Airline Phone Numbers
Overview of Airline Fares
What's in a Fare?
Finding the Lowest Fare
All About Fare Rules
Fare Rule Basics
Fare Rule Glossary
Decision Aid: Refundable or Non-Refundable
Compare Elite Programs
Terms and Conditions
How do I get
upgraded to First/Business class?
If you are an elite level frequent flyer,
take advantage of the upgrade opportunities available with your program.
As an elite member, you can usually upgrade from any published fare
to First/Business class using upgrade certificates. These certificates
can usually be purchased with either dollars or points. Some airlines offer complimentary
upgrades for elite members (subject to availability). For details on the benefits provided by some
US frequent flyer elite programs, see our comparison here.
If you are a frequent flyer, but not at the
elite level, you may be able to purchase upgrade certificates with dollars
or points, but these certificates may be valid from the full
coach fare only.
If you are using upgrade certificates, you
may need to call the airline a certain number of hours before the flight
to arrange your upgrade. Don't delay in making that phone call.
Upgrade seats are limited, and once they're gone, you'll have to standby
at the airport.
Most frequent flyer programs allow you to
redeem points for a round trip upgrade from any published fare.
Redeem points for a free ticket in First/Business
class. Before doing so, compare the cost of buying a discounted ticket
and redeeming points for an upgrade, with the number of points required
for a free First/Business class ticket. For example, a round trip
seat sale ticket might cost $349, on top of which you could use 20,000
points for an upgrade award. If the round trip Business Class fare
is $2349, you are getting a benefit of 10 cents per point, an excellent
benefit. Compare that cost to using 40,000 points for a free ticket
in Business Class, which gives you a benefit of 6 cents per point - still
very good, but not as good as the first scenario. One difference
is that with the free Business Class ticket, you may not need to meet restrictions
such as advance purchase, change penalties and minimum stay. With
the upgraded ticket, you still must abide by the fare restrictions of the
seat sale ticket.
If you are traveling on a full fare coach
ticket (e.g. your company is paying), consider paying the difference yourself
for the upgrade. Often Business Class does not cost much more than
full fare coach, and a few extra dollars could go a long way for enjoying
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an elite-level frequent flyer, I don't travel on full coach fares and I
can't or don't want to use points for an upgrade. Is a free upgrade
Don't insist that you "deserve" an upgrade.
That's an almost guaranteed way not to get upgraded.
If the flight is relatively empty, your chances
are slim. Even though seats in Business Class may also be empty,
the airlines don't usually upgrade people for no reason.
If the flight is full, your chances are better.
Airlines carefully plan how much they oversell flights, and their inventory
departments are not upset if people need to be upgraded to accommodate
everybody on the flight. On a full flight therefore, sometimes the
airlines must upgrade some people. In this scenario, if you
have a good story, you may be lucky. Remember of course that Business
Class may already be full from pre-booked elite-level frequent flyer upgrades.
If you're on your honeymoon, by all means
tell the agent at the gate, and you may well be upgraded. Please
don't pretend you're on your honeymoon if you're not. The airlines
are already starting not to believe people who actually are on their honeymoon,
because so many people try to use this tactic.
Volunteer to give up your seat if the flight
is oversold. Tell the agent that if they don't need your seat, but
if they do need somebody to upgrade, you'll also be happy to volunteer
for that. Small chance, but worth a try. If they end up needing
your seat for someone else, ask whether you can be upgraded on the later
If you have been inconvenienced by the airline,
don't hesitate to ask for an upgrade. Again, the airlines don't generally
upgrade people for no reason, but if they have caused you a problem, that
may be reason enough to upgrade you.
Don't wait until you're on board. The
flight attendants usually do not have the authority to upgrade people,
because they don't know the details of your ticket.
It is highly unlikely that you'll be upgraded
if you're traveling on a free frequent flyer reward ticket in Coach.
The airlines don't like it when people try to redeem only enough points
for a coach ticket, and then try to sweet talk their way to an upgrade.
If you try this approach, you will often be the last person considered
Dress well and be polite. If you show
up in a suit and tie, you are far more likely to be upgraded than if you
show up in ripped jeans. Once I took a flight on an airline
with which I don't often fly. Although I'm a member of their frequent
flyer program, I certainly don't have any elite status. I arrived
at the gate in a suit and tie. All I asked was whether a seat further
forward was available. I did not even ask for an upgrade. The
gate agent told me to wait a few minutes, and just before the flight departed
she handed me a boarding pass for First Class. Sometimes not asking
for an upgrade is the best way to get one.
Rarely. The running joke at the
airlines is that people expect to go to the car dealer, pay for a compact
car, and drive away in a luxury vehicle at no additional cost.
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What's the deal
with airline lounges?
If you've never been to an airline lounge,
you don't know what you're missing. The lounge totally changes the
airport experience - from one of madness and rushing around, to a relaxed,
tranquil environment. Usually the lounge offers comfortable seating,
magazines and newspapers, snacks and beverages, business facilities, and
personalized service from an airline agent.
Each airline has their own rules for who
can access the lounge, and you should check with your individual airline.
Some examples of who can access the lounge include:
Passengers traveling in full fare First Class.
Elite level frequent flyers.
Frequent flyers and others who have purchased
an annual membership in the lounge.
Passengers who have paid for a one-time visit
to the lounge (not allowed on all airlines).
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What's the fastest
way to checkin?
