Pros and Cons of Buying a First Class Upgrade
If you want to fly in first class, your first thought is likely to purchase a first class ticket. This sounds like the best approach, but many travel websites offer a different form of advice. That involves not originally booking a first class ticket. Instead, buy a coach ticket and later upgrade to first class. This sounds like a good way to save money, but it also sounds risky. Is it a good idea? To determine, examine the pros and cons of using this approach to score a first class upgrade.
The Pros of Buying a First Class Upgrade
An upgrade is cheaper. Upgrades are offered at the last minute. They are used for a number of reasons. Commonly, airlines are selling tickets right up until the flight leaves; this is especially the case now as there are fewer flights in the air. It is easier to sell a last minute coach seat than a first class seat. If you are upgraded to first class, your cheaper seat becomes available to sell. Airlines also encourage first class upgrades to balance the weight of a plane.
Since airlines consider upgrades a last ditch attempt to increase profits and improve safety, upgrades are cheaper. It is usually two or three times more expensive to purchase a first class seat than a coach seat from the start. On the other hand, you can get away with buying an upgrade for as little as $50 or $100.
You have the freedom to decide at the last minute. Since most first class upgrades are given at the last minute, you can wait and ask. This is provided a seat is available. For example, you may be unwilling to pay for a first class ticket, until you see your flight is full of kids. There is nothing wrong with traveling with small children, but you may get a rowdy bunch. If so, your plans to relax are gone. If this causes you worry, ask to buy an upgraded ticket. If one is available, you should get an upgrade with a cheap price tag.
The Cons of Buying a First Class Upgrade
First class upgrades are usually offered to preferred customers first. Regularly, these customers fly for business. Many are frequent flyers. Some are encouraged to use their frequent flyer miles and others are given free upgrades. Why does an airline do this? Preferred customers fly multiple times a year. They generate income for the airline. These are customers the airline wants and needs to keep happy.
They may not be available. Since most first class upgrades are purchased at the ticket counter, there are risks involved. The flight may be booked to capacity, including first class. Then, you are stuck flying coach. If you have your heart set on flying first class, it may be worth the added cost to purchase a first class ticket from the start. Otherwise, arrive at the airport early. The first flyers to ask for upgrades are usually the ones to receive them.
You still have to pay. Although you do save money by opting for a first class upgrade, as opposed to booking a first class ticket, you still pay. This upgrade fee depends on the airline and how desperate they are to fill the seats. Make sure you are getting a good deal. As stated above, some airlines move passengers to first class because of weight and safety issues. How would you feel if you paid for a first class upgrade and later saw passengers being pulled into first class for free? Always keep this in mind.
So, is waiting until the last minute for a paid first class upgrade the best choice for you? It all depends on your personal preferences. If flying first class is a luxury and not a necessity, try it. The worst that happens is you are still flying in coach, but at least you are on the plane.