt to score a free upgrade.

After surverying its front-line counter staff, the airline discovered that Sir Richard Branson has thousands of "friends" around the world, based on the number of passengers who name-drop the Virgin founder when looking for a bump up to business class.

"Sir Richard Branson is my friend" and "Sir Richard Branson promised me an upgrade" were the two most common reasons given.

However, the survey found that some passengers can be extremely creative when trying to trade up from economy to the front of the plane. Here are some of the best lines trotted out by travellers.

  1. Manchester United lost today, I am really upset and need the space to get over it
  2. My wife is pregnant; I need an upgrade as it is a really stressful time for me
  3. My newborn baby has claustrophobia, she is in counselling and we really need an upgrade so she has more space
  4. I am Sir Richard Branson's dentist
  5. I have lost all of my money in Vegas but really need an upgrade
  6. We are getting married today (the couple turned up in full wedding attire)
  7. (At Tokyo check-in) I am a very tall Englishman and need some extra leg room
  8. It's a Sunday, no one flies on a Sunday so please can I have an upgrade?
  9. We are on honeymoon
  10. It's my birthday

"Every day we receive numerous upgrade requests but one incident that particularly stands out was a request which ended up causing an argument between a married couple" recalls Paul Dickinson, Virgin Atlantic's Director of Sales and Marketing.

"A gentleman, who was travelling with his pregnant wife, requested an upgrade for himself away from his wife as he felt he needed to time to relax due the stress of the pregnancy." 

So what was behind Virgin Atlantic's rather unusual announcement? A simple message, really: "Free upgrades are rarely offered and the only way to be certain of experiencing what our cabins have to offer is to book the cabin you want in advance and there are often some great deals to be had"  Dickinson explains.

"If on the rare occasion we do need to offer an upgrade, we usually prioritise our most loyal customers from our frequent flyer programme."

Ah, so it's the "buy, don't beg" ploy. To be fair, Virgin Atlantic pointed out its upgrades only cost $478 one way to bump up from Economy to Premium Economy and $2050 one way from Economy to Virgin's ' Upper Class' business class.

More Australian Business Traveller stories on upgrades

How to get a free upgrade to business class, or even first class

Cathay Pacific to offer free premium economy upgrades in March

World's weirdest tricks to earn frequent flyer points

When was your last upgrade, and how did you achieve it? 


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

My last upgrade was a completely unexpected "silent upgrade" to Premium Economy on Qantas. I was booked on economy, checked in and told nothing, but when I got on the plane, discovered my economy seat was in Premium Economy! It was fantastic. I didn't get Premium economy food, so I guess the seats really just had been re-allocated to economy class passengers, but on international flights, the seat is the REALLY big deal -- the food and other stuff are secondary.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Nov 2010

Total posts 60

I got a free upgrade one time on a Sydney to Hong Kong flight, a guy booked in business class (his work paid) and his wife, who I was seated next to, was in economy (they bought their own ticket) asked me if I wouldn't mind changing seats with him so he could sit with his wife, extrememly generous I thought considering there were other empty seats around us anyway that they both could have moved to, was a real unexpected bonus

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