Flight Attendants: Free Hawaii Upgrades Happen. But Is It True?

Flight Attendants: Free Hawaii Upgrades Do Happen. Here’s How.

Anything about Hawaii flight upgrades always gets our attention. Who doesn’t want to travel in style, especially without breaking the bank? Other travel experts recently told us about ways you may still score a free upgrade today.

Here’s how Hawaii upgrades can occur:

1. Just ask for an upgrade. We say, highly unlikely, but never say never. We’ve gotten them that way ourselves, although not in the past 15 years or so. And when it hasn’t worked to move up to first class, we’ve been afforded a row with three seats to each one of us. At no additional cost.

Editor Jeff has taken an odd approach on occasion. He has come nearly to tears about having to take his last-minute assigned economy seat. He’s explained that he wouldn’t be able to handle it, that he has claustrophobia and his seat was up against an exit door, with part of that door jutting well into the aircraft cabin.

2. When economy turns up full. The one way that we’ve successfully gotten upgrades was when the economy section was full. That has happened several times, including once when being the last to board a United Airlines flight to Honolulu. We were asked if we’d like to sit in the front. What a question. But putting this in perspective, having flown to and from Hawaii more than 1,00 times, the odds aren’t in your favor.

Airlines try to predict how many no shows there will be on a flight, and they’re very accurate at those predictions. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when they do, you could be the lucky recipient of an upgrade.

3. Humility, gratitude, and politeness alone. We’d concur that these are key to getting a bump upgrade or to simply being treated well. You can’t be demanding or entitled.

4. Nicely dressed always set the right tone.

Whether for an upgrade, or again just plain nice treatment, dressing nicely on flights is reported by flight attendants as a key. That means avoiding flip-flops and any strange or stringy/torn clothing. As someone said, dress the part of being in first class and you’re far more likely to actually get there.

We’re not talking formal attire here, just nice casual attire. Don’t look like you are heading to or from the beach, or wear sleepwear, gym attire, leggings, or hoodies.

Nothing dirty or stained. Flight attendants mentioned smelling nice and clean but not highly perfumed or any other off-smells. Nothing scruffy or torn.

Said one flight attendant, “I personally wouldn’t take a flight wearing these kinds of clothes and if for some reason, I find myself wearing that, I’d go to the bathroom in the terminal and change.”

Have you ever gotten a free upgrade on a flight to Hawaii?


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9 thoughts on “Flight Attendants: Free Hawaii Upgrades Do Happen. Here’s How.”

  1. My son, his friend and I received a free upgrade to First from LAX to HNL. I brought a box of candy from my hometown and told the Gate agent if there were any seats up front we would be happy to sit there! I said enjoy the candy whether or not there were any seats available. We were well dressed and very respectful. Needless to say we had our fill of Mai Tai’s and excellent food. Thank You United!!

  2. In all my years of flying, I have never once gotten a free upgrade. I used to do all the stuff–dressing nicely, asking, checking in early, boarding late, always being cordial–and nothing ever happened. Once I asked and was upgraded and later found out the agent had subtracted miles from my account for it without telling me. Eventually, I gave up and while I hope I’m still cordial, I just fly in sweats now and at least am as comfortable as I can be in my crappy seat.

  3. Not relevant to a Hawaii flight, but amusing nonetheless. Years ago I flew from Denver to Boston on United. I purposely waited to be the last on board- that’s worked in the past to get bumped up, and also why board early just to sit in a cramped seat waiting for everyone else? When I got on board, I saw that the plane was totally full except for the row in which I was a to sit. In that row, in the center seat, was an elderly woman in heavy clothes. I sat in the aisle seat and immediately understood why no one was sitting next to her. Her body odor was unbearable. A flight attendant came and asked me to come with her. She took me to an empty seat in first class. “I couldn’t subject you to that”, she said. Unforgettable moment.

  4. My husband & I have been upgraded several times to first class on Alaska. I, alone, was on my very last trip to Kauai. We were always dressed nicely & & asked politely. Didn’t hurt that we possessed their charge card. On my last trip I asked on the phone if an upgrade was possible and my wish was granted. Of course so many people now have discovered the charms of Kauai that the planes are more full.

  5. Years ago, I was flying home from London with British Air or American and got an upgrade to business (I don’t think it was 1st class). This happened at the lounge. I always wear my Vietnam Vet cap and the lady at the desk told me about her boyfriend being a Vietnam Vet. Also, the inflight mag had some sort of article on a book I had co-authored about Marine Corps leadership. We talked about that as well.

    Flew home in comfort!!!

    Just back from Hawaii, flew paid 1st class out of Ontario. Basically, it’s not much better than Comfort Class. Recliners, not sleepers. But, it’s n/s from Ontario. So, that beats LAX by a mile!!!

  6. Four of us flew to Kona last month and we received an upgrade free of charge because the family that had the seats had children and children were not allowed to be by the exit doors. So they had to rearrange and we received seats with a lot more legroom and towards the front of the plane. Loved it. That was on Hawaiian airlines.

  7. Yup! Bumped up to First on my most recent Alaska flight from Lihue to SFO. Low MVP status on Alaska, but bumped nonetheless!

  8. I wouldn’t risk Jeff’s “nearly a meltdown” strategy. You might find yourself escorted off the plane instead of treated to first class. I’ve read stories of people kicked off a flight for this sort of behavior.

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