How to Get Upgraded to Business Class

Former Etihad Air Hostess Reveals How to Get Upgraded to Business Class

Maria Holmqvist (@maria_ampersand on Instagram) is a Former Etihad Flight Attendant who now calls Sydney home. During her 5 years with Etihad, she lived in Abu Dhabi, frequently departing all over the world while providing 5 star customer service to tens of thousands of travellers each year.

Maria spills the beans for Optimise Travel on the airline industry as we ask her how it all works, why do they or don’t they give upgrades and the methods that can help you get upgraded to business class.

How to Get Upgraded to Business Class


Hello Maria, After working for Etihad Airways for many years what did you notice about the system of upgrading passengers on flights?

The flight attendants don’t have much say on upgrades unfortunately as it all has to be taken care of prior to boarding the plane. The ground staff are the ones who have the power to upgrade so it’s them you have to “flirt” with. There are a few basic things you need to have covered in order to have a better chance of getting an upgrade which I’ll outline below, and other than that it’s a bit of luck and being at the right place at the right time.

Would you say that it is necessary for passengers to be part of the Airlines loyalty program?

Absolutely, 100%.This is rule number 1. Airlines will always look after their frequent flyers as a priority.

Would being first in line at check-in or last to board the plane have any influence?

I’d definitely recommend being in the back of the queue. Ground staff won’t make any major changes to start with, and would be too rushed and stressed to even consider upgrading at this time. They would have to wait and see if there are any major issues they have to deal with and would need to save the seats for those kinds of situations; on many occasions, it is a large family would be booked into business or first class who then cancel it last minute.

At this point, catering is already booked and stocked on board. It’s more likely for ground staff to do upgrades in these kinds of scenarios rather than having to call for last minute catering and risk delaying the flight. The meals are usually stocked based on the number of guests, with not much to spare.

It’s also much higher chance to get an upgrade if travelling alone (and definitely without children).

Would a polite passenger or an angry passenger have the best chance of receiving an upgrade to Business Class?

Polite. Depending what the person is upset about, if there’s a reason serious enough and the airline is at fault I guess they would have to rectify the issue, but it would help to be to the point and polite rather than out being angry and creating a scene.

Would a charming and well-dressed person have a better chance of an upgrade to Business Class?

It definitely helps to be dressed for the part. Airlines want to create a stylish and professional look of their premium cabins so they blend in with usually a large number of business travellers, generally.

Should people ask for an upgrade to Business Class? And can you ask when already on board?

Absolutely, doesn’t hurt to ask (nicely that is), even if you’re already on board. There are people who will just go up and seat themselves but that won’t get you very far. If there’s an issue with your seat, screen or people around you, or you have a sudden medical condition you can always ask the crew if it’s possible for you to change seat where it’s not as stuffed, packed with people and noisy etc.

If there are spare seats why don’t Airlines reward its customers?

This is due to several different reasons. Airline policies usually state that upgrades should not be handed out. Time management is also a factor as the slightest delay in departure costs the airline thousands and thousands of $$$. If the airline would be upgraded to a full cabin on every single flight it would be very unfair to those that have paid full price.


Thank you, Maria, for your insight and knowledge on the Airline industry. Keep up to date with Maria’s travels on Instagram


Please share your positive and negative experiences and any information on How to Get Upgraded to Business Class flight in the comments section below

How to Get Upgraded to Business Class


One thought on “How to Get Upgraded to Business Class

  1. Great artice – Very insightful! Thank you for the tip – will always ask for an upgrade now!

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