Have you ever been walking to your seat on an aircraft and wonder just how those first class seats are being filled? Do those people actually pay those high fares for the extra room and free drinks? Not necessarily. This is how you can get your own first class seat from someone in the business….
There is a thing called an oversell factor that a lot of people do not know about and it affects the entire flight, the rest of the day and why you just got the seat request card when you checked in for a flight that you actually paid for months ago.
First, let me explain to you the way airlines book the seats on the aircraft (involves math):
Example: From Cincinnati to Orlando at 2:00pm for the last 6 months using an MD88 where there are 14 seats in First Class and 128 seats in Coach, only 6 people have actually booked a First Class ticket and 120 people have purchased a ticket for Coach. That leaves around 8 seats open in each cabin. The airlines take these numbers and thus try to sell 136 seats in the Coach cabin. According to the past numbers, they may fill the flight. The problem is that if they actually sell all 136 seats (again, this is just an example), then some people are involuntarily inconvenienced. The great thing is that if those extra 8 seats are booked and there are open seats in First Class then someone’s going to get lucky!
I met a couple once that were retired and had it down perfectly. They purposefully booked tickets on the heaviest travel day (varies from city to city) and immediately offered to volunteer their seats. They were in turn given enough airline dollars to take another flight for free and they got on the next flight to their destination. With the airlines money, they booked another trip also on the busiest travel day and did the same thing! They told me that they had not actually paid for a flight in months!
One thing to be careful with is buying an airline ticket on a discount site. If the airlines are oversold and need volunteers that are not coming forward, the next step is to deny boarding to the passengers who paid the least for their ticket. That too comes down to who checked in first. There are a lot of factors and not always a perfect science.
My best advice is to check into your flight early, such as the night before and early morning flight. If you see that there are no seats left to buy then you have two options. Some people have found it best to check in extra early (you can do this from home/hotel) and others have found it useful to show up late. Even if you are really there, get to the gate late in hopes that there are only First Class seats left. One guy says that he comes running up to get all sweaty at the last second trying for an international business class seat. The latter is a risky game because there may also be no seats left. You really need to know how to work the system on that one.
A really good one is to be extra nice to the gate agent. Who says that a little brown nosing occasionally isn’t a good idea? These men and women standing behind the counter are dealing with complete idiots that think that yelling at the ones trying to help you is going to get them somewhere. It’s going to get them a seat next to the toilet or possibly one the next day if you’re not careful. Try chocolate or an honest “Hello and how’s your day? and a smile instead. Don’t ask stupid questions like if they can change your seat when they just told the person in front of you that’s it’s a completely full flight. Pay attention! I literally watched four people in a row ask the same question, “Can you move our seats together?”, before I had to walk away.
Stand close to the counter but not on top of the agent and make eye contact occasionally if you can. Smile. If they see that you are waiting patiently and are friendly then you may be first to be asked if you can switch seats with say a family that is completely separated. The only other seat just may be up front.
Another way is to join an airlines frequent flyer program. It shows the airlines that you are willing to be loyal and are more worthy of better treatment. If they only have First Class seats left that they can use to fill the left over passengers, they will most likely choose the high mileage passengers in the back first over someone that never uses the same airline.
Do you have any suggestions or ways that you have been upgraded?