Becoming a First Class Flier

Becoming a First Class Flier 2016-01-31T19:42:01-08:00


I will be traveling from Amsterdam to NYC in February with Delta Airlines. I have become a member of the Sky Miles program but will not receive the membership kit until I have returned from the States, though I do have a temporary card.

I have booked and paid for an economy ticket and would like to know what my chances are of getting an upgrade and how to ask for one (I’ve never done this before and am quite nervous about doing so! Sad huh?)



Along with the above steps, you will want to inquire if the fare you paid is an upgradeable fare. This means that the fare basis can be upgraded with miles or other means. If it is not then keep this in mind when you’re asking for an upgrade at the airport, for this could be an initial reason why the gate agent might say she cannot upgrade you. Therefore, bring up your fare basis before the gate agent does. For example, tell the gate agent that “I know I have a discounted ticket that is not-upgradeable, but do you think there is any way you can upgrade me?” and then state the reasons used above.

You also might ask what it would cost to purchase an upgrade. Delta has recently been offering special first class fares and upgrading opportunities on certain routes—your flight might be one of these.

Good luck on getting your upgrade, you can also find additional tips in my book available on or any bookseller. Please let me know how your trip works out.

All the best.



edited question

Answered by The Penny Pincher

Hi Lisa,

You have made you first move towards an upgrade by joining an airline mileage program. Your next step is to continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship with this airline and its alliance partners, (SkyTeam,

For your upcoming flight in February, start by calling Delta Airlines and telling the phone agent that you are a new SkyMiles member and want to inquire about being upgraded on your upcoming flight. Do not worry about not having your card; all of your membership information should be electronically stored with Delta. Most likely, the agent will give you the standard line that you will have to pay for an upgrade or use miles, ignore this information and than ask the agent if there are still seats available in “Business Elite” for your flight. If yes, you are in good shape. Keep calling back once a week increasing the frequency the closer to your flight to check on the availability of “Business Elite” seats. You can try to ask the phone agent if she will put you on a wait list for “Business Elite.” However, you will probably have your best success of receiving an upgrade at the airport. If “Business Elite” seats are still available on the day of your flight, clear the security process and once you are at the boarding gate, try to find the head or main gate agent and explain to her that you are a new member to Delta and look forward to flying with them on many more future flights. Then ask if they could possibly upgrade you on this, your first flight. Don’t worry about being nervous, a long time ago I was told by a famous sales trainer to “fake it until you make it,” so in this case act as if you deserve to be upgraded, which you do—because you plan on building a strong loyal relationship with the airline.


Follow up:

Hi Joel,

Just thought I would let you know that I received a free upgrade from Amsterdam to New York. I just went up to the lady at the gate after I saw someone else receive an upgrade and I just asked! I think it helped that the flight was fully booked in coach.

On the other hand, the staff at the gate in New York were quite rude and said that they didn’t do upgrades. When I told them that I had received one in Amsterdam, they just said they couldn’t comment on the actions of foreigners. When I pointed out they were all employees of Delta, he just shrugged and ignored me! Charming gentleman.

Next time I’ll go to the ticketing counter which was opposite the gate, will just have to find my way inside! This flight was nearly empty in coach and business elite so it was no skin off their noses to have given me the seat in elite.

I did have two seats to myself but good god, after sitting on the runway for an hour before take off, the flight seemed to take twice as long!

Thanks again for your help,

Lisa van Mullem

edited answer