If you're an elite level frequent flyer, you
may be able to checkin at First/Business class checkin.
Use an express checkin machine, if your airline
offers that service.
Use web checkin, now offered by most major airlines.
Consider these options:
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Do you recommend
advance seat selection?
Absolutely. The last thing you want
is to be stuck in a middle seat near the toilet because you didn't pre-reserve
a seat. Advance seat selection offers you close to a guarantee that
you won't be bumped off an oversold flight. On the contrary, you
may be one of the people who is available to volunteer to give up your
seat in exchange for a credit note for future travel. One word of
caution - don't arrive at the gate too late. At a certain time before
the flight leaves, the gate agent will release all the advance seats to
accommodate standby passengers. The airline reserves the right to
do so at a set time before departure (e.g. 15 minutes - check with your
airline for details). You may still get a seat on the flight, but
it may be far less desirable than the one you had reserved.
I recommend using www.seatguru.com
to help choose the best available seat for you.
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Tell me about the
emergency exit row.
An emergency exit row is a row adjacent
to one of the aircraft's emergency exits. Usually this row has more
space before the row in front, so in an emergency it is easier for passengers
to use the emergency exit. As a corollary, many people like to sit
in an emergency exit row because more legroom is available. Anyone
sitting in this row must be willing and able to open the emergency exit
in case of emergency; therefore, children and handicapped persons are not
assigned to these seats.
When am I allowed
to standby for a different flight than the one on my ticket?
Many discounted fare tickets allow standby
for earlier or later same day flights at no additional cost. Make
sure you read and print out the
fare rules before buying the ticket!
When changing your return flight for a change
fee, space must be available in the booking
class of the original fare. If space is not available, you are
usually allowed to go to the airport and standby for the flight, even on
a different day than originally ticketed, provided that you pay the change
fee and don't violate the fare rules (e.g. minimum stay, maximum stay).
If you are traveling on a frequent flyer reward
ticket, it may be very hard to make changes through reservations, since
reward space is usually quite limited. Since the rules of the reward
tickets usually allow changes without penalty, you might consider standing
by at the airport on a different day than ticketed, even if the reward
space is not available when you call. At the last minute, the airline
may give you one of the remaining seats on the aircraft. I guarantee
neither that the airline will let you standby, nor that a seat will be
available if you do. Nevertheless, some people have had success with
If you are traveling on a Coach ticket (reward or revenue), the airline is
under no obligation to give you a free upgrade to First or Business class
just because you're on standby. You are only standing by for a seat in
the class of service for which you are ticketed. Furthermore, the airline
is under no obligation to upgrade another passenger to make room for you
in Coach, even if it means that the flight leaves with empty seats
in First/Business class.
Normally you must follow the fare rules,
but you may be excused from following the booking
class requirement (i.e. that the change be made in a particular booking
class) if you show up at the airport for standby. Some pointers:
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on two separate tickets. Why won't the airline check my bags through
to my destination?
|AAA to BBB
|BBB to CCC
|CCC to BBB
|BBB to AAA
At the airport AAA, you want your bags
checked through to CCC. If ticket #1 and ticket #2 are separate tickets,
international air conventions do not require that the airline check your
bags all the way through. View ticket #1 as a contract to fly you
from AAA to BBB. No part of the contract requires that your bags
be checked through to CCC. You may have to claim your bags at BBB
and checkin again.
Note: I am not talking about
an end-on-end combination, in which
different fares are used on the same physical ticket. I am talking
about two separate physical tickets (or separately issued electronic tickets).
Caution: Sometimes it is cheaper
to buy two separate tickets as in this example than to buy a ticket all
the way through from AAA to CCC. You are cautioned not only that
your bags may not be checked through to CCC, but also that if the flight
from AAA to BBB is delayed such that you miss your flight to CCC, the airline
flying AAA to BBB may not be responsible for any costs you incur,
including changing the ticket to CCC for a later flight. The separate
ticket is a separate contract. Please remember these facts when buying
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I had to wait so
long in line that I missed my flight.
You are responsible for arriving at the
airport early enough to allow time for checkin. The airlines are
usually very good at accommodating people on later flights in this situation,
but they do not accept responsibility for your missing your flight.
If you are traveling on a holiday like Thanksgiving weekend, you must arrive
at the airport early. On such busy days even the priority/first-class
checkin line can be very long.
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Can I use a ticket
for airline A to travel on airline B?
In the simplest case, airline A would
have to "endorse" the ticket to airline B. Doing so would authorize
airline B to collect the value of that leg of the ticket from the ticket
clearinghouse (all tickets go to a clearinghouse after they're used to
sort out payments).
Airline A may choose not to endorse the
ticket, and generally they are under no obligation to do so. If a
flight is canceled on airline A, they may agree to endorse the ticket to
airline B to keep the customer happy. Some consolidator fare tickets
are marked "non-endorsable", meaning that airline A could not endorse the
ticket to airline B even if they wanted to do so.
Pairs and families of airlines have adopted
some agreements in which tickets can be used on member airlines without
endorsement. The rules of these agreements are very complex, and
constantly changing. Some factors include which airline issued the
ticket (who has the money?), whether the ticket is full
coach fare or discounted, and which route is involved.
What is the bottom line? Walk up
to the counter at airline B, show them your ticket, and ask them if they'll
honor it. If they have an agreement whereby they will be paid without
an endorsement, they may be willing to accept your ticket. Needless
to say, you have less flexibility with an electronic ticket.
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