Getting a free upgrade to First Class on Emirates is what many of us travellers dream of. Hearing those magic words “You’ve been upgraded” will please every traveller. I received this pleasure on my Emirates flight EK 022 from Manchester to Dubai in July 2013.
How did I achieve this? How did I get upgraded for free?
Well, I’ll tell you.
I was fortunate enough to be the first Business Class traveller to check in. I know this because check in was not quite open when I arrived at the airport.
When I went to the counter the Emirates attendant asked me to give him some time to log in.
I then presented him with my passport and my Skywards card (this is the Emirates frequent flyer scheme card).
As it turns out my Skywards card was now at Gold level (the second highest level in the scheme, I don’t think I’ll ever get to Platinum!). Frequent readers of flightsandfrustration.com will know that I flew a bit with Emirates last year. So I’m pretty well accustomed to the Emirates air line experience.
As the Emirates attendant completed checking me in he inquired as to whether I knew how to find my way to the Emirates Business Class Lounge in Manchester airport. I’ve been here a few times before so indicated that I did know.
He then handed me my tickets. It was at this point I found out that I’d been upgraded to First Class on the Emirates B777-300. He said that since the flight was quite full and I had a Gold card he had upgraded me for the first of my two flights.
Why I was upgraded for free to First Class on Emirates
So how did this happen?
Well, I suppose there were some factors at work.
Firstly I was Gold Status on the Emirates Skywards scheme. Airlines appreciate loyal customers and I think this is the first time I’ve ever been Gold Status with Emirates.
I’ve been upgraded from Economy / Coach to Business Class a few times by KLM. I’ve been at the highest level on the Flying Blue scheme for most of the last decade and this means that my loyalty is recognised.
I must admit that I’ve never been upgraded to First Class before. (I’ve never seen a KLM flight with a First Class cabin so I’m not sure if they even have it.)
I also think that since I was first to check-in with Emirates this gave the check-in attendant a chance to give me first come, first served priority.
I was also very polite at all times. Quite good for me early in the morning but everyone is owed some courtesy.
So what did I not do?
Well I didn’t do what I see so many people do and fail. I didn’t ask. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever asked to be upgraded for free.
I see people do this frequently and the reaction is always the same. The airline staff get their backs up and don’t like it. I’ve flown almost every month for more than a dozen years and I’ve yet to see someone get a free upgrade when they ask for one.
I think the key to my success is two fold:-
- I am a premium customer by being at a high level on the Emirates airline frequent flyer scheme
- I was first to check-in so the Emirates agent had first option with me
In addition I was also very polite and courteous to the check-in agent. Keep them on your side and you never know what might happen.
Having said all that, my colleague was also recently upgraded to First Class with Emirates for free. He is also a Gold Card holder. I suspect this not the only reason why he was lucky. He is in his mid-twenties and looks like a male model. I suspect a female check-in attendant would have been overcome by his boyish good lucks and his chatty nature.
He has also flown a lot with Emirates in recent months.
I don’t think that what worked for him would work for many people; it hasn’t for me over the years. (Mind you I certainly don’t look like a male model!)
(Ed. Since I wrote this post I later checked in at the same time for an Emirates flight with this colleague. We are both Gold card holders boarding the same flight. I was dressed in a business shirt and trousers, he was dressed down in a t-shirt and casual/leisure trousers. Guess what, he was upgraded and I wasn’t. This goes to show that being smartly dressed does not guarantee anything so don’t assume it does. Also as the more senior of the two of us travelling I didn’t get the benefit of an upgrade.)
However, as a general rule if you don’t expect anything and then you will not be disappointed.
I strongly advocate joining airline frequent flyer schemes. It has certainly been very beneficial for me with KLM and now with Emirates air line.
So how did I get a free upgrade to First Class with Emirates? Simple, I was a Gold card holder and didn’t ask.
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