Perform an internet search online with the phrase “first class upgrades,” and you will get many tips. Many travel experts recommend buying a first class upgrade, as opposed to a first class ticket from the start. With this approach, you book a flight in coach and then upgrade the day of the flight. This and other similar approaches are nice, but you are still paying. Although it usually happens by chance, you can get a free first class upgrade in some instances. What are they?

If the airplane’s weight is not properly balanced. As silly as this sounds, it does happen. Have you ever been on a flight where passengers from coach are plucked from the back and sent to the front? If you are a regular flyer, you know this can be a common occurrence. Guess what? These individuals are nothing more than volunteers. They volunteer to leave their seats, be separated from their flying partners, and relax in style in first class. They do this free of charge and do not have to pay an upgrade fee.

If your airplane’s weight needs to be balanced properly, flight attendants will usually ask for volunteers. Occasionally, they will head to travelers flying solo, as they know it can be an inconvenience to spilt up a family. If you want a free upgrade to first class, volunteer the quickest when an airline asks for any takers. You can also keep your ears open. Although it can be considered bad taste, some flight attendants openly discuss the plane’s uneven weight. Yes, this really does happen. At this time, most passengers are concerned about the safety risk, not a first class upgrade. Now is your time to pounce. Offer to move to first class to rectify the problem.

Another instance in which you can get a free upgrade to first class is when you are unhappy. Please note this approach rarely gets you an upgrade to first class right away, usually your upgrade is good for your next flight, which may be your return trip home. Unfortunately, airlines are losing money. This has caused many to cut corners, leaving many flyers unhappy. If you are unhappy, voice your concerns. Whether it be waiting on the tarmac for hours, a bathroom that didn’t work, or rude flight attendant, complain. Many airlines offer small discounts as compensation for your trouble. Instead, suggest a free upgrade to first class. Airlines like this because you still pay for a couch seat; they just take the loss on the cost of the upgrade.

Complaining, especially about a legitimate concern, is an easy way to get an upgrade to first class. If you do not get an upgrade, you are still likely to get a small discount voucher for your next flight. With that said, use your best judgment. If you are an avid flyer, you could have a complaint every two weeks. After a while, the airline company will catch on that you are trying to get free discounts and upgrades from them.

As you can see, you do not need to pay to get an upgrade to first class. There are some ways in which you can get an upgrade for free. Although these approaches do work, they are usually hit or miss. If it is necessary that you fly in first class, don’t take the risk, book a first class ticket from the start or pay for an upgrade.