Are Flight Upgrades Worth The Cost?
A few months ago I talked about TSA PreCheck and the convenience of having it if you travel a lot, even if it’s not a money saving proposition. This time around we’re going to look at upgrading your flight arrangements to see if it’s worth doing so monetarily.
First, let’s get the good stuff out of the way. In my mind there’s no doubt that if you can fly first class you should do it. It’s not much of a big deal if you’re flight only lasts an hour but if you’re flying two hours or more it’s definitely worth it physically.
I’m around 6′ tall, so it helps having a lot more legroom. I’m also not a small guy, so having more space around my body is also quite comforting. It never hurts getting a bit more attention from your relatively personal flight attendant, as well as the upgraded snacks, but it’s also nice knowing there’s an exclusive bathroom for your area also. 🙂
With that said, I’ll acknowledge that sometimes first class costs a bit more money than it’s worth. That is, unless you travel often and have a travel card. Many airlines offer first class upgrades for free once you reach a certain level, and a discount on the upgrade if you haven’t reached that level.
Sometimes first class isn’t available, either because it’s sold out or because your flight might not have first class seats on it. Unless you’re on a puddle jumper, most flights still have seats reserved that offer extended legroom. Usually they’re closer to the front of the airplane, which is perfect for someone like me because that’s usually where I want to be.
Here’s where the savings and extra convenience comes into play. First, if you’re upgrading your seats for more legroom, it depending on the airline it could go anywhere from $15 to $30. Not only do you get a more comfortable seat, but you usually get your first checked luggage bag for free and you’re allowed to get on the plane earlier than everyone else other than first class and member flyers. The second becomes a benefit because getting on early means you get to store your baggage above you before there are no slots left. Even with a more comfortable seat, there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve got all your stuff in the carrier above.
If your airline seats are near the lower cost then you’ll end up saving money for the convenience you get. Even if it’s a little bit more, the overall convenience can be worth it.
First class upgrades also vacillate a bit. In my experience they run from $25 to $75 (I’m only talking domestic travel). Many airlines will give you two checked bags for free, and at $25 a pop you’ll either save a little bit of money or pay a little more for the ultimate upgraded experience. Not only do you get on the plane first but first class has its own baggage area, and it’s much bigger than the areas further back in the plane.
As with most things there are some caveats you might have to deal with. If you booked your flight through a service like Orbitz or Expedia the airlines might not share potential upgrades with you if you didn’t pay for them up front because sometimes you don’t get to select your seats when you book them that way. If you have a membership card you can usually go back in on the airline’s site later on and change your seats, but it’s not a guarantee.
I won’t say I was a hero in my wife’s eyes when I upgraded her to first class to fly from Syracuse to Las Vegas and back in first class, which cost $49 each way, but she was happier than I could have dreamed for being comfortable for those 8-hour flights each way. 😉