As an expat, you’re probably going to also fall under the category as “frequent Flier”. All of us here at Bucharest Expat have multiple stamps overlaying other stamps on our passports as well as more frequent flier miles and bonus points than our “non-expat” counterparts (yes a bit of bragging). As these bonus points and mileage points add up, different “benefits” present themselves, one if which is flying first class. If you’re not flying first class yet… how come? Do you think everyone in the first class seating areas have paid a ludricous amount of money to have the privilege of sitting in a larger seat? Not likely.
I, as well as some of my business partners, have chosen to stick with Delta, at this point purely due to the fact of the “Skymiles” points we’ve racked up. They lose luggage, staff is particularly rude, overbooking and price screw-ups are common, and the list goes on of negatives, so don’t mis-understand this as a promo… it’s not, it’s just about the ability to freely fly first class.
As we fly Internationally now, we’ve noticed that we’ve been getting “bumped up” to first class almost every time. We depart the US via Delta’s partner Air France, with a connection typically in Paris, where we switch to Tarom to Bucharest. Only the last leg is not first class, but as Delta is affiliated with dozens of “Skyteam” partners now, the benefits usually work across the board. The easiest way to get your upgrade is to stick with one airline in particular, and sign up for the free “mile” program that they offer. As you fly on that airline or their affiliates you’ll accrue some bonus points that can be redeemed for upgrades, as well as moving through the “promotional levels” (in Delta’s case its called medallion status) in which benefits and upgrades will be provided by default.
So, prior to my medallion status defaulting me to First class, here are some tricks I (we) pulled in order to get that first class seat:
1. We would wait until the last minute to book the discounted tickets (the days of needing to book 2 weeks out or more for cheap fares seem to have disappeared). When we would call to book, we would inquire as to how full the plane was, or glance at the online seating charts. A lot of times you could actually book a ticket on a full flight, knowing the entire time you’ll “suffer” by being bumped to a later flight. This is of course okay to you, as you know the next flight is only an hour or so difference based on the research you’ve done before hand. You also know that if you act a little upset and disturbed that your now going to have to re-schedule your meeting unless you can get some work done on the plane, that your very likely to talk your way into a first class upgrade for your troubles.
2. If that sounds like to much work, try stirring up some pleasant conversation with the gate attendant. Talk about how they must be so stressed today, how it seems really busy, thank them for all the work they’re doing, basically your building rapport with them. If you’ve carried the conversation well enough, you’ll see them start to plug away at their computer (again make sure you’re here early enough to where you don’t hold up a line). They’re probably looking at seat selection at this point in time… thats a good sign, but never ask for an upgrade. If you focus on making a pleasant atmosphere for them, you’ll be the star of the day. We’ve been known to make “coffee runs” for them sometimes as we are “on our way to Starbucks” get the idea? You will know when the time is right to talk about “the flight being full” if there are any seats in open rows, or anything that may give you some “more legroom”. You’ll be offered a first class ticket. Act surprised.
3. Bribes. Worked once for me in the US. Worked 100% of the time in developing countries. I would say be careful in your technique with this.. however my “bribing” technique sucks, but everyone liked money. I paid $20 on average to the gate attendant to be bumped to first class every time while in the Dominican Republic for example. Argentina cost me 30 Euros, but still accomplished the goal.
4. Count on lost luggage. Carry a bag that is very, very heavy, right at the weight limit. Check in late. The bag will be lost, almost guaranteed. Airlines remove luggage when the plane is overweight. They remove in order of class and weight of bags. Make sure you’ve got a carryon of two days worth of items incase it takes a while for your bag to get to it’s destination or delivered to you. When you get your bags, keep all the documents. We have had a 50% success rate in gaining upgrades on our return leg when calling the customer service line 2-3 days later complaining about the lost luggage and how it has tarnished the airline’s reputation with you and your business associates, as you had important material in their and was assured at check in that it would arrive on time. WTF?
So.. judge us if you will, but we know you’ll try a few of these out for yourself.
Below are some great photos of the first class cabins of various airlines. Enjoy.