Can you get free first class upgrades? Not on Virgin Atlantic.

If you want an upgrade to Virgin Atlantic upper class, you better do more than try to sway airline workers with a good story: Photo: Tom Mascardo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

If you want an upgrade to Virgin Atlantic upper class, you better do more than try to sway airline workers with a good story: Photo: Tom Mascardo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is it possible to sweet talk your way into a first class upgrade?

I'm writing a freelance story about the topic, so I have been asking around. The general answer is the same everywhere. It is almost impossible. Sure you can try, but your chances are not good. You might as well be playing the lottery.

At Virgin Atlantic, this topic comes up so often the airline wrote a press release about it. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic asked 1,000 airport and in-flight staff about their experience with customers who ask (or beg) for an upgrade to Upper Class. 

There were three common approaches Virgin Atlantic passengers tried:

  1. "It's my birthday." 
  2. "I'm a friend of Mr. Branson." [That's the Virgin Group founder.]
  3. "We're on honeymoon."

The airline also compiled a list of some unusual requests. From the release:

The rowing couple - One gentleman requested an upgrade so he wouldn’t have to sit next to his wife

The broken-hearted - A young man hoped an upgrade would mend his broken heart after being dumped on his birthday

The tired father - A father traveling with his family wanted to be upgraded as his baby was teething and he wanted a good sleep. Needless to say his wife wasn't impressed!

The impatient traveller - One lady asked for an upgrade as she wanted to get to her destination quicker!

The trickster - A very famous magician offered to perform magic tricks for the crew in return for an upgrade

The overachiever - A businessman asked for an upgrade as he was in Economy but his boss was in Premium - he wanted an upgrade to Upper Class so he could wave at his boss from the bar. 

The fantasist - One gentleman requested an upgrade so he could try out the on board hot tub!!

The entrepreneur - One businessman requested an upgrade so he could meet Richard Branson and pitch an idea to him on board.

If you're wondering, Virgin Atlantic, like most airlines, has a process for processing upgrades. It says it is impossible for you to jump the queue - no matter how creative your story. 

Have you ever tried to tell a compelling story to score an upgrade? Did it work?