But why does it seem some are people luckier than others when it comes to getting that ‘unexpected’ leg up?
Chances are, they’ve realised that just about every sector in the travel industry is far more likely to support someone who supports them via their loyalty programs.
And it’s not just about frequent flyer programs and trying to charm your way into Business Class. As a loyalty club member of a hotel chain for example, you might find yourself with that gorgeous view over the bay rather than the air-conditioning unit at the rear of the property if you flash your card and your best smile.
Airlines will always reward their loyal frequent flyer members. The more you fly with one carrier, the more perks you will be entitled to. Lounge passes, free cabin upgrades and priority check-in and boarding are just some of the benefits that come with increasing frequent flyer status.
While you may not make the jump to First or Business straight away, you might be able to snag an extra leg-room seat for example. These premium seats usually incur a fee but are often reserved for the airline’s frequent flyer members who get first dibs and then sometimes at no extra cost. Just ask.
And of course, the points you earn while flying all contribute to free flights down the track.
With every stay in a hotel, you can also earn points for free nights or discounts on food and beverages.
Most hotel brands have a selection of preferred rooms reserved for travellers in their program. Premium rooms are those located away from the elevators and other busy traffic areas.
Rooms with the best views are also coveted of course with allocations going to loyal customers first. Some hotels even have dedicated club floors which unlock a whole new world of extras such as free drinks, meals, canapes in the evening and access to facilities that other floors may not even see.
Car hire companies often overbook the cheaper categories, meaning you may be eligible for an instant upgrade especially if you rent with the same company often or are a member of their loyalty program. While you’re checking in, it can pay to ask if a bigger or better car is available at the same price point you booked.
It’s all in the timing
If you’re looking to use your points for a flight upgrade, or hoping to be upgraded at the check-in counter, plan ahead for flights outside the busiest business travel hours. Off peak times mean fewer business travellers and more open seats in the Business Class cabin.
If you’re flexible with your travel dates, avoid popular flying times like school holidays, Christmas holidays, long weekends, and the peak Monday to Friday morning and afternoon slots.
Generally, quieter travel times are during the middle of the day and later in the evening. Saturday afternoons and evenings, as well as early Sunday mornings are also less busy.
It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how far a little courtesy can go. Always smile at the check-in agent and pack your manners.
After you requested it, give check-in staff a reason to remember you in the event an upgrade becomes available … sometimes they can even happen at the gate or even while you’re boarding.