I'm newly married! I want more legroom!
May 7, 2007 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Can airline ticket counter employees be bought?

Me and the future Mrs. pdb are now just me and Mrs. pdb. We're leaving for our honeymoon tomorrow, and being, well, not rich, we of course booked into economy class on British Airways, when what we really wanted to do was to book into Economy Plus.

So my question is, are airlines at all similar to Las Vegas? Will a well placed $20, a ton of courtesy, and an explanation that it's our honeymoon do us any good whatsoever upgrade-wise, or am I just being hopelessly naive?
posted by pdb to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd skip the bribe and just try the ton of courtesy. Letting them know that it's your honymoon could be enough to get you an upgrade.

Money is likely to insult them and lessen your chances of a positive outcome.
posted by alms at 9:39 AM on May 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

A lot's going to depend on how full the flight is. I would certainly mention that you're on your honeymoon, and perhaps ask if any upgrades are available. I've heard stories ranging from free first class upgrades to complimentary champagne to nothing at all, so your mileage will vary.
posted by Addlepated at 9:42 AM on May 7, 2007

This question gets asked on FlyerTalk all. the. time. Try searching their archives for a number of different answers on the topic. (A few months ago, an airline counter employee wrote a great post about how he decides to give upgrades, but I couldn't find it.)

Definitely do not try to bribe someone. Not only will you look foolish (especially if you're using a $20 bill!) but you could be risking someone's job.
posted by chickletworks at 9:43 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know friends on their honeymoon, when the staff found out, broke out the champagne!
posted by thilmony at 9:56 AM on May 7, 2007

Do you really want to risk doing anything at an airport that may be misinterpreted? I would go with what alms suggested, and mention to the person at the counter that it's your honeymoon. Hey, it worked on an episode of Friends.
posted by amro at 10:07 AM on May 7, 2007

You may find this FlyerTalk thread informative, if ultimately discouraging. But wow, yeah, don't try the bribe.
posted by jjg at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2007

Tell them it is your honeymoon, and see what happens. We received a free upgraded room in our hotel by mentioning that we were just married.
posted by xsquared-1 at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2007

Don't bribe. Just be nice.

First things first - at the ticket counter, mention it's your honeymoon and then ask for a free upgrade. Then if that doesn't work...

Try asking when you get on the plane! It works more often than you might think - if the plane is not full, and you're nice about it, many times the staff would be more than happy to move you up when they hear you're on your honeymoon.
posted by sephira at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2007

Also check out Seat Guru for your type of plane, if the plane is full you will have a lot more luck switching inside your current section and it's nice to know where to switch to (or not to switch to).
posted by anaelith at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2007

Dress well, but don't ask for a 'free upgrade', ask 'if there are any upgrades available'. Makes you sound less like a cheapskate! [Has worked for me multiple times]
posted by azlondon at 12:15 PM on May 7, 2007

You may find that they have published rates for upgrades to premium economy on the day of.

Also, there may yet be hope: if you're flying economy from Gatwick, this airliners.net post on a similar topic seems to imply that you can go to the BA website in the "manage my booking" section and upgrade to premium economy for £59 one way, per person.
posted by mdonley at 1:23 PM on May 7, 2007

Actually, on rereading the post, that price is to upgrade to Club (business class) - perhaps it'd be cheaper to get up to premium economy?

Have a great time!
posted by mdonley at 1:24 PM on May 7, 2007

$20 wouldn't buy the consideration of a pizza delivery man these days.
posted by spitbull at 3:36 PM on May 7, 2007

Response by poster: $20 wouldn't buy the consideration of a pizza delivery man these days.

$20 got me a suite in Vegas two weekends ago when I'd booked for a normal room, so it's not totally out of the question. Anyway. Thanks all for the tips, I'll see what pouring on the charm will do...
posted by pdb at 5:04 PM on May 7, 2007

There are probably people on the plane who spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on air travel per year and aren't expecting a comp'd upgrade. If an upgrade becomes necessary for operational reasons, it's almost certainly going to be awarded by status and fare paid, not based on "it's our honeymoon"! Upgrades are very carefully tracked and any employee that hands out upgrades for no reason is going to be fired.

Also, please don't just take an empty seat in an Economy Plus section or, worse, first or business class. It's tacky, rude to those of us who pay for or earn those seats, and you will almost certainly get booted back to your original seats.
posted by nathan_teske at 5:39 PM on May 7, 2007

I would guess that everything you do at a ticket counter is recorded nowadays. So if you would try to bribe someone (which may, for all I know, be illegal in an airport nowadays) it would be on tape for your agent's supervisor to see. The agent's going to know this and know that in the long run, his/her job is worth more than that extra $20.
posted by ontic at 7:08 PM on May 7, 2007

Also try to get the seat right behind the bulkhead - its the seat immediately behind first class. It has great legroom, and is usually like row 6 or something.

Talk to the airline rep in the concourse, they can make it happen for you.

If the flight isn't heavily booked you may can even get first class for ~$200 more.
posted by four panels at 7:14 PM on May 7, 2007

ESPECIALLY if you are in Europe (where people don't tip the same as in the US), throwing around your money will likely make you look like an ugly American more than anything. Bribes can be considered offensive and presumptuous by many people. First try niceness... you might just appeal to their romantic side. Who knows.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:19 PM on May 7, 2007

You need to keep calling BA before the flight and ask for a $500 upgrade. Search Flyer Talk for such a thing -- it happens. Even if they can't give it to you on the call, ask at the airport, if space is available, you should be able to get one. Its still a LOT LOT much less than paying full business class.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:42 PM on May 7, 2007

Response by poster: Also, please don't just take an empty seat in an Economy Plus section or, worse, first or business class.

Don't worry, I'm not that crass or desperate. I fully realize this is not a Greyhound bus.

Bribes can be considered offensive and presumptuous by many people.

Which is why I was only planning to do it at Sea-Tac. I've spent many months of my life in Europe, and wouldn't dream of doing something like this once there.

Thanks again for all the tips, everyone.
posted by pdb at 10:19 PM on May 7, 2007

Once I was going from Dallas to Seattle and they made an announcement at the gate that the flight was overbooked, and could some people volunteer to take another flight a few hours later? I wasn't in a hurry, so I went up to the counter and said "I'll do it...but a question: can I get first class on the next flight?" I was half joking and didn't expect a yes at all, but without a single blink, the attendant said "Let me check", tapped at her keyboard for a second, and said "Ok, no problem, you're on first class the next flight." Bada-bing! My one and (so far) only first class flight!

Nowadays, if I'm not on a tight schedule, I always at least ask. If they're overbooked (rare, but it does happen), then you're saving the airline a lot of grief and they'll be more than happy to upgrade you. I haven't been lucky since, but I always try. Just ask. Remember to be nice and smile!

I think the bribing idea is a bad one. It could so very easily backfire.
posted by zardoz at 3:39 AM on May 8, 2007

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