How do I spend the time on the plane

Frequent flyer: How do I get a free upgrade on the plane?

There she stands, my friend, her cheeks red crying, her head tilted to one side, exhausted. She trembles because she is afraid of flying. The 747 to Bangkok is already full, full of impatient winter passengers in 2011. We're in the waiting area and I just can't get them on the plane. A stewardess sees us, tries to comfort us and quickly realizes: The only thing that helps is an upgrade. My girlfriend and I are flying to Bangkok. Without tears, but in beds; and as souvenirs we get small porcelain canal houses filled with schnapps. This is common in the business class, we learn. A reward for making this expensive flight.

Thilo Mischke

is on the road 150 days a year. Here he passes on his tips and experiences in loose succession, alternating with Stefan Nink.

I'd say I've flown over 500 times in my life. And I've been upgraded maybe four times. Without money, without miles, just like that. On the way, I often recognize the excitement on the faces of my fellow travelers. Everyone is secretly hoping to make the flight beyond the curtain after all. In the business class, where flying is still "like it used to be". But I have to do away with this long-haul fantasy. They don't exist, the free upgrades at the counter. In the nineties, the staff at the check-in counter may still have worked. Today, when so much is flown and everything is geared towards efficiency, nothing is given away. There are only upgrades if more passengers are to be seated in the aircraft than there are seats for them in the economy class. And even then, preference is given to passengers who participate in frequent flyer programs.

I've tried everything, I've been friendly, I've been funny, I've tried to bribe. Once I caught a serious infectious disease, stood feverishly in front of the counter and begged. I knew I would fly twenty hours in total, but I wanted to die. Or just lie in a bed. It did not work.

The truth is: You can only do it with money, with miles. Lufthansa, for example, offers a credit card that can also be used to collect miles. Half a award mile is awarded for every euro spent on the card. An upgrade to business class costs a maximum of 65,000 miles. So it's worth it, even if collecting is a hassle. It's faster with cash. Simply ask at the counter what an upgrade will cost. Lufthansa is often outrageously expensive here, up to 1,800 euros one way. Recently there is also the possibility to bid for upgrades online. So: "What is the maximum you would like to spend on an upgrade?" The chances of getting a bargain are rather slim. But the airlines differ: KLM in particular is extremely cheap. There are countless airline machines at Schiphol Airport. There the ticket can be scanned, and shortly before the onward flight across the Atlantic or to Asia, the business class tickets are often sold. For 350 euros.

Lately my girlfriend and I flew to Colombia, now she's no longer afraid, we've traveled too much. "Should I cry for an upgrade again?" She asked, and I nodded. She wept bitterly. We got a softer pillow.

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