I’m not rolling in dough and I’m not very savvy when it comes to accumulating credit cards to get points. I’m just your average traveler. I book months ahead and compare prices before purchasing my plane tickets to have a bit of saving. I look for apartments instead of booking at hotels so I could cook and save up on eating out. I agonize between cost and convenience, which causes a bit of disagreement between my husband and me.
When it comes to airlines, I have 3 major favorites: Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and Alaska Air.
With Cathay, I got upgraded three times, twice from Premium to Business Class and once from Economy (on a redemption ticket) to Premium Economy with access to the British Airways Business Lounge. Note that upgrades don’t normally entitle you to lounge access.
These tips are for Cathay Pacific, though some could be applied to other airlines.
1. Sign up for their Frequent Flyer Miles and Loyalty Program
Cathay has Asia Miles – their miles earning frequent flyer program. You can use the miles earned to redeem flights, hotel accommodation, pay for excess baggage, etc – and Marco Polo Club – the elite program where you can go up in tier and can enjoy certain benefits. Some companies reward loyalty and Cathay does that.
The first time I was upgraded to Business Class was on my HK – BOS flight. I was not yet signed up for the Marco Polo Club but I had accumulated about 28,000 miles. That doesn’t sound a lot but it did show that I used the airline a fair bit.
2. Pay for Full Fare
In addition to signing up for the loyalty program, pay for Full Fare from time to time. Buying the cheapest tickets can save you in money but it also limits the benefits. Paying for full fare doesn’t mean you can’t look for savings.
For my Premium Economy tickets, I used Skylux Travel. Jerry was great in providing alternatives. When I quoted the price on the airline’s flight, he countered with a slightly cheaper price but it was still full price.
Airlines have booking ticket codes, Cathay has them as well and each code tells you how much mileage you’re going to get.
These are the Codes and their mileage eligibility
First Class (150%) : F, A
Business Class (125%) : J, C, D, I
Premium Economy (110%) : W, R, E
Economy Class (100%) : Y, B, H, K, M, L, V
Economy Class (25%) : S, N, Q
Code O is the Supersaver Code and does not earn you miles.
3. Use your Credit Card Points to Gain Miles
There are a number of points-earning credit cards out there. I started topping up my frequent flyer miles for Cathay and Singapore Airlines using my bank-issued AMEX card since it gives me double points.
I am also able to link my AMEX to a loyalty program which will boost my miles. I haven’t linked to one yet since I’m torn between Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, now that I’ve moved to Singapore.
Some credit cards offer sign up bonus points. Be aware that as with all credit cards, you will need to be on top of your payments. Don’t get into debt to get some perks. In saying that, I know someone who scrupulously studied then applied for credit cards, gained points, and used those points to get First Class tickets.
There is no harm in asking. The airline can only say no. Again, this would, of course, hinge on the fact that you are a loyal passenger.
The second time I was upgraded was during my BOS – HK flight. I paid for Premium Economy tickets but 2 hours before leaving for the airport, I signed up for the Marco Polo Club and paid the $100 annual fee. When I arrived at the airport, I spoke to the check-in staff.
Me: Is there any possibility to get upgraded?
Staff: One moment, Madam. Let me check. (types) You actually have been upgraded!
Me: Yey. Is it possible to use the lounge?
Staff: Unfortunately, no because it is an upgraded boarding pass.
5. Be Nice
No need to bow and scrape, being nice doesn’t involve much. A smile, a please, and a thank you are often the only things required.
When our BOS – HK flight was delayed for 3 hours and 50 minutes, I received a text message as well as a personal call from Marco Polo informing me of the delay. I wasn’t expecting any upgrade because our Economy tickets were redemption tickets. We chatted with the staff, asking about the reason for the delay, and mulled out loud about purchasing the upgrade to get a bit of sleep. It was 11 PM. Our original flight was at 1:50 AM, delayed to 5:15 AM. It was going to cost us $600 per person so we had to pass. Imagine our surprise when the staff told us we’ve been upgraded in the first leg of the flight. We were also given free access to the British Airways Business Lounge (which doesn’t usually happen). On the second leg, my husband, who had long legs, discovered he was given an exit row seat for free.
I make it a point to be friendly to the flight crew regardless of which class. In Business Class, the crew has a list of names and I’m pretty certain, they take note of who’s being difficult and who’s being a decent passenger. I’ve had great conversation and service from the Business Class crew just by chatting with them.
You’d be surprised how much they’d try to accommodate your requests by treating the crew as fellow human beings.