Secrets to making it out of economy class!

My first blog post at Earthling Travels…so why not start with a great click-bait title! It’s definitely a perennial subject, and I’ve read lots of articles on it over the years.  Back in the day, advice was stuff like chat up the check-in staff, and say you’ve got a sore back. Hmmm, these days, not so much.

The best advice I can give, based on twenty years in the airline industry, is pick your airline and stick to it. Airlines are fiercely competitive, and all have comprehensive loyalty programmes. If the time comes when someone needs to be bumped out of economy, they will be going to the frequent flyer database first. Pay your money and start racking up those air points.

It never hurts to smile!

There’s some obvious other things: No, it won’t hurt to be smartly dressed, and being scrupulously polite to all airline staff and immigration officials is a great idea at any time.People travelling alone also have a greater chance.

Timing is an important issue. The most common opportunity will come when economy is bursting at the seams. School holiday flights to Australia or the Pacific Islands from New Zealand are likely candidates.

Is it worth dating a flight attendant?

Something I read in another person’s blog recently was ‘go out with a flight attendant’. This is both good and bad advice. Yes, airline employees do have access to cheap travel, and usually have the ability to apply for upgrades. Exact specifics will vary from airline to airline, and I don’t know all the ins and out of every one. I can talk specifically about the airline I worked for. Firstly, it doesn’t have to be a flight attendant, you could get on intimate terms with someone in any division of the airline. (Flight attendants do tend to be the very nicest people though.) In those bad old days, upgrades could happen on a nod and a wink basis. We would tell our nearest and dearest to board last, and slip them into the best available seat. However, with the rise of the commercial importance of loyalty programmes, this practice became frowned upon, and a consistent system of being able to buy space-available upgrades became the norm.

Like all the best staff travel deals, it is based on stand-by, and tends to be last minute. This has an interesting impact on travelling with a family, which is what this blog is primarily about. Most of the travel of my children’s childhoods has been just that. ‘Now kids, we are going on holiday. But first we have to go to the airport and see if there is a seat on the plane…’ It’s amazing how well they coped with that over the years. So upgrades are the same. We had one tense discussion flying from Los Angeles, when just one premium economy seat was available between the three of us. Did I pull rank and claim it for myself? Sadly no, I thought the best course of action was to put my then 13-year-old into  that seat,while I stayed with my youngest who was 10 at the time.

Using the system as it exists, we did have a wonderful treat on one of our last staff travel experiences, returning home from Los Angeles after a driving holiday down the Pacific Coast from San Francisco. ‘Enjoy!’ I told the kids as we settled into our business premier seats on Air New Zealand. ‘This won’t happen again until you are paying for it yourselves.’

There is one more way of course, become a famous blogger! Check out video blogger Casey Neistat’s unexpected upgrade from business to first class on Emirates.

This is my first blog post, but there’s plenty more to come. Call in to my ‘About’ page to find out more of my story.