The Tricks You Need To Know To Fly First Class For Free

Illustration: Annu Kilpeläinen
We’ve all heard stories about those jammy bastards who get magically “bumped up to first class” on planes for free. But however much we flutter our eyelashes or try to convince the check-in staff that we’re on our honeymoon (honest!), we’re always left in economy next to a manspreader who huffs and puffs every time we try to use the loo.
But what if there was a way to travel in luxury without having to shell out thousands of pounds? Well, according to self-dubbed “professional flight hacker” Gilbert Ott, who runs money-saving travel website God Save The Points, there are a number of straightforward ways to wangle yourself a cut-price upgrade.
Advertisement
Speaking to MailOnline, the travel expert revealed several ways that anyone can "hack" air travel – without even clocking up air miles on a credit card. First, he recommended that fliers buy loyalty points instead of earning them, as buying flights like this often works out cheaper than paying with actual money.
Not many people know that airlines sell off their points in promotional sales every few months, he said, "which means you can purchase air miles without actually flying anywhere. You can then use them to book trips in upper class for significantly less."
His second tip is to set yourself alerts with flight trackers such as Google Flights or Kayak, so you'll be the first to know if an airline offers drops the price of a route you're interested in a flash promotional sale. “Don't be afraid to set trackers for premium or business class too, since sometimes premium or business class seats will randomly be cheaper than economy ones, especially over peak summer travel periods.”
Another of his tips is a little more controversial – "hidden city ticketing" is an ingenious idea, but due to its potentially negative environmental impact (since seats are left empty) we wouldn't necessarily advocate it. The trick involves booking a flight to a destination where your city is just a layover and saving a fair amount of money in the process.
To prove his point, Ott shared the example of a trip from LA to London. A direct economy flight would cost £539 compared with a premium economy flight from £515 if LA is your layover stop onto a less desirable destination. Why didn't we think of that before?
Advertisement
Ott also suggested booking yourself onto an overbooked flight, which he claims increases your chance of either receiving compensation (which you can spend on another flight) or being upgraded because economy is jam-packed. Sites like ExpertFlyer.com will help you find overcrowded flights.
It's worth downloading airline apps, too, because many carriers offer priority upgrades to passengers who use them. Ott also recommends using referral programmes like hotel-booking sites RocketMiles and Kaligo when you're booking a hotel in the same way you usually would. These offer users 1,000 airline miles or more for friend referrals to their sites – meaning you'd earn a whopping 10,000 air miles by getting 10 mates to join.
We'll definitely be putting a little more thought into booking our next flight.
Advertisement