Ahh I remember the days when I had elevated status and if the stars aligned I would get a bump into business class. However with elevated status I would on a recurring basis get the free upgrades to economy plus along with any of my travel companions.
Here is a quick review of what the major domestic carriers provide with each status tier American Elite, Delta Medallion, United Premier. Please if you do have elevated status with any carrier learn about your benefits and don’t forget to utilize your benefits that you worked so hard for! Don’t end up like my friend who recently traveled on a transatlantic flight in economy even though his status allowed him free access to economy plus. He did not know the process to utilize his benefits and found himself squeezed in the standard economy seat for 9 hour flights Chicago to Germany return.
Sadly I currently have no elevated status with any airline carrier. As you may recall from last week’s post “Does loyalty matter anymore?“; I am only loyal to my wallet. But never fear….you can treat yourself to an upgrade or splurge for the whole year with an annual United economy plus subscription.
Here are the primary factors that go into my decision process for consideration when purchasing an upgrade.
How long is the flight?
For any flight under 2.5 hours I would not really consider it unless it was an upgrade to business class or first class at a low price.
What benefits come with the upgrade?
- Economy plus generally has early boarding, free checked bags, and sometimes even free cocktails.
- Business class generally flights over 2 hours a meal is served, 1st to board, free checked bags, cocktails (even prior to takeoff) and typically special access to movie/entertainment system.
How much is the upgrade?
This is a personal decision for everyone on what you feel comfortable spending. This really comes down to how much you value being comfortable. I typically determine the cost per hour (upgrade price / flight hours) to help me decide. So for example a few weeks ago on our return from Puerto Vallarta to upgrade from economy to first class was $119 for a 4 hour flight which is basically about $30 per hour which included dinner, cocktails and the royal treatment.
I compare that to other hourly rate or luxury services: Chicago downtown parking $18 hour, massage $90 hour, mani/pedi $45, maid service $100 or a round of golf $80.
Hmm which would make me happier….4 hours traveling first class or maid service this month? Well you know who won!
- Do I have a connecting flight?
- Do I need to sleep on this flight? (i.e. red-eye or international)
- How much did I spend on the original ticket?
My personal limit is about $40 per hour however the flight duration and benefits included are critical in my decision process. Although somedays I just want to be treated like a princess; on those days even the loyalty to my wallet gets tossed. It is all about me with a glass of champagne!
Seek your adventure!