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Can You Really Get A Flight Upgrade If You Say You Just Got Engaged?

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Photo: Getty Images.
Congratulations! It’s your special day. You just got engaged (or married) and you’re jetting off to some fabulous destination to celebrate your love. You board your plane with confirmed economy-class seats and pray to the upgrade gods that your flight crew is so ecstatic about your newly minted union that they whisk you off to first class with champagne on ice, fine chocolates, and ample legroom. Of course, it's all on the house.

But is it actually possible to snag an upgrade, or is it just a far-fetched dream you fantasise about while a toddler-gone-wild kicks the back of your ordinary, cramped seat?

Most airlines are bound by operating manuals and a drive for revenue, so they're not likely to openly admit that they give upgrades to lovebirds flying with them, though some flight crews will unofficially offer special treats for couples travelling on their honeymoon.

There have been plenty of stories of couples popping the question at altitude or newlyweds getting thrilled at 30,000 feet (and one heartwarming story where a flight attendant ended up serving as the witness for two passengers getting married). There was also the recent story of a man who plotted with Austrian Airlines to both propose to and marry his now-wife inflight. They may not have been given a traditional seat upgrade, but they sure did enjoy the royal treatment.

“As for upgrades, customers are always welcome to ask, however, it very much depends on the bookings and availability. The Emirates cabin crew does make its best efforts to make the experience special for honeymooners,” said Emirates spokesperson Melanie Garvey.

Similarly, Hawaiian Airlines, which flies many lovebirds to their tropical honeymoon destinations, won’t admit to giving free upgrades, but spokesperson Alison Croyle relayed that it "always provides the aloha spirit to the many newlyweds travelling to our beautiful islands to celebrate their I Dos.”

That seemed to be the official sentiment of nearly every major airline that was asked to comment. While it’s not out of the question to snag an upgrade to business or first class, remember that there’s no secret formula to guarantee it — unless you fork over the dough to secure your premium seat.

That said, here are some tips to help increase your odds:

Be nice to your flight crew.
A little smile and salutation to your flight attendants can go a long way. They deal with irate people and tense circumstances all day, so if you’re the one in 1,000 who gives them a big, genuine smile and friendly greeting, it will only play in your favour. If you really want to score points, buying your flight crew a box of chocolates is one way to bolster your case for an upgrade. If you position the gift as “we’re so excited that we just got engaged and wanted to share the love,” they just might be more likely to go the extra mile for you.
Be a loyal flyer.
Airlines favour loyalty. Join a programme or two on the airlines you like best and try to fly those more frequently. If you have some miles stored up or a higher status, you’re more likely to be considered for an upgrade. And you might jump to the front of that list if it’s your honeymoon or special occasion.
Travel off-peak.
Some airlines are super-rigid when to comes to upgrades or even switching seats, regardless of how full the plane is, but if you fly on off-peak days and times (Tuesday afternoons and Saturday nights, for instance, when business travellers are less likely to fill the pricier seats), you might have better odds of landing an upgrade.
The verdict? There’s no secret formula when it comes to getting upgraded to luxury. It comes down to one part strategic positioning, one part kindness, and several parts luck.
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