Lonely Planet Writer

Free airline upgrades to First Class become more scarce as premium fares drop

Up to recently airlines regularly rewarded customers on their loyalty programme with complimentary upgrades the day before travel.

American Airlines have readjusted their economy and first class fares
American Airlines have readjusted their economy and first class fares Image by American Airlines

But with a drop in First Class fares, carriers such as American Airlines are holding back on offering such largesse until people have boarded as economy passengers – if at all.

First class travel fares have come down and in some cases it is only $200 in difference between premium and economy seats
First class travel fares have come down and in some cases it is only $200 in difference between premium and economy seats in the US.

According to Skift, this is due to the fact that legacy carriers are now being forced to explore new pricing models both for economy and first class travel. In economy, an emphasis has now being put on competitive basic or simple fares. These strip back virtually all the perks of flying so that they traditional airlines can offer competitive fares against those of Spirit and Frontier.

With price becoming ever more of an issue, airlines have also pushed down the cost of their first class seats in the hope that consumers might be tempted to upgrade. United Airlines were found to be only US$200 dearer in premium and economy in fare prices between San Francisco and Houston for one way travel.

Due to the current competition, the current criterion for upgrading appears to have been disrupted. It means that elite frequent passengers will have to accept that upgrades are now scarcer than heretofore as revenue passengers fill up planes at the cheaper end.