How to get a first class upgrade by BA check in staff and cabin crew

Just be nice

Getting bumped up the classes is one of the best things to possibly happen at the beginning of your holiday.

Whether it’s a Magaluf mad-one with the squad or a quick jaunt to Mykonos with bae, everyone wants the perk of being a whole cabin toward the front of the plane.

We spoke to a couple with over 30 years experience working for BA about the things they look for when giving the all important nod up the classes.

Jo and Erez, who worked for the airline in the 80s and 90s, decided the fates of hundreds of upgrade hungry passengers and shared their secrets for getting the most  the airport can offer.

erez2 jo cc

Pick the right airline

Whilst you might think you are getting the most bang for your buck with an Easyjet or Ryanair, there’s no potential for growth. Erez, who worked at the check-in desks at both Heathrow and Gatwick, said: “You have nowhere to go with an airline like that, the best they can offer is an extra legroom seat, which they sell right up to check in, so probably aren’t going to budge.”

Big airlines and national carriers have far more leeway when it comes to bumping, as they often overbook economy and look for people to upgrade to avoid costly fines.

BA is a solid choice

BA is a solid choice

Dress the part

Whilst you might think trackies at the airport are the comfiest way to fly, they are a big no-no if you want to fit in in First. People who’ve bought the best tickets get to dress however they want, but if you want to impose your poverty into the upper classes, you need to dress like you belong.

Jo said: “When upgrading, you don’t want the people you pick to stick out, otherwise those who paid for their tickets might get pissed off.”

These lads would get the nod

These lads would get the nod

Act the part, to a point

As important as it is to look like you belong in First or Business, you need to at least pretend to be classy. Erez said: “We’re looking for people who won’t embarass themselves, or be overwhelmed by having the best seats.

“If you’re on a stag do or are travelling with kids, it’s too much of a risk you’re going to disrupt the atmosphere people pay thousands for.”

But don’t go too far in the Upper Classes, acting entitled or like the staff owe you something is a sure-fire way to end up next to the loo.

Like this, but with less killing innocent creatures

Like this, but with less killing innocent creatures


Far and away the most important thing for an upgrade is a personal connection. Check-in staff will upgrade you if you share a laugh and hit it off. According to both of our experts, the best tactic is a bit of harmless flirting.

Jo said: “If it’s a man on the desk, send a woman and vice versa.

“Finding common ground and being funny allows you to be cheeky and get away with more than if you play it dead straight.”

Treat them like people and you get free stuff

Treat them like people and you get free stuff

Never, ever ask

If you’re already flirting away, there’s no problem dropping in an upgrade request as a super casual side comment but if there’s one cardinal sin, it’s the direct ask.

Erez said it was the top thing that would put him off: “It’s all about appearing to deserve it, without having to ask, I would never give it to someone that was trying too hard.

“If you ask for First Class, you don’t belong there.”

Get a sob story

It’s far easier to sell an upgrade to a manager if there was a reason to make someone’s day. Think along the lines of honeymoons or other special once-in-a-lifetime trips that will make the staff want to give you a treat.

Failing that, Jo said: “Exaggerate your trip to the airport, overplay the bad things and make it seem like you’ve had the worst day and airport staff may just feel sorry for you.”

Don’t be afraid to take it higher

If you have a legit complaint or a real reason to get some complaint perks, don’t be afraid to take it to a manager.

Erez said: “Managers have all the power to make or break your flight, always demand to talk to them, the check in staff will either give you what you want to avoid taking it upstairs or the manager will cave to avoid causing a scene.