Travel insiders’ expert tricks to get a FREE upgrade, from asking for a hotel room with a bath to always choosing the train carriage closest to first class

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Written By Maya Cantina

Back in the old days, a broad smile, smart clothes and a confident manner might have got you an airline upgrade at check-in.

But times have changed, and now the computer invariably says ‘no’.

So is there any way round this when it comes to hotel rooms, trains, cruises and, yes, flights?

Here, our experts reveal the best upgrade tactics . . . and good luck!

It helps to tell the receptionist how much you have been looking forward to your stay and how you have heard so much about the hotel…


by the Daily Mail’s undercover Hotel Inspector

  • Simply ask in an undemanding way if it might be possible to be upgraded at the rate already agreed. This stands a good chance of working if it’s already 6pm or later, because the hotel is unlikely to sell the room at a premium price at that time.
  • Rooms with baths tend to be bigger than those just with a shower. So stress how you have your heart set on a lovely long soak in a tub and hope the receptionist is sympathetic. If he or she is, then an upgrade is likely.
  • Honesty pays, so if it’s a special occasion, speak up and ask if an upgrade could be offered. Special occasions can be interpreted liberally.
  • Tell the receptionist how much you have been looking forward to your stay and how you have heard so much about the hotel. Then drop into the conversation how an upgrade would be the olive in the Martini.
  • If you’re staying for the second, third, or fourth time, tell the hotel you’re keen to experience a different room category, space permitting.
  • If the hotel has a loyalty scheme, join it. You will be entitled to perks including upgrades, free night stays and discounts on food and drinks.


by Lesley Bellew, Daily Mail cruise correspondent

  • Choose to sail out of season when the ship is unlikely to be full and there is more of a chance to upgrade. That’s generally November to April (excluding Christmas) in Europe; May and September in Alaska and September to December in the Caribbean.
  • Stay loyal to one cruise line and there’s a greater likelihood of getting a complimentary or reduced-price upgrade. Some cruise lines offer this automatically. If not, ask.
  • Look out for promotions such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ ‘Upgrade and Explore More’ deal. It offers a two-category suite upgrade across 33 European voyages between July and November 2024 (book by April 30).
  • Get to know a travel agent’s cruise specialist who will be ‘in the know’ about the latest offers.
  • Book a guaranteed cabin in a certain category (so you’re assured a cabin but not assigned one until about a week before departure) so that if it’s full, you might get upgraded.
  • Be bold. Call your cruise line a couple of weeks before departure and ask about an upgrade.
Stay loyal to one cruise line and there¿s a greater likelihood of getting a complimentary or reduced-price upgrade

Stay loyal to one cruise line and there’s a greater likelihood of getting a complimentary or reduced-price upgrade


By aviation expert Daniel Ross

  • Be realistic: dressing in your Sunday best, flirting with the cabin crew, or announcing that you’re on your honeymoon is highly unlikely to get you a free upgrade.
  • Overbooked flights offer the best solution. And airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic almost always oversell their flights — especially on long-haul routes. When this happens, they will often bump ‘elite status’ holders (see below) up one cabin class to free up more space in the oversold cabin. You should always ask (don’t be shy).
  • To gain ‘elite status’ you need to join the airline’s frequent flier club. For BA, this is its Executive Club (free to join at and for Virgin Atlantic, join its Flying Club (free at And remember, these schemes are connected to other airlines. BA’s Executive Club is part of the Oneworld Alliance that also includes American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and others, while Virgin’s Flying Club links with SkyTeam airlines such as Air France and Delta. So upgrades may be possible with those, too.
  • Sign up to websites that list ‘error fares’. These are pricing mistakes made online by either an airline or travel agency due to human error or incorrect currency conversions. Such fares are often up to 90 per cent cheaper than the standard price and available for only an hour or two before they’re spotted by the airlines and removed. So sign up for email alerts from, and
  • Check in online as soon as possible. Airlines rank passengers in order of priority by their sequence number. The earlier you check in, the lower your sequence number. For example, if there are 300 passengers on a flight to New York and you check in fifth, you’re more likely to get an operational upgrade than the 300th person.
  • Build up frequent flier points. Using air miles is another way of securing an upgrade. Most airlines, such as BA and Virgin, will allow you to upgrade one cabin using points.
  • The premium economy cabin is the smallest on any aircraft and the one from which you’re most likely to get a free upgrade to business class.


by Ben Smithson of The Points Guy

  • Consider signing up for a credit card that provides lounge passes as part of its annual deal such as American Express Platinum (which includes a Priority Pass and travel insurance) or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, which offers a maximum of four Priority Pass lounge visits.
  • Stay loyal to one airline and its frequent flier scheme — or other airlines within its group (see ‘Flights’ section above) — and loyalty points will accrue that can lead to free airport lounge passes.


by Tom Chesshyre, train travel writer

  • When UK trains are overcrowded, managers may announce that first-class areas have been declassified. However, you may later be ‘required to give up your seat to a passenger holding a valid first-class ticket’ under National Rail’s Conditions of Travel if someone with a paid-for ticket turns up.
  • If a train looks as though it’s going to be chock-a-block, position yourself on the platform by the standard carriage closest to first-class. This will make an unexpected ‘free’ upgrade most likely in the event of an announcement declassifying first-class.
  • Remember that you are not allowed to go in first-class simply because standard-class is full, even when there is standing in corridors. There has to be an official announcement.

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