If You Want to Upgrade to First Class, Don’t Make This One Simple Mistake

I had to check a bag this morning. I don’t do that often on domestic flights. Since I’d have to visit the counter anyway, I didn’t bother checking in via a mobile app.

My first segment was already upgraded to first class, but my connecting flight wasn’t. When the agent checked me in, I dropped off the upgrade list. I didn’t check the upgrade list once I had been checked in That is a rookie mistake.

I didn’t ask about my upgrade at the club. I boarded my first flight and pulled up the mobile app and figured I’d look at the upgrade list, since I was within the window to see it at that point. My name wasn’t on it.

I didn’t think this would be a big deal. I knew there were still two first class seats available, they were just being held until the gate. I’d stick my name on the list when I landed.

By the time I landed, though:

  1. My connecting flight was delayed.
  2. There had been an aircraft swap from a 737 to an MD80. That has 10 fewer coach seats and the flight was already oversold.
  3. To accommodate passengers, they processed the upgrade list – while I still wasn’t on it.
  4. Since there’s no ‘C’ seats in coach on the MD80, I had to be moved.
  5. I was moved to an aisle in ‘regular’ economy.

I wound up in regular economy not in first class because I didn’t check the upgrade list.

Now, I’m flying a lot more economy these days thanks to British Airways 4500 point short-distance awards on American and US Airways (and >making full use of the Royal Jordanian website while doing it). But that puts me into Main Cabin Extra with additional legroom.

I’m typing this post with the passenger in front of me reclined. And let me tell you, it’s tight. Although clearly it’s possible to use a laptop even in coach (and I carry a big laptop, since I’m a one machine kind of guy — my work computer, travel computer, and entertainment device all in one.

And it’s not so bad for a short sub-1200 mile flight. In fact, just the little kindness that is the flight attendant approaching me unasked to see whether I’d like a complimentary cocktail and sandwich (as is American’s policy for top tier elites) makes the whole experience seem that much more civilized. The chicken cobb sandwich was at least as good as what I’d have gotten up front.

Nonetheless, it seemed worth a reminder to do what I forgot or became too complacent to bother with: always check the upgrade list when you think you’ve been added to it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Love the blog – but I feel like you took a “how to write bad clickbait titles” seminar recently…

    That combined with burying the ‘meat’ after the break means the email subscription I have is much, much less useful (though, I guess does generate more pageviews…)

  2. The titles sometimes amuse me, I write things that make me chuckle.

    I didn’t think I had done anything to cut off the post in the email you received to force a click through though .. sorry if otherwise!

    [Edited to add – I went back and see that you must not be talking about this post because there’s no ‘more’ tag in it]

  3. It would be useful to have an article about how to check the upgrade list for all of the different airlines. Especially since the way to do this is different across many airlines with sometimes it being easiest to do on the mobile site or the mobile app.

  4. How do you manage to get a seat in MCE when booking your BA award flights? Even when I call an AA agent she is unable to insert my AA number (I’m ExecPlat) to open those seats up to me (for free). This can only be done with difficulty at the airport and most/all aisle seats are generally taken by then. Same goes for the free checked bag(s).

  5. On the upside you are on an MD-80, which means two things:
    1. Your flight is likely fairly short.
    2. You are flying on the most beautiful looking and sounding plane currently gracing our skies.

  6. Typo? “I wound up in regular economy in first class because I didn’t check the upgrade list.”

    Missing “not in first class”, I believe.

  7. @Todd fixed, thank you. I wrote this with laptop angled during the flight (not that I’m immune from such things generally). appreciate the catch.

  8. You know what? I actually find the titles halfway amusing, as Gary says that he does. They’re a bit of whimsy. So what?

  9. Stop with the gross clickbait headlines. I’d like to think your readership is a smarter, finer blend of coffee. Not Points Guy/Million Mile Secrets Folgers/Maxwell crap.

  10. Wow, it’s a really cranky crowd today…… I think the title is funny, nothing wrong with it Gary.

  11. Nah — if it were HuffPo, the headline would read: “If You Want to Upgrade to First Class, Make This One Simple Mistake.”

    Seriously, I once saw a headline where the word “not” was missing, which changed the meaning from “pleads not guilty of murder” (the intended meaning) to “pleads guilty….” 😮

  12. Ungrateful readers make me shake my head. You are getting expert tips for FREE. How about a thank you to Gary for his time and effort.

